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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Theatre Of Tragedy

Heavy metal has long been associated with Gothic imagery, even before the term "Gothic metal" was created. The coming of the sub-genre in the 1990s was an important era in the history of heavy metal, not only for another new sound but that it also arguably helped bring in a large number of female fans to the genre. Part of this was due to the presence of female vocalists in the Gothic sub-genre, in what was dubbed the "beauty and the beast" sound, namely a operatic female voice paired with male death growls. We recently saw an example of this with the band Draconian and this week we'll be looking at another group which helped pioneer the technique, Theatre Of Tragedy.

The seeds of the band were sewn on October 2nd 1993 in Stavanger, Norway, when vocalist Raymond István Rohonyi and guitarists Pål Bjåstad and Tommy Lindal formed a group named Suffering Grief, which soon welcomed into the fold drummer Hein Frode Hansen, formerly of Phobia. They recorded their first song, "Lament of the Perishing Roses" the same year, shortly after which, they decided to change their name to La Reine Noir for a brief time and then to the now familiar, Theatre Of Tragedy. Initially, the vocals consisted solely of death grunts from Rohonyi, but while recording their first demo in 1994, they were so impressed by guest soprano Liv Kristine Espenæs that they invited her to join on a permanent basis. More...

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Sunday Old School: Probot

When searching through the history of metal, one will come across numerous gems such as bands who were unable to break into the mainstream, collaborations (Ozzy and Miss Piggy not being one of the more treasured discoveries) and side projects. Today we'll be looking at a release which combined the latter two of those finds, which saw one of the most successful rock stars of the modern age team up with some of his cult heroes to create one solid album, the self-titled debut of Probot.

Probot was the brain child of Dave Grohl, who after performing in underground acts such as Scream, joined Nirvana, who became the biggest rock band in the world after their sophomore full length, "Nevermind" was released. Following the suicide of the group's frontman Kurt Cobain, Grohl again achieved worldwide success with Foo Fighters, which began as a series of songs he'd written at home while in Nirvana. The more the world was exposed to Grohl, the more his reputation grew, both as "the nicest guy in rock" and as a sincere fan of metal and hardcore, despite becoming a star by playing alternative rock. More...

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Sunday Old School: Picture

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was truly an amazing movement. Like punk, it succeeded in taking rock music back down to street level and saw working class kids like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden become global superstars, while others like Venom, Raven and Diamond Head become cult favourites. Some fans of this type of heavy metal claim that the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was more of a sound than a national happening and claim that some groups from outside of the United Kingdom should be included when discussing the era, one of the names which is brought up the most in this argument is one of the first heavy metal bands from The Netherlands; Picture.

Picture was officially formed in 1979, two years after bassist Rinus Vreugdenhil and drummer Laurens Bakker began jamming with other musicians before eventually finding guitarist Jan Bechtum and vocalist Ronald van Prooijen, completing what would become known as Picture's "classic" lineup. They soon signed with Warner Brothers but decided to leave the label before releasing an album, as they felt the company was attempting to steer them towards a pop direction. Instead, they signed with Backdoor Records, a sub-label of Phonogram, through which they released their self-titled debut album in 1980, which spawned the single, "Bombers." More...

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Sunday Old School: Draconian

Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time (don't judge me for that reference, your sister probably watched it every day as a kid too,) but in metal terms, it's something which has really come to be a prominent aspect of the dark and depressing side of the genre. Many bands have utilised the method, that of a male growling vocalist and a female clean singer and today we'll be looking at one of the most acclaimed bands to do so, Sweden's own, Draconian.

The band came together in the town of Säffle in 1994 when drummer Johan Ericson, guitarist Andy Hindenäs and bass player Jesper Stolpe came together and formed the blackened death metal band named Kerberos. After seven months as a trio, they recruited vocalist Anders Jacobsson and changed their name to Draconian and in 1996 released their first demo, "Shades of a Lost Moon." It was an ambitious debut recording, featuring guest flutist Jessica Eriksson, who also performed guest vocals along with Susanne Arvidsson, who stayed on as a clean vocalist. More...

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Sunday Old School 400: Led Zeppelin

When will it all end? Today the Sunday Old School column celebrates its 400th edition, having covered bands from the "proto metal" era such as Blue Cheer and Budgie to the more extreme acts of the 90s and 00s. To celebrate such a landmark, today we'll be looking at one of the most titanic bands in the history of music, one which helped spark heavy metal and influence bands from every spectrum of the metal genre. The one and only; Led Zeppelin.

Despite often being credited as a Birmingham band like fellow heavy music pioneers Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, none of the members were from the city. The seeds of the band were sewn by Middlesex native Jimmy Page, a session guitarist based in London, joined The Yardbirds in 1966, which at the time also included Jeff Beck. His time with the group didn't last long as following the departure of Beck later that year, The Yardbirds slowly dissolved. Page was eager to continue working with Beck however and initially tried to put together a supergroup with his former bandmate and The Who rhythm section, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. Page, Beck and Moon did record one song together, with session bassist John Paul Jones, but nothing more came of the project. More...

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Sunday Old School: X Japan

It's funny how far a name can spread. There are bands who are fortunate enough to receive international recognition almost immediately after releasing their debut album, or sometimes even before that, then there are those who made their name at home and had to wait a long time to visit other nations, or even release an album internationally. Today's band never performed outside of their home country in their heyday and had to wait until more recent years to do so, but their name was recognised far and wide as one of their country's greatest contributions to heavy metal, X Japan.

The seeds of the band were sewn in 1977, when two eleven year olds named Yoshiki Hayashi and Toshimitsu Deyama formed a band named Dynamite, which was later rechristened, Noise. Noise lasted until 1982, after which the two decided to create a new group, using the working name of X, though it soon stuck. They went through a series of guitarists and bass players, during which time they gigged regularly in the Tokyo area and in 1985, released their first single, "I'll Kill You" through Dada Records. More...

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Sunday Old School: Bad News

Heavy metal has always maintained a loyal, cult like fan base. Listeners will guard the integrity of the music and the style with fierce pride, though some of the lyrical themes and imagery has often been seen as silly or outright funny by outsiders. It's no surprise then, that something so niche is also ripe for parody and would start becoming a regular source of humour for comedians and sketch shows such as Hale & Pace and Mr. Show members David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. One of the first noticeable send ups of the genre came from the popular British show, "The Comic Strip Presents..." in an episode entitled, "Bad News."

"The Comic Strip Presents..." was a series of short films for the then new TV station Channel 4 and was known for making fun of aspects of British culture, from football hooliganism ("The Yob,") to the Famous Five ("Five Go Mad In Dorset"/"Five Go Mad On Mescalin") but one of their most popular shorts was the "Bad News Tour" segment in the first series, which focused on a heavy metal band named Bad News, featuring frontman Vim Fuego (played by Adrian Edmonson,) guitarist Den Dennis (Nigel Planer,) bass player Colin Grigson (Rik Mayall) and drummer Spider "Eight Legs" Webb (Peter Richardson.) More...

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Sunday Old School: Origin

Death metal has more sub-genres than Eskimos have words for snow. While it is, of course, a sub-genre of heavy metal of itself, there are so many different categories death metal groups get put under, it borders on ridiculous. The likes of Septicflesh are classed as symphonic death metal, Behemoth as blackened death metal and At The Gates as melodic death metal. One of the most respected of these offshoots however, is technical death metal, so named for its superb and intelligent musicianship and today we'll be looking at one of the most popular of these bands, Origin.

The seeds of the band, (I refuse to make a pun on their name) were sewn when guitarists Paul Ryan and Jeremy Turner began jamming together in 1997, eventually deciding to expand into a full band by recruiting bass player Clint Appelhanz and vocalist Mark Manning in October of that year, with drummer George Fluke entering the fold the following January. After securing an opening spot for Suffocation, the quintet recorded a demo, "A Coming Into Existence," which gained enough popularity for them to be booked on the Death Across America tour, which also featured Nile, Cryptopsy, Oppressor and Gorguts. A little while later, Appelhanz and Fluke were replaced by Doug Williams and John Longstreth respectively and following more high profile shows, including one supporting Napalm Death, Origin signed their first record deal with Relapse Records. More...

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Sunday Old School: Gorilla Biscuits

As young metal and hardcore fans, we are constantly told to support our local scene. Often, we do so merely out of local pride, as the groups themselves aren't always particularly noteworthy. However, every once in a while, a local scene features many great bands and can become a worldwide phenomenon and leave its mark on music. It happened in Seattle with the grunge bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, in the Bay Area with thrash bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Exodus and hardcore probably wouldn't be what it is without the New York Hardcore scene, which featured some of the genre's best known bands such as Agnostic Front, Sick of it All and today's featured band, Gorilla Biscuits.

Gorilla Biscuits began life in 1987 in Long Island, founded by schoolmates Arthur Smilios and Anthony "Civ" Civarelli. They took their name from a slang term for quaaludes and initially only meant to use it temporarily, needing a name when they played their first show, which was organised for them by the band Token Entry. The moniker stuck and soon the band began recording demos, which were sold at a local dollar store and began printing their own shirts. More...

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Sunday Old School: Decapitated

What were you up to as a teenager? For many of us, we were listening to music, dealing with school, day dreaming of a life to come and maybe playing in a band ourselves. The question is, how many of us in our teens got our bands signed? That's just what happened to a quartet of young lads in Poland back in the nineties, who went on to create a legacy of brutal and proficient death metal, going by the suitably grizzly name of, Decapitated.

Decapitated was formed in 1996 by vocalist vocalist Wojciech "Sauron" Wasowicz and brothers Waclaw "Vogg" and Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka on guitars and drums respectively at a time when Vitek was only 12 years old. A year later, they recruited bassist Marcin "Martin" Rygiel, who was the same age as Vitek. They recorded their first demo, "Cemeterial Gardens" that same year, followed in 1998 by a second recording, "The Eye of Horus," which gained the attention of several record labels, including Earache, who signed the group to their Wicked World subsidiary. More...

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Sunday Old School: Hatebreed

The relationship between metal and hardcore is a funny one. Both the rivalry and the influences stem back to punk rock, which was initially something anti-heavy metal, before the likes of Motorhead showed both fan bases that common ground could be reached. To this day, both camps have fans that can't stand the other, as well as those who enjoy both genres. The two styles would combine a number of times to form such sub-genres as thrash metal, crossover and metalcore, the last of which was not always the easiest to define, but if ever one band could be described perfectly by the metalcore tag, it's today's featured group, Hatebreed.

Hatebreed began life in 1994 in New Haven, Connecticut, though some members hailed from Bridgeport, consisting of vocalist Jamey Jasta, guitarists Larry Dwyer, Jr. & Wayne Lozinak, bass player Chris Beattie and drummer Dave Russo. The quintet recorded three songs for a demo tape, which was handed out to members of the local hardcore scene before being included in a split release with Neglect. They followed this with an EP, "Under the Knife" in 1996 which included the three songs once more, as well as four other songs, all of which except the title track would later be re-recorded. More...

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Sunday Old School: Witchery

Black metal is surely one of metal's most important sub-genres. While a hefty chunk of the attention it's received has been for its image and legacy of death and arson, the music itself changed the way a lot of musicians felt towards their own style, most notably the hybrid between black metal and death metal, two styles previously thought incompatible, performed by such artists as Behemoth. It's not just death metal that felt the frostbitten grimness creeping in, thrash metal was touched too, particularly in the case of Sweden's own, Witchery.

Witchery was formed in 1997 in the southern Swedish city of Linköping, following a massive split by the black metal band Satanic Slaughter. The four departing members included vocalist Tony Kampner, guitarists Patrik Jensen & Richard Corpse and drummer Micke Pettersson, who all formed Witchery along with Mercyful Fate and future Arch Enemy bass player Sharlee D'Angelo. In January the following year, the band spent a week recording their first album, "Restless & Dead," a pun of the Accept album, "Restless and Wild." Though recorded in January, it wouldn't be until October 1998 that it hit the shelves through Necropolis Records. While it retained elements of the black metal sound that the bulk of members had performed with Satanic Slaughter, it was more or less a thrash metal album. More...

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Sunday Old School: Deftones

It's very easy to categorise some bands. One can listen to Obituary for instance and say beyond any shadow of a doubt that they're a death metal band, or turn on a Forbidden song and immediately know that they're listening to thrash. Some groups however, defy definition, whether you love them or hate them. Say what you like, but no one else sounded like System of a Down and there wasn't a band like Primus before or since. Today's featured artists also have a sound instantly recognisable and like the three previously mentioned bands, also hail from California, namely; Deftones.

The seeds of Deftones can be traced to McClatchy High School in Sacramento, where future members Stephen Carpenter, Chino Moreno and Abe Cunningham were students and friends, a relationship which continued into the local skateboarding scene. They began jamming together in Carpenter's garage after Moreno found out that he played guitar, while Cunningham played drums. After a while, they brought in a bassist by the name of Dominic Garcia, who eventually switched to drums after Cunningham left to join Phallucy and as a result, the group found a new bassist named Chi Cheng. By 1993 and following another change in drummer, Cunningham returned to the fold once again, solidifying the familiar lineup of the band. More...

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Sunday Old School: God Dethroned

It's been noted several times throughout the history of Sunday Old School that the Netherlands has made its fair share of contributions to the world of heavy metal, from the Eindhoven Open Air festival to such groups as Pestilence, The Gathering and even the Van Halen brothers. The Netherlands seems to always have solid representatives at festivals, particularly in Europe and one which has done the country proud for over twenty five years would be one of their longest serving death metal outfits, God Dethroned.

God Dethroned was the brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Henri Sattler, who put the group together in 1991, along with Hans Leegstra on guitar and drummer Ard de Weerd. Leegstra wouldn't stay for long however and was quickly replaced by bass player Remco Hulst who performed on their "Christhunt" demo recorded the same year. The bassist's stay would also be short lived and soon his place was taken by Marco Arends, who joined in time for the band's signing with German label, Shark Records. Through the company, God Dethroned released their debut full length album, "The Christhunt," which was received very well by death metal fans, but with practically no promotion from Shark, who had refused the first album cover, the record sold very poorly and they were soon dropped, leading the group to disband. More...

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Sunday Old School: Mercenary

Over the course of Sunday Old School, we've looked at groups from many countries, some more than others. The United States, Great Britain and Germany have all had quite a large number of bands featured throughout the history of this column, while Greece, Canada, Japan and Brazil have had a respectable number featured too. There are also countries which have only popped up once such as Turkey, Russia, Serbia and India. One country that has only had one of their native bands featured a small number of times is the northern European nation of Denmark, though their number will increase today as we take a look at their best known contribution to the power metal genre, Mercenary.

Mercenary began life in 1991, the brainchild of guitarist Hans Jørgen Andersen, who was joined in his musical endeavour by drummer Jakob Johnsen, singer Henrik "Kral" Andersen and Andreas W. Hansen on bass. The quartet recorded their first demo, "... Domicile" in 1993, with a second demo, "Gummizild" being released the next year, around the same time their song, "One Eyed Beast" appeared on the compilation, "Fuck You, We're From Denmark Vol.3." The demos garnered enough attention for the group to sign with Black Day Records, through whom they released their first EP, "Supremacy" in 1996, although by this point, Kral was the only original member left, taking up bass as well as holding his position as vocalist, with guitar and drum duties being handled by Nikolaj Brinkman, Jakob Mølbjerg and Rasmus Jacobsen respectively. More...

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Sunday Old School: Metal Duck

If there's one thing the English has a history of doing well, it's taking the piss out of things. Pretty much anything is fair game to be ridiculed in Britain, from politicians to sports and even comedy itself (as brilliantly displayed by Not The Nine O'Clock News in their Life Of Brian/Fawlty Towers sketch.) Likewise, there's been a long record of British musicians whose coming together was to make people laugh more than it was to showcase musicianship and song writing, from the Barron Knights to The Divine Comedy to Kunt and the Gang, Britain has always liked to see the funny side of music. Of course, metal music is no exception and today we'll be looking at a short lived group from the north of England who may not have become one of Britain's best thrash exports, but delivered plenty of laughter, Metal Duck.

Metal Duck was formed in the city of Manchester in 1987 by drummer David Burton, guitar player Fozzy and a vocalist who went by the name, "Arse." The three recorded their first demo, "Quackcore" that same year, showcasing a thrash metal sound typical of the time, but included some humourous intros and a particularly memorable song title, "The March of the Metal Duck to the Ponds of Hell." This was to be their only recording with "Arse," or indeed as a trio, as they replaced their vocalist with Paul "Huttie" and recruited a bass player named Keith after the release of the demo. More...

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Sunday Old School: Witchfynde

It's been a while since we've dug into the vaults of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the movement in the late seventies/early eighties that was credited with taking heavy metal and rock music away from the stadiums and back to the streets. While it gave the world such big names as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard, it also contained a number of influential groups such as Venom, Raven and Witchfinder General, as well as some cult favourites like Tygers Of Pan Tang, Jaguar and Tank. This week we'll be looking at a band which probably belongs in the third category, who may not be the first name on everybody's lips when discussing the scene, but certainly rank up there as one of the heavy hitters, Witchfynde.

Witchfynde began life in 1973 either in the town of Mansfield, or the county of Derbyshire (sources differ,) the brainchild of schoolmates Richard Blower and Neil Harvey, who assumed the positions of bass player and vocalist respectively, before adding guitarist Trevor "Montalo" Taylor to the fold. Neither Blower or Harvey stayed for too long and by 1975, the lineup comprised of Montalo, bassist Andro Coulton, drummer Gra Scoresby and singer Steve Bridges. They slogged it out in the clubs for four years before they released their first single, "Give 'em Hell" in 1979, through Round Records, the only release from the company. More...

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Sunday Old School: Primus

It is often said that the most original bands don't make it in the mainsteam. Many of metal and punk's most influential bands such as Venom, Bathory and Bad Brains have found commercial success a lot harder to come by than those whom they inspired such as Metallica or Amon Amarth, though matter how much these groups cite and praise them in the press. There is of course, exceptions to every rule and one band who were able to garner plenty of commercial success with a sound practically all of their own, was California's own, Primus.

Primus began life as Primate in 1984, formed by bass player Les Claypool and guitarist Todd Huth, who utilised a drum machine at first as they found drummers hard to come by until Claypool's friend Vince Parker returned from the army and filled in the position. With a full lineup of musicians, the band recorded their first demo, which was financed by Claypool selling his car, around the same time that they decided to change their name to the more familiar Primus, after another group called The Primates threatened legal action. This was also to be their only recording with Parker, whose departure began a revolving door of drummers, with Tim "Curveball" Wright taking over the position in 1986 for two years, before they recruited Freaky Executives drummer Jay Lane. More...

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Sunday Old School: Soulfly

Revenge is a motivation that's created some of the biggest moments in history, as well as many famous names in pop culture. Were Bruce Wayne not spurred on by the death of his parents (spoiler,) he wouldn't have become Batman and in a world closer to our own, we wouldn't have Megadeth if Dave Mustaine hadn't been kicked out of Metallica and sworn to create a faster, heavier and more intense group. Similarly, after the decision made by three of the four Sepultura members to fire their manager, her husband, the group's leader, Max Cavalera, quit the group and almost immediately founded a new one. One which has rivaled the commercial success of his previous outfit. One named, Soulfly.

Soulfly began life in 1997 in Phoenix, Arizona, where Max Cavalera and his wife Gloria had made their home. In addition to dealing with the split with Sepultura, Gloria's son, Dana, who was also a close friend of Max, had been murdered the previous year and as expected, left the couple with a feeling of total devastation. Inspired by a line in the Deftones song, "Head Up," on which Cavalera appeared, he named his new group Soulfly and recruited Lúcio Maia on guitar, bassist Cello Dias, who had previously played with another Sepultura alumnus, Jairo Guedes back in Brazil and drummer Roy Mayorga, formerly of the crust punk band Nausea and Hare Krishna hardcore group, Shelter. More...

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Sunday Old School: Black Death

It's funny how bands can create a legacy for themselves, especially if they've only released one album. The Sex Pistols are probably the most famous example of a band which only released one (proper) album but their influence is still heard in music today. There were renowned groups associated with the grunge scene who went on to be regarded highly after one studio effort too such as Mother Love Bone and Temple Of The Dog, while side projects such as Nailbomb from Sepultura's, Cavalera brothers and Fudge Tunnel singer Alex Newport, as well as Control Denied from Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner also have become cult favourites. Today's article will look at another band who only managed one album before breaking up, though in their time, they were able to gain mainstream attention and even be credited with opening doors for black musicians in rock. That band was named, Black Death.

Black Death began in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977, starting out as a trio comprising of guitarist Greg Hicks, bass player Clayborn Pinkins and drummer Phil Bullard, before recruiting vocalist/guitarist Siki Spacek (real name: Reginald Gamble.) In 1979, before the musicians had even recorded a demo together, Pinkins was murdered by gunfire and the group began recruiting a series of bass players, eventually settling on Darrell Harris. They made their first recording together in 1981, which included the song, "Outcast," a track which was to earn heavy airplay on a local college radio show hosted by Brian Sergents. More...

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