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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 1. Sodom

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

While American thrash metal has it’s Big Four, with constant debate among fans as to who belongs there and who should be added to expand the number, German thrash metal has always had their Three Kings, who’s reign will never be challenged. We’ve already looked at Destruction, so this week we’ll be examining Sodom, who along with Destruction, proved to be a major influence on black metal as it is known today. The band was formed in 1981 by Tom “Angelripper” Such as an attempt to escape from his job as a coal miner and took much of their inspiration from New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Venom, Tank and Saxon. After going through a few members, they eventually signed to SPV/Steamhammer Records and released their debut EP, “In The Sign Of Evil,” with a full length album, “Obsessed By Cruelty” following shortly afterwards. The album was widely panned by critics, dismissing the group as a second rate Venom and criticising their occult themed lyrics. More...

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Sunday Old School: Motley Crue

The story of Motley Crue is not a well kept secret. In fact, turn on your television there is a twenty percent chance you will still see them right now. Albeit there is less than a one percent chance they will be performing. The band is made up of founder Nikki Sixx (bass), Vince Neil (vocals), Tommy Lee (drums), and Mick Mars (guitar).

In 1981 Motley Crue released the album "Too Fast For Love" on their own label, Leathur Records. A mix of hard rock, glam, and punk, "Too Fast For Love" (because it was their own label), was essentially a demo tape until Elektra picked it up and rereleased in 1982. The raw energy on this album laid the foundation for eight studio albums to follow.

"Shout At The Devil": This was Nikki Sixx’s black magic time. This is most often labeled as the greatest of the Crue albums from die-hard fans. Next, "Theatre of Pain": The album that established Motley as a glam band, too much glam for most. As if planned (probably not given the heroin usage at this time), "Girls, Girls, Girls" was the next album aimed at toning down the glam side, placing the focus on motorcycles and strippers. The next album became their most popular, "Dr. Feelgood." This is also the first album with the band was sober, coincidence? For those concerned about the strippers, they were still there. They never left after the "Girls, Girls, Girls" record.

After Vince left the band (or was fired), Nikki and Co. created a self titled album that sounded pretty cool, but just didn’t sound right without Neil. After several years the band got back together for "Generation Swine," an honest effort to grow musically and try new things. Despite a couple minor hits, it didn’t work. A few years later (without Tommy) the Crue would put out, "New Tattoo," an attempt to back to the original Motley sound, also just not quite there (which is probably directly related to a missing Tommy Lee). Most recently, Motley released "Saints of Los Angeles" (reviewed here), originally a record to compliment their autobiography, "The Dirt," their ninth studio album delivered, pleasing both their die-hard fans as well as a few critics. More...

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Sunday Old School: Extreme Noise Terror

Recently, the English county of Suffolk was given a shock when Cradle Of Filth frontman, Dani Filth, who hails from Ipswich town, was voted the county’s greatest cultural icon. But many fans of extreme metal and punk who have been around for a while would perhaps instead prefer this title to go to Extreme Noise Terror, one of the most influential grindcore and crust punk bands of all time. The group formed in 1985, also in the town of Ipswich and were notable for being one of the few bands that utilised the use of two vocalists, being inspired in this angle by Antisect. Before long, the band signed with Manic Ears Records and released a split LP with Chaos UK entitled, "Radioactive Earslaughter." Around this time, the band were being grouped with another bunch of British bands, including Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower, under an ever changing label, eventually becoming known as grindcore, though the band expressed discomfort with the term.

After releasing the split LP with Chaos UK, the band attracted the attention of legendary DJ John Peel, who offered them a prestigious "Peel Session" slot, which in turn allowed ENT to record their debut full length album, ”A Holocaust In Your Head,” which has since become one of the most acclaimed grindcore albums in history. The band continued to garner interest from strange places, not least when they were contacted by Bill Drummond of legendary acid house band, The KLF. Drummond asked Extreme Noise Terror to re-record the KLF song, "3 A.M. Eternal," with the intention of getting the band television time on the famous Top of the Pops program. Despite the good performance of the single, the BBC denied the band an appearance on the show, fearing the song wasn’t appropriate for broadcast, which led to The KLF boycotting the program. However, the two groups did team up for a performance at the 1992 BRIT Awards, which made national news when the performance culminated in a machine gun being fired into the crowd.

Following this controversy, Extreme Noise Terror continued to tour wherever they could, going through a number of lineup changes in the process. Eventually, the band signed a new deal with Earache Records, re-recording a wealth of old material for the, “Retro-bution” release. Not long after however, the band faced one of their biggest challenges when vocalist Phil Vane left the band, but the band was helped when Napalm Death vocalist Barney Greenway, who had just been fired from his band, decided to join ENT. Funnily enough, Phil Vane became the new singer for Napalm Death, although he would never record an album with them. Now with Greenway in tow, the band got to work on a new studio album, resulting in, "Damage 381." The album saw the band enter a more death metal orientated area, incorporating blast beats and more screams. Following the release of the album however, Greenway returned to Napalm Death and Vane eventually came back to ENT. Since then, the band has continued to change members, with vocalist Dean Jones remaining the only constant member, as Vane left again in 1999, only to return in 2006. The band continue to tour and record new material, often in the form of split EPs. More...

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Sunday Old School: Burzum

Given the news earlier this week that Burzum would be releasing a new studio album in March, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look back at the band, and it's sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has in the past been called, "The most evil man alive" by the media. Whether or not Vikernes is the Darth Vader of metal music is open to interpretation, but the fact that many people have claimed to enjoy the music of Burzum, while proclaiming to hate the man himself, is proof that Burzum really is one of the best bands from the Norwegian black metal scene.

Vikernes formed Burzum in 1991, shortly after leaving the death metal band, Old Funeral, of which he was the guitarist. Two demo tapes were quickly recorded and caught the attention of Øystein Aarseth, the founder of the Deathlike Silence Productions label and also the guitarist of Mayhem, in which he used to the stage name, Euronymous. Aarseth decided to sign Burzum to his label and work on the self-titled Burzum album began shortly afterwards, with Euronymous guesting on the track, "War," performing a guitar solo. The album saw a release in 1992, making Burzum only the second band to have a record released by the label. After the release of the album, Vikernes became interested in recruiting musicians so that Burzum could perform live, going so far as to bring in Emperor bassist Samoth. Samoth would not stay in the band long however and only recorded on the "Aske" EP, after which Vikernes had no interest in transforming Burzum into a live band.

Now on his own again, Vikernes recorded a wealth of material from 1992 to 1993, the first of which to be released was the album, "Det son engang var," in 1993. Around this time, Vikernes was also recruited to perform bass duties in Mayhem, though he still composed and recorded music for Burzum. Unbeknownst to anyone however, "Det son engang var" would prove to be the last album Vikernes would release as a free man, as he was arrested later that year for killing Øystein Aarseth, his Mayhem bandmate. The reasons for the muder remain debated but Vikernes claims that he went solely to hand over an unsigned record contract, and retaliated after Aarseth attacked him first, climaxing in a fatal stab would to the head. He was convicted in May 1994 (the same month his album, "Hvis lyset tar oss" was released) and sentenced to twenty one years imprisonment, which is the maximum length of a prison sentence in Norway. In addition to the killing of Aarseth, Vikernes was charged with burning several Norwegian churches, something he claims he was wrongly convicted of. More...

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Sunday Old School: Apollyon Sun

Often in the world of music, the most respected performers were the ones who were willing to take risks, whether they payed off or not. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford will always be known as the Metal God, despite the negative reaction to his band, 2wo, John Lennon will forever be regarded as one of the finest songwriters of the 20th century, despite mind crushingly abysmal, "Two Virgins" album and Tom Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) is considered by thousands of metal fans to be one of the most artistic composers in the genre, regardless of Celtic Frost's, "Cold Lake" record. However, "Cold Lake" wasn't the only risk Fischer released throughout his career, following the first dissolution of Celtic Frost, he formed a new band named Apollyon Sun, which was named after the album Celtic Frost were working on before they broke up. The band differed from Celtic Frost greatly in that it was strongly influenced by electronic music, resulting in a sound which was as much trip hop as it was metal.

Following the recording of their debut EP, "Industry Demonstration," the group were noticed by Sanctuary Management and began a working relationship with Rod Smallwood, who is best known as the longtime manager of Iron Maiden and before long were signed to Mayan Records. Through the label, the band released another EP entitled, "God Leaves (And Dies)" which caught the attention of British television executives, resulting in the songs, "God Leaves" and "Relinquished Body" being used in the BBC show, "City Central." Apollyon Sun then began work on their first full length album, for which they worked with producer Roli Mosiman, who had previously produced a variety of artists from Faith No More to Bjork. It took two years but finally, in the year 2000, the group's debut album, "Sub" was released. The release of the album allowed the band to begin touring internationally and were considered by many to be the stand out performance at that year's Kerrang Awards in London.

"Sub" was by no means a commercial success but was well received by critics and fans alike. Apollyon Sun continued to work with the BBC after this, contributing more music to be used in television shows, as well as Fischer and guitarist Erol Unala taking part in Probot, the metal super album put together by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Following these collaborations and contributions, the band began work on a new album, "Flesh," for which a number of songs were written and recorded, including a cover of the Celtic Frost classic, "Procreation Of The Wicked," but the album was never finished owing to the reformation of Celtic Frost. Once Frost reunited, Fischer invited Unala to become the band's new second guitarist, effectively ending Apollyon Sun. Since then, Celtic Frost have once again parted ways, with Fischer forming a completely new band called Triptykon instead, and has gone on record to say he has no intention of making music under the Apollyon Sun banner again. Although the band are largely forgotten by many metal fans and are overshadowed by the legacies of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, they are a key part in the history of Fischer's career, music and artistic growth and a band which deserves alot more recognition than they receive. More...

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Sunday Old School: Cloven Hoof

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal really is a treasure chest when it comes to music. There are so many bands from the movement that produced some oustanding metal but never got the recognition they deserved. One of the best examples of such treatment would be Cloven Hoof, the band hailing from the city of Wolverhampton. Formed in 1979, it was three years before the group were able to record a demo tape and gain the attention of heavy metal fans and record labels. Initially the members attempted to stand out from their peers by using pseudonyms and decided that each member would be named after the four elements, Earth, water, fire and air. While using this gimmick, Cloven Hoof were able to self-release an EP entitled, "The Opening Ritual," which did very well and was championed by members of the heavy metal and hard rock press in the United Kingdom and the United States alike and led them to be able to record a prestigious session for the Tommy Vance friday rock show. Based on the success of the EP, the band signed to Neat Records soon after, who were known for releasing records by many other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Blitzkrieg and Raven. The result was their self-titled debut full length, which like "The Opening Ritual," achieved massive critical acclaim. However, internal tensions became a problem and after releasing a live album entitled, "Fighting Back" in 1986, the band called it a day.

Cloven Hoof would resurface in 1988 however, being brought back to life by bass player Lee Payne who recruited vocalist Russ North and a host of other new members. With a new sense of enthusiasm and dedication, the band decided to drop their stage names in favour of their own and get to work on a new album, which materialised the same year in the form, "Dominator." This new record saw the band move from the standard heavy metal style of their contemporaries into a power metal territory, a formula which followed them to their next album, "A Sultan's Ransom." Both of these albums were well received by fans and featured songs which have since become live staples. Despite their perceived success, the group once again broke up in 1990 as a result of contractual difficulties.

In the early period of the last decade, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal saw a resurgence in popularity and many of the bands reunited as a result. Payne decided around this time to reform Cloven Hoof but unfortunately, none of the former members were interested, leaving Payne to recruit a brand new lineup. Pre-existing contractual problems were still haunting the band however, and it wasn't to be until 2006 that the group released a new studio album, which came in the form of "Eye Of The Sun." Not long after this release though, former vocalist Russ North finally accepted the offer to return to the band and the duo of himself and Payne went about recruiting new musicians for the lineup, which eventually included former drummer Jon Brown. This new stable re-recorded a selection of older tracks for a compilation album entitled, "The Definitive Part 1," which was released in 2008. North left the band the next year however, despite recording his vocals for an EP of new material called, "Throne Of Damnation." As a result of his exit, the band hired singer Matt Moreton, who had previously sung on the "Eye Of The Sun" album, to record his own vocals and the EP finally saw the light of day in 2010. Currently, Cloven Hoof have plans to record a new studio album and have kept their profile alive by releasing a live DVD this past December. More...

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Sunday Old School: Paradise Lost

Ask any fan of gothic metal to name a band which the genre couldn't have survived without, and chances are you will always hear the name, Paradise Lost. They weren't always associated with this style though, after forming in the town of Halifax in 1988, the band were known for their death metal rooted sound, having been inspired by such extreme metal heroes as Celtic Frost and Kreator. Following the recording of two demo casettes, the band signed to Peaceville Records for the release of their first album, "Lost Paradise" in 1990, which featured more of a doom flavoured death metal sound than their later material. Although the album received mixed reviews from critics, fans loved it and their next album, "Gothic," proved to be an even bigger success, now being cited as one of the most influential metal albums of the 90s. "Gothic" saw a change in direction somewhat for the band, utilising female vocals and strings and along with the shift in style, the band changed labels when they signed to Music For Nations, through which they released their next album, "Shades Of God."

Paradise Lost were then able to achieve massive critical success once again, following the release of their fourth album, "Icon." Like, "Gothic," the album was considered a classic and helped the band gain chart success when it entered the German album charts at number 31. Another staple followed shortly afterwards in the form of, "Draconian Times," which is also considered one of the best albums not only from Paradise Lost, but of the goth metal genre. This record also enabled the band to perform in places they were previously unable to, such as South America and Australia. Despite the acclaim they had achieved with these albums, the group then shifted direction once again, taking much inspiration from synth pop bands like New Order and Depeche Mode. The first album to feature this sound, "One Second" proved to be a massive success in Europe, entering the top ten in the German and Swedish album charts. The synth pop influence seemed to be overwhelming the band somewhat, as many fans felt that the band had almost completely shed their metal influences on the subsequent albums, "Host" and "Believe In Nothing."

Unhappy with the control their label had over them, the group signed a new deal with GUN Records and began bringing back the metallic sounds of the past, while still retaining their new wave influence. This would mark their last album to feature such a mesh though, as they shed the synth pop stylings for their self-titled tenth studio album in 2005, much to the delight of fans and critics alike. Since then, Paradise Lost have continued to utilise the goth metal sound on their subsequent albums, "In Requiem" and most recently, "Faith Divies Us - Death Unites Us." The band are expected to begin work on a new studio album in the new year, along with rumours of a new DVD release. It seems that now, the band are deservedly recognised as one of the true kings in their respective genre, and one that has earned respect by not being afraid to experiment with their music and take risks, with some paying off more than others. More...

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Sunday Old School: Blitzkrieg

Even if some bands from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal aren't as well remembered as others, some of them are still able to write songs that easily classics of the movement. No greater example is there of this than Blitzkrieg, who formed in the city of Leicester in 1980. The group quickly signed to Neat Records, who championed the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal by signing a number of other bands from the movement, including Venom, Raven and Tygers Of Pan Tang. Through the label, the band were able to release their first single, "Buried Alive" in 1981, though in later years, greater attention was brought to the singles B-side, the eponymous "Blitzkrieg," after it was covered by Metallica. Unfortunately, the band decided to call it a day after the single's release and the members went on to join different projects, the most notable of which was singer Brian Ross who had stints with such other bands as Satan and Avenger.

Following these other tenures, Ross decided to bring Blitzkrieg back in 1984, together with original guitarist Jim Sirotto and new members Mick Proctor, Mick Moore and Sean Harris, who had all performed in a number of other noticable British heavy metal bands. With this lineup, the band were finally able to release full length album, which came in the form of 1985's, "A Time Of Changes." The record was well received by fans and was noticable for it's re-recording of their self-titled song, as well as "Pull The Trigger," a song written by the band, Satan but was never used on any of their releases. It would be six years before Blitzkrieg released a new album, but at last in 1991, "Ten Years Of Blitzkrieg" was released, much to the delight of long time fans.

However, the band soon found themselves without a label and soldiered on until Neat Records re-emerged in 1995 and immediately signed the band to a three album deal, the first release of which was "Unholy Trinity," which had actually been recorded in 1992. Two more albums, "Ten" and "The Misfits Of Avalon" followed and both were well received by heavy metal fans worldwide, but in 1998, Brian Ross suffered from a serious car injury and the future of Blitzkrieg was placed in doubt once again. Lightning war was never stopped by automobile accidents however, and before long Ross resurrected the band once again, eventually releasing a new album in 2002 entitled, "Absolute Power." The band are still going strong today, performing at concerts and festivals worldwide, and still producing new albums, with their most recent effort being 2007's, "Theatre Of The Damned." More...

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Sunday Old School: Saint Vitus

It’s always a shame when death is a factor in choosing which band to cover for Sunday Old School, but after the tragic death of drummer Armando Acosta, it seems only right we remember his work with Saint Vitus, one of the first and most influential bands in doom metal. The band was formed in 1979 by Acosta, bassist Mark Adams, guitarist Dave Chandler and lead singer Scott Reagers under the name, Tyrant but changed their name shortly after to Saint Vitus a Black Sabbath song. The band were eventually offered a record deal from SST Records, which was run by hardcore legends Black Flag, another of the group’s biggest influences and they released their self-titled first album in 1984 before following it with a second album, "Hallow’s Victim" and an EP, "The Walking Dead" in 1985.

Following these releases, Reagers decided to leave the band and Saint Vitus recruited The Obsessed frontman Scott "Wino" Weinrich. The first record with Weinrich was the full length album, "Born Too Late," which became the group’s best selling release to date. Although their next album, "Mournful Cries" didn’t sell as well as their previous album, it still garnered positive reviews from fans and critics. The band parted ways with SST Records soon afterwards and signed with Hellhound Records, through which they released the album, "V" in 1989. The album would prove to be the last studio recording with Wino to date, as he decided to leave the band following the release of a live album to reform The Obsessed in 1991. A new singer was found in Count Raven frontman Christian Lindersson but he would only record one album with Saint Vitus, 1993’s, "C.O.D." Following the tour in support of the album, Lindersson was replaced by the group’s original singer Scott Reagers, with whom they recorded one more album, "Die Healing," before deciding to call it a day in 1996.

In 2003, the "Born Too Late" incarnation of the band decided to get back together and perform some live shows, but they made it clear that it was not going to be a permanent reunion, and disbanded once again before the year was over, releasing a live DVD from the tour in the process. A more promising reformation would happen in 2008 however, when the band announced that they were returning and eventually confessed that new material was being written. Once again, this reformation featured the "Born Too Late" lineup and they were able to perform at some of the biggest festivals in Europe such as Roadburn and Hellfest. However in 2009, Acosta parted ways with the band due to health concerns and was replaced by Blood Of The Sun drummer Henry Vasquez. Acosta passed away on November 25th of this year, leaving behind a great legacy of heavy metal and carving himself a place as one of the most respected drummers in the history of doom metal. A new Saint Vitus album is expected to surface sometime next year, which will be their first without Acosta. More...

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Sunday Old School: Blind Guardian

When going through the Sunday Old School archives, it struck me as rather strange that while over sixty bands have been covered thus far, there has yet to be an article on a true power metal band. So today I make amends for that as we take a look at one of the most loved bands in the genre, Germany’s Blind Guardian. The band formed in 1984 under the original moniker, Lucifer’s Heritage in the town of Krefeld by singing bassist Hansi Kürsch and guitarist Andre Olbrich.

After going numerous lineup changes, the band signed a deal with No Remorse Records and decided to change their name to avoid accusations of Satanism and to stop them being lumped in with the emerging black metal bands at the time such as Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost. Through No Remorse, the band released their debut album, “Battalions Of Fear” in 1988, which was predominantly a speed metal album in which the influence of countrymen Helloween shined through. The album was well received and a sophomore full length, “Follow The Blind” was released the next year, which featured a guest performance from Helloween founder Kai Hansen. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sabbat

As has been discussed before, while thrash metal was influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, thrash metal bands in the United Kingdom found little success. Out of the several British thrash bands worth mentioning, arguably only two really stand out. We’ve already taken a look at one of them, Bristol’s, Onslaught, so this week, we’ll be examining the history of Nottingham’s Pagan thrashers, Sabbat. The band was originally formed under the moniker, Hydra in 1985 by vocalist Martin Walkyier and bass player Frazer Clarke, along with guitarist Adam Ferman. A second guitarist was recruited soon afterwards in the form of fifteen year old Andy Sneap, though two weeks later he became the band’s sole guitarist when Ferman quit, taking drummer Mark Daley with him, leaving the drum stool open for Simon Negus. With the new members on board, the group decided that a change in name was appropriate and settled on Sabbat, after finding it in a book on witchcraft. Once Sabbat released a demo entitled, "Fragments Of A Faith Forgotten," they saw their popularity soar, receiving a two page spread in Kerrang magazine, a BBC Radio One session, a flexi disc release for Warhammer’s White Dwarf magazine and eventually a record deal with Germany’s, Noise Records (the label had previously shown interest in the band, but were unable to sign them because Andy Sneap was not yet eighteen.)

In May 1988, the band released their debut full length album, "History Of A Time To Come," which garnered rave reviews from critics and was very popular amongst thrash fans for it’s different approach to thrash metal. The album also received a lot of interest as a result of it’s lyrical themes which contained well researched insights into the occult and religion. They followed this record with their sophomore release, "Dreamweaver," a concept album based on the book The Way of The Wyrd by Brian Bates. On this record, the songs were noticeably longer and featured a new member in second guitarist Simon Jones. Although the album was hailed as a classic, it helped to fuel the tensions within the band, as some of the members expressed concern regarding the growing length of the songs. These feelings, combined with poor management and the lack of interest from Noise, caused an internal meltdown. Guitarist Simon Jones quit the band during a U.K. tour and was replaced by Neil Watson, who appears on the live video, "The End Of The Beginning." Bassist Frazer Clarke decided to quit the music industry entirely not long afterwards and Sneap and Negus took over the band, outing Walkyier and bringing in new vocalist Richie Desmond, along with bass player Wayne Banks. For many fans, “Dreamweaver” marks the last Sabbat album but this lineup recorded a third record studio album entitled, “Mourning Has Broken,” which was released in 1991.While not without it’s praise, the album was considered nowhere near the level of quality that the first two records had set, and so the band decided to call it a day soon after.

A reunion was scheduled to take place in 2001 by Martin Walkyier, who brought with him Clarke and Simon Jones, but this was blocked by Sneap, who felt that since the other members had quit, leaving him and Negus to take care of the bad financial situation the group was in, amongst other problems, they had no right to the Sabbat name. Instead this lineup toured under the moniker, Return To Sabbat but folded in 2003. However, fans were delighted to hear that in 2006, Sabbat would return to the stage, this time utilising the "Dreamweaver" lineup. The shows were a result of Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Filth’s longtime appreciation of the band, and it was he who convinced Andy Sneap to reunite the band, in return for a special guest slot on Cradle Of Filth’s short tour of the United Kingdom that year. The reunited performances were a hit and to celebrate, Sabbat re-released "History Of A Time To Come" and "Dreamweaver" with bonus tracks the next year. Since then, the band has continued to perform sporadically across Europe and have stated that, while they have found the shows to be a lot of fun, there are no plans to record a new studio album. More...

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Sunday Old School: Assassin

German thrash metal is widely hailed as the only international thrash scene that could rival their American counterparts. However, when discussing German thrash, the names Kreator, Destruction and Sodom are the three that are always brought up first. There’s a good reason for this, all three bands were and are outstanding, but if one were to dig deeper then a treasure chest of thrash can easily be uncovered. One of the best examples of hidden German gems, would be the Dusseldorf based, Assassin. The group was formed in 1984 and released a demo shortly afterwards which quickly sold out all five hundred copies. After releasing a second demo entitled, "Nemesis," the band was able to secure a record deal with German label, SPV. The signing allowed them to release their first full length album, "Upcoming Terror," which sold around 15,000 copies.

After recruiting some new members, the band released their second album, "Interstellar Experience" in 1988. The album was widely praised by thrash metal fans and earned the band a supporting slot on Death Angel’s first European tour, which was also a success. The group began working on their third studio album after the tour finished but disaster struck when all of their equipment was stolen by burglars. Not having the money to replace the gear, the group decided to call it a day, leaving work on the album unfinished.

Like many thrash bands however, a reunion was inevitable, an in 2002, Assassin decided to regroup and were quickly offered a spot on the 2003 edition of the famous, Wacken Open Air festival. The performance was critically acclaimed and the band experienced a small but noticeable resurgence in popularity. To celebrate this, a third Assassin album named, "The Club" was finally released in 2005, much to the delight of longtime fans. Although the group have been keeping fairly quiet since then, they recently announced that they have re-signed with SPV, and will be releasing a brand new album in 2011, aptly entitled, "Breaking The Silence." More...

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Sunday Old School: Overkill

It’s undeniable that heavy metal has some of the most talented and confident vocalists in the world. Some are merely copies of the genre’s best, while others create a style so unique it can become as synonymous with their band as a guitarist’s style or drummer’s beats. Perhaps nowhere in the history of American heavy metal is there a vocalist more unique than Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, of New Jersey based thrashers, Overkill.

Overkill was formed in 1980 after drummer, Rat Skates and bassist D.D. Verni left their punk band, The Lubricunts. They quickly recruited Ellsworth on vocals and hit the East Coast club scene with full force, mainly performing covers but with a few originals seeping in. After releasing a demo entitled, "Power In Black," the group gained some interest from record labels, resulting in their debut self-titled EP. The success of the EP earned Overkill a multi-album record deal with Megaforce Records, one of the biggest metal based record companies at the time, through whom they released their first full length album, "Feel The Fire," in 1985, which was instantly hailed a thrash metal masterpiece. They released their next album, "Taking Over" in 1987, which Megaforce distributed in co-operation with major label, Atlantic, enabling the band to produce their first music video in the form of, "In Union We Stand." More...

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Sunday Old School: Alice Cooper

As it’s impossible not to notice, today is Halloween. It’s probably a general consensus that Halloween goes with metal better than it does any type of music, but why is this is? In two words: Alice Cooper. With a stage show that included hangings, guillotines and chicken throwing (ok, that only happened once), the Alice Cooper band brought the shock to rock and it could be argued that nobody has been able to do it better to this day. Although now known as the solo act of singer Vincent Furnier, the name, Alice Cooper was originally the name of the band that Furnier sang in, taking their name from a witch they believed they had contacted through the use of a Ouija board.

The group was formed in 1964 as The Earwigs, choosing the Cooper name in 1968. They released their first album, “Pretties For You” the next year which was unsuccessful both critically and commercially, a fate which would also befall their second album, “Easy Action.” However, the band eventually achieved a breakthrough with the single, “I’m Eighteen,” which became a hit and helped the album, “Love It To Death” climb to the number 35 spot on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. The next album, “Killer,” not only yielded more hit singles, but saw the band expand their live show into something rock audiences had never seen before, featuring boa constrictors, chopping up bloody baby dolls and ending with Furnier being hanged in a gallows. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tygers Of Pan Tang

Ask any fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to name five of their favourites and chances are Tygers Of Pan Tang will be amongst that list. The band may not be quite as well known now, but during the N.W.O.B.H.M.'s period of popularity, they were certainly considered one of the standout groups in the pack, and they had the songs to back it up. The band was formed in 1978 in the town of Whitley Bay, which is located in the North East of England near Newcastle, and quickly signed to Neat Records, which was known for releasing many records from British heavy metal bands at the time including Venom, Raven and Jaguar. The partnership with Neat was only to last for the single, "Don't Touch Me There" however, as the Tygers signed to major label MCA soon afterwards. Following a few more single releases, the group finally released it's debut full length album in 1980 entitled, "Wildcat." The album did well in the United Kingdom, debuting at number 18 on the British Albums Chart. The band was soon to see a big change in terms of lineup however, when they recruited John Sykes, formerly of Streetfighter, as second guitarist and split with singer Jess Cox after he and the rest of the band had a falling out. The band decided to replace Cox with Jon Deverill, best known as the vocalist of Persian Risk and this lineup recorded a second album entitled, "Spellbound," which was released in 1981 and once again entered the British Album Charts, though this time peaking at the lower place of number 33, as well as spawning the single, "Hellbound," which also saw chart success, peaking at number 48 in the United Kingdom.

The next year, Tygers Of Pan Tang released a third album called "Crazy Nights," which was unable to spawn any successful singles but did enter the British Albums Chart at number 51. Following this record, Sykes decided to quit the band in order to pursue a position as Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist, which he didn't fulfil, though he was recruited as the new guitarist for hard rock heroes Thin Lizzy soon after. Sykes was replaced by guitarist Fred Purser and the band got to work on their fourth album, "The Cage." "The Cage" ultimately proved to be the band's biggest success in terms of chart performance, entering the U.K. charts at number 13 and featuring three successful singles in the form of "Love Potion No. 9," "Paris By Air" and "Rendezvous." Despite the good commercial reaction to the album, the band decided to call it a day soon afterwards as a result of tensions with their record company. A new version of the band was formed in 1985 however, featuring Deverill and drummer Brian Dick and released a new album named, "The Wreck-Age" the same year. The record was the first Tygers album not to chart in the United Kingdom, and following poor reviews of their next album, "Burning In The Shade," they disbanded once again. More...

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Sunday Old School: Voivod

By many outsiders, heavy metal has been dismissed as "music for idiots," but time and time again, heavy metal bands have proved the naysayers wrong by displaying well researched and intelligent lyrics, along with complex musicianship. One of the best examples of "thinking man's heavy metal," comes from Canadian progressive thrashers, Voivod. The band was formed in the town of Jonquière, Quebec in 1982, and like many of their contemporaries, where influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, as well as hardcore punk and seventies progressive rock bands such as Yes. By fusing these influences, Voivod forged their own brand of heavy metal, which would satisfy the average headbanger, as well as any music critic. The band were also known for adopting aliases. Lead singer Denis Belanger became known as, "Snake," guitarist Denis D'Amour went by the name, "Piggy," drummer and band artist Michel Langevin used the moniker, "Away" and bassist Jean-Yves Theriault named himself, "Blacky." The group released their first studio album, "War And Pain" in 1984, which followed a more speed metal style than future releases.

Their second album, "Rrröööaaarrr" featured a speed metal theme once again before the band began incorporating their love of progressive rock with their next album, "Killing Technology." The album earned the band a spot as one of the more unique young metal bands, and the group continued this path with their next album, "Dimension Hatross," which has become one of their most acclaimed albums to date and featured the staple song, "Tribal Convictions," as well as a comical cover of the 1960's Batman television show theme song. Their next album, "Nothingface," saw the band break through into the mainstream somewhat, as it became their first album to enter the Billboard charts and featured a minor hit in the form of the band's cover of the Pink Floyd song, "Astronomy Domine." Not only was it successful in terms of sales, but it gained universal praise for it's musicianship and songwriting prowess. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sweet Savage

With the recent, tragic passing of guitarist Trev Fleming, this week seemed to be a fitting time to look at Sweet Savage and the impact they had upon heavy metal music. The band formed in 1979 in the Northern Irish capital of Belfast by guitar players Trev Fleming and Vivian Campbell along with drummer David Bates and singing bass player Ray Haller. The group quickly began to build up a solid fan base and were able to secure opening slots for the likes of such big name bands as Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Ozzy Osbourne and Wishbone Ash. Their high profile support slots led to a recording contract with Park Records, through which they released a single entitled, “Take No Prisoners” which was limited to only one thousand copies and also featured the song “Killing Time.” The single didn’t result in a permanent record deal and the band’s next record was a self-released demo simply named, “Demo 81.” The band soldiered on for two more years until Campbell left the band to become the guitarist for Ronnie James Dios eponymous new band, resulting in a period of inactivity for Sweet Savage.

The group decided to continue in 1984, though this time the lineup did not include Campbell or Fleming, instead featuring the guitar talents of Ian “Speedo” Wilson. The new selective recorded a new single with guest vocalist Robert Casserly entitled, “Straight Through The Heart” via Crashed Records. The single found little success and the band continued to perform as and when they could, finally releasing a third single in 1989 called, “The Raid” before making the decision to retire the group for the second time.

During the 1990s, the band received an renewed interest from many heavy metal fans, thanks largely to American metal stars Metallica covering the Sweet Savage song, “Killing Time” as a B-side to their “Unforgiven” single. Sweet Savage decided to reform once again, this time with Trev Fleming back on guitar and Simon McBride replacing Ian Wilson. This re-energised version of the band was finally able to record a full length studio album in the form of 1996’s, “Killing Time,” which was comprised of re-worked and re-recorded versions of their old songs. The album and interest enabled them to continue and the band released a second album in 1998 entitled, “Rune,” which featured all new material. However, owing to the desire to pursue other musical ventures, the band broke up for the third time that year. The hiatus would prove to be the bands longest, lasting a full ten years before the group heeded the call of heavy metal once again and began touring under the Sweet Savage moniker. This time the band received more support slots for big names of the present and past eras, including Saxon, Motorhead, Deep Purple and, most recently, Iron Maiden. A new drummer in the form of Marty McCloskey was introduced in 2010 and the band revealed their plans to release a new album in October of this year entitled, “Regenerator.” October is now finally upon us and while the new Sweet Savage album is still expected to be released sometime this month, it will prove to be a sad launch, as founder and guitarist Trev Fleming passed away on October 2nd, leaving behind a legacy of great heavy metal music. More...

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Sunday Old School: Death Angel

"Keep It In The Family" may be a song by Anthrax, but for another American thrash metal band it means something else entirely. The band in question would be Death Angel, who were formed in 1982 by four cousins, vocalist and bassist Dennis Pepa, guitarist Gus Pepa, drummer Andy Galeon and Rob Cavestany, who also played guitar. The cousins went through a number of names before deciding to settle with Death Angel, after coming across a book by the same name. The original lineup of the band recorded a demo entitled, "Heavy Metal Insanity," which sounded alot more like New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Tygers Of Pan Tang, than the thrash metal style of which the band would later be known. In 1984, the band decided to recruit their roadie, Mark Osegueda (also a second cousin of the band members) to take over the role of vocalist, allowing Dennis Pepa to focus on his bass playing and the new lineup made their live debut supporting Megadeth (which was one of only four shows to feature Kerry King as Megadeth's guitarist.) The band continued to slug it out in the clubs and refine their live show, as well as musicianship, before recording a new demo in 1986 called, "Kill As One," which featured Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett as producer. The demo proved to be extremely popular in the tape trading community, earning the band a solid fanbase and eventually leading to a deal with Enigma Records. Through, Enigma, they released their first full length album, "The Ultra-Violence," which found favour with many thrash metal fans, as well as the impressive fact that all of the band members were under twenty years old at the time, with drummer Andy Galeon only fifteen years of age at the time of release. The group also filmed a music video for the song, "Voracious Souls," but it found little airplay, owing to it's lyrical nature, which refers to marijuana.

The next year, the band released their second album, the comical sounding, "Frolic Through The Park," which saw their popularity rise signifficantly. The album received largely positive reviews and garnered a minor hit with the song, "Bored," which was inspired by the unlikely influence of U2 and was eventually featured in the movie, "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III." The record was also praised for it's diverse range of influences, which no longer confined Death Angel's music to straight forward thrash metal, and for the band's excellent cover of the Kiss song, "Cold Gin." The success of the album allowed the group to tour the world for the first time, finding particular success in Japan, where they sold out two tours in support of the record. Following the release of, "Frolic..." the band's contract with Enigma was bought out by major label, Geffen, who released the band's next album, "Act III" in 1990. Once again, Death Angel expanded their musical range, incorporating elements of funk and making greater use of acoustic guitars and backing vocals. The album featured two singles in the form of, "Seemingly Endless Time" and the ballad, "A Room With A View," which was sung mostly by guitarist Rob Cavestany. The album didn't give them the mainstream breakthrough which they deserved, but saw their popularity as a live act remain intact, selling out famous venues such as London's Hammersmith Odeon and The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. More...

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Sunday Old School: Stormtroopers Of Death

New York undoubtedly created some of the best hardcore music of all time, producing such bands as Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law and Sick Of It All. Not only that, it also birthed some of the best bands in thrash metal, such as Nuclear Assault and Toxik, so it was inevitable that the two extreme genres would eventually meet. The band that became known for eventully bringing these two genres together would be the sometimes hilarious, always controversial, Stormtroopers Of Death. The nucleus of the band began when Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian befriended hardcore punk fan Billy Milano at one of the legendary CBGB matinees, before Ian deided to create his own hardcore band centred around a character he created named, "Sargent D." Ian asked Milano to be the group's frontman, and completed the lineup by recruiting Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, along with Nuclear Assault bassist Danny Lilker (who had also spent some time in Anthrax.) They were able to grab the attention of Johnny Zazula's Megaforce Records with their demo, "Crab Society North," which featured no less than sixty three songs. They quickly signed to Megaforce and recorded and mixed their debut album in just three days. The album, "Speak English Or Die" attracted some controversy due to it's title and politically incorrect, though tongue in cheek lyrics, which Lilker admitted were written with the sole intention of offending people. Nonetheless, the record has gone down as one of the true classics of thrash metal, as well as a blueprint of crossover thrash and earned plenty of good reviews, as well as a spot opening for Motorhead at the time.

Although a second S.O.D. album entitled, "U.S.A. For S.O.D." was planned, it never materialised and the members returned to their respetive bands, while singer Billy Milano formed a new group called Method Of Destruction, whose debut album, "U.S.A. For M.O.D." featured many lyrics written by Scott Ian. Even while the members were busy with Anthrax, Nuclear Assault and M.O.D., the band still retained a cult following and eventually reunited for a one off show at The Ritz in New York in 1992, which was released as the live album, "Live At Budokan." The live album featured not only their own material, but also covers from such a diverse range of artists as Nirvana, Ministry and Fear, along with performing the Method Of Destruction song, "Get A Real Job." Five years later, the band reunited once more, which resulted in their first European show taking place at Germany's With Full Force festival. Not only did the band perform again, but they released a new studio album in 1999 entitled, "Bigger Than The Devil." Again, the album contained many songs with humourous lyrics, that ranged from parodying other bands like Slayer, ("Seasons Of The Obese") and Celtic Frost ("Celtic Frosted Flakes,") to downright silliness ("Monkeys Rule," "King At The King," "Frankenstein and His Horse.") The album received mostly positive feedback and the band toured all over the world to support it's release, resulting in the live DVD, "Speak English Or Live."

Following the release of another DVD entitled, "Kill Yourself: The Movie!," the band broke up after reported disagreements between Scott Ian and Billy Milano. A posthumous album named, "Rise Of The Infidels" was finally released in 2007, which was described as an "extended E.P." and featured previously recorded material, including covers of Agnostic Front and Negative Approach, as well as live recordings and many of their "Ballads" (which were merely small parts of songs by a famous, deceased musician with the phrase "You're dead!" thrown in.) Despite the positive reviews the E.P. garnered, Milano has stated that the record is "the last of S.O.D." and that fans shouldn't expect a reunion to happen. Today, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante are still in Anthrax, Billy Milano continued Method Of Destruction until it's final show in 2008 and Danny Lilker performs with several bands, including Nuclear Assault and Brutal Truth. S.O.D.'s influence on heavy music can still be heard today, with many big names of modern metal and hardcore citing them as an influence, including Corey Taylor of Slipknot/ Stone Sour and Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Kingdom Of Sorrow. More...

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Sunday Old School: Quiet Riot

With the recent announcement that Quiet Riot are to return this year with a new vocalist in tow, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look at the band, and how they broke a major barrier for the genre of heavy metal. The band made a name for themselves in the 1980s but were actually formed by guitarist Randy Rhoads in 1973 under the name Mach 1. The group used this moniker for a short while, before changing it to Little Women until they made the wise choice to change their name once again, this time to the label we know them today, Quiet Riot. While the name may sound like a way to stick in people's minds, it actually has a fairly humourous origin. While the band were talking with Rick Parfitt of the legendary British rock band Status Quo, Parfitt mentioned he'd like to name a band "Quite Right," but owing to his English accent, the band members mistakingly believed he said, "Quiet Riot" and settled on the moniker.

The band slugged it out in their native Los Angeles with their new name for two years before eventually landing a deal with Sony. Strangely though, the deal only entitled the band's albums to be released in Japan. They released their self-titled first album the same year, which featured covers of songs by the likes of Dave Clark Five and The Small Faces. A second album, simply named, "Quiet Riot II" followed in 1978, but the band parted ways with bass player Kelly Garni soon after, with future Ozzy Osbourne, Dio and Whitesnake bassist Rudy Sarzo replacing him. The next year would see another lineup change for the group, when founding guitarist Rhoads left for what proved to be a critically acclaimed, though ultimately tragic stint as Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist. Quiet Riot soldiered on for a while, but eventually changed their name to DuBrow, after the band's vocalist, and went through a number of lineup changes. More...

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