Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground Columns
Known mainly in the West as home to the arresting Himalayan heights and neighbor to every misguided hippie’s favorite destination of Tibet, Nepal is a unique little country that, like many Asian enclaves, bears a richly extensive history that belies its pin-on-the-map size.
Viewed in a metal context, Nepal’s growing foothold in the headbanging underground proves an even greater curiosity – though thanks to the Sam Dunns of the world and our great global network of online journalism, that curiosity is transforming from a novelty to the norm before our eyes. Cultural and language barriers can only hold back the equalizing brotherhood of metal for so long.
The twenty-first century has thus far seen a rapid expansion in the local metal scene of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital and largest city. It’s primarily an extreme affair. Inspired by trailblazing death metal acts such as UgraKarma and championed on regional web communities KTMRocks and Nepal Underground, the bands here tend to embrace aggression and brutality with a fresh enthusiasm that conjures a strange, sweet, almost innocent nostalgia.
According to Davin Shakya, audio engineer and founder of symphonic black/death metal act Kalodin, the reasons are as much technological as cultural. “The production here is not up to par compared to the international bands we listen to,” he explains. “Mainly because there aren’t many musical production courses. Engineers here have to study everything on their own and find their way out by trial and error. It’s improving, though.”
Such a grassroots-by-necessity approach calls to mind the trials by which Western engineers learned to produce thrash and death metal throughout the ‘80s. Innovative leaps in musicianship were forced to wait for the technology to catch up. This period of exploration was the perfect breeding ground for exciting, energetic, envelope-pushing music, and more than two decades later, Kathmandu is experiencing its own evolution and refinement of extreme metal.
It’s also placing its own unique stamp on the genre. Playing the heaviest and darkest of metal offers a special opportunity to entwine it with regional culture, whether through sound or attitude, and enrich the ever-expanding genre web. Take a look at some of Kathmandu’s highlights and rising stars since the dawn of the millennium. More...
With a population of 160 million people, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The country's attitude of cultural tolerance (Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists live side-by-side) is reflected in their tastes in metal (well, at least in this article).
This Unearthing segment includes three bands of disparate styles from the city of Dhaka. The wide scope of sounds documented in the following video includes death metal, black metal, atmospheric, neo-classical, thrash, and progressive, many derived from a sole band!
Mostly unknown in the West, Artcell is one of the most celebrated rock acts of Bangladesh. They play arenas, appear on TV shows and have over 479,000 likes on their Facebook page. In addition to the Sabbath-thy heaviness of debut "Onnoshomoy," Artcell has an affinity for melody and acoustic guitar. I'm not sure what the band sings about because all lyrics are sung in Bengali, but his voice is harmonious and passionate. Whatever he's saying, their crowds respond well. As with most prog bands, Artcell has an outstanding bass sound, very warm.
Eastern Europe is a hotbed for extreme metal. Behemoth and Vader opened venues and studio doors to growls and screams, and invited a whole new generation of cult bands into their realm of the world. Today, we are going to focus on three of those bands. MU has reported on one of these bands in the past, Enthrallment, but we will be introducing two more--Dimholt and Dark Incognito.
Bulgaria did not always allow extreme metal within its borders. Since the mid-40s, Bulgaria was under Soviet rule. As soon as the Eastern Bloc collapsed, heavy bands began to form. Murder Sound studio owner and Enthrallment drummer, Ivo Ivanov states that many bands began to form in the period of 1989-1993 in his hometown of Pleven. Artists such as Mortal Remains, Corpse and Necrophilia ushered in the first wave of extreme metal. Ivanov's band, Enthrallment emerged during the the period of 1993-1998, an era he dubs the "zenith of the death metal industry."
Starting with their 1999 demo "The Scarlet Difference" and ending with their latest full-length "People From The Lands of Vit," Enthrallment has created death metal appeasing to their European neighbors and long-distance listeners in America. The group has played Serbia's Hellhammer Festival and Obscene Extreme Fest. They toured with Malevolent Creation, Rotting Christ and Rotten Sound in 2011, and supported major acts such as Destruction, Obituary, Deicide and Napalm Death.
In a couple of weeks, at the beginning of 2014, Enthrallment will release its newest incarnation of audio filth, "The Voice of Human Perversity." Ivanov recorded and mixed the album in his Murder Sound Studio, while the group sent the recording to Safehouse Production in Florida to be mastered by James Murphy. Check out a preview of the album below, as well as the video for "Fruits of Pain and Blue Sky."
In this week's edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll revisit the country of Chile again - a land with a scene that is so vast and devout that one could do a column on it every week. I respect the Chileans since they are fervent supporters of their metal scene with how they pack their clubs and buy music. In fact, looking at the Chilean scene is observing one with both plenty of new talent and veteran acts just now getting their due.
The Chilean scene dates back to the eighties, much like ours. In gaining an overview of it all, it is best to see it through the eyes of a Chilean old schooler. One of the most visible scene veterans, Digmetalworld honcho Ignacio Orellana, has seen a great deal of it since he picked up his first pair of drumsticks at the age of 14. The Santiago native thus began his journey into being a metal drummer and all-around metal music fanatic. More...
Let's once again take a look at my former residence of Costa Rica as we bring you a scene report from this Central American country. In the past forty years, travelers from all over have been making it a vacation hotbed. Celebrities own homes there, drawn in by the fabulous ocean, weather, mountains and night life. Many metal bands also make Central and South America prerequisite stops on their tours now. Even bands with little or no label support are financing small club gigs and have made Costa Rica one of their stops. More...
As we’ve shown throughout the years in our never ending quest to the Unearth the Metal Underground, high quality metal bands can come from the most surprising of locations. Europe is known as a hotbed of extreme metal, both originating several styles and still innovating others, and even those tiny, out of the way countries have something appropriately metallic to offer.
Today we’ll take a look at three unknown acts from the Latvian metal scene. Working largely without label support and independently releasing demos, EPs, and albums, which in an earlier era would have been hindrance, now these underground stalwarts have a chance to be heard by a much wider audience thanks to various social networking sites and music platforms like Bandcamp.
Featuring members of Ocularis Infernum, this absolute gem of the Latvian scene takes the black metal sound you think you know and takes it on a twisting journey. While it keeps up the menacing and horrifying vibe black metal is known for, it’s all injected with a surprising amount of melodic hooks. The band’s debut album “Hierophanies” is out now (reviewed here) and can be streamed in full via the player below.
Today on Metal Underground, we will head over to almost the southeasternmost zip code in the US - the island of Puerto Rico. Not exactly a nation, although many of its citizens would like it to be, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with its own constitution and a rhythm and vibe that rival that of any Central American country.
We have featured several Puerto Rican bands and groups that have ties to that island in our news such as Zafakon, who rose to prominence with their "Fall" EP back in 2010. The all female gothic/black metal trio Matriarch, now disbanded, combined the impossibly high soprano operatic pitch of guitarist Vanessa Urrutia and the evil lower end vocals of Shamara and Isabel. Too bad "Revered Unto the Ages" was their swan song. Countless bands are actively playing, releasing albums and making the news on a regular basis, though. More...
Grind, slam, death, black: metal has its share of extreme bands that revel in pulverizing an audience with unrelenting brutality or smothering out all hope with ceaseless darkness. Today we’ll move away from that side of metal however, to enjoy the more melodic sounds heavy bands have to offer.
Every week we unearth three bands you may not have heard of from the more underground corners of the scene, and this week’s all about the melody! If you dig power, prog, classic metal, or any combination of the three, these are all bands that are well worth your time.
Kicking off our latest look at less extreme bands is Finland’s Cardiant, which leans significantly more towards power metal, but with a dash of traditional and prog metal thrown in for good measure. The band has a lot going on across that spectrum, so don’t be surprised if you hear a variety of piano and keyboard segments, along with some choruses of clean singing that even bring to mind Devin Townsend’s “Epicloud.”
While there are a scattered handful of darker moments, overall Cardiant is melodic and upbeat through and through. The band’s latest album “Verge” is out now through Inverse Records, which follows the previous two full-lengths “Tomorrow’s Daylight” and “Midday Moon.” Get acquainted with the outfit through two tracks off “Verge” below.
Despite misconceptions, how could the huge country of China not have a big metal scene? It most certainly does. Even though social media, ISPs, chat rooms, forums and much of the internet is highly state regulated in China, there are enough ways for Chinese metal bands and fans to communicate out there. Like Deng Xiaoping once famously said - "If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in." More...
As a child growing up in the late sixties/early seventies listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Jean Luc Ponty, progressive rock was and is a large part of my musical foundation. The orchestration of prog rock expanded music from anthemic songs with a simplistic chorus-verse structure into compositions that took on a life of their own through arrangements that incorporated elements of jazz, folk and other forms of music in atypical time signatures. These musicians represented a skilled genre, one where a band had to know how to play far beyond 'adequate' and know all types of music. More...
Record sales may be dropping and labels may be on the verge of extinction, but the underground metal scene is still a thriving and vibrant place where musical innovation continues to occur. Every Monday we dig deep into the underground to unearth three bands you may not have had the chance to check out yet, but which deserve to be heard.
It’s no secret I dig bands that mix it up and don’t stick to one straight style, having previously unearthed avant-garde bands, a handful of genre flip-floppers, metal outfits that experiment with non-traditional sounds, and those bands that just plain ignore musical trends.
Today you’ll get another dose of heavy music that doesn’t play by the normal genre rules. These three bands may all technically be black metal, but they push that definition to its limits and sometimes even well beyond!
This German act is currently with Code666 records, which is a smaller label in the grand scheme of things, but it still has some very solid underground acts known for combining sub-genres and mixing up their sounds.
Todtgelichter has four full-length releases under its belt, having just dropped new album “Apnoe” this year (reviewed here). “Apnoe” is definitely less raucous and battering than previous releases, occasionally dropping out the black metal altogether, just to bring it back in at unexpected times to barrel over an unsuspecting audience. The harsh vocals are present but take a back seat to clean male and female singing, accompanied by atmospheric and calm parts that give off a modern-era Anathema vibe.
Keep up with the latest on Todtgetlichter at Facebook and be sure to check out a track from the current album and its predecessor “Angst” below.
While metal bands of pretty much any sub-genre can be found all over the world, different areas have become well known for specific sounds: the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Scandinavian black metal, Bay Area thrash, and so on. But metal continues to spread and evolve across the planet, and now the various Middle Eastern nations are not only developing their own underground scene, but also inspiring a traditional Arabic sound in metal bands from other countries.
Israeli act Orphaned Land may be one of the most well known, with latest album “All Is One” nearing release through Century Media, but there are many more just waiting to be explored in our never ending quest to unearth the metal underground.
Today we’ll cover three lesser known bands either residing in or strongly influenced by the Middle East. If you dig these acts but want something more on the power or progressive side, be sure to also check out Myrath, which was covered in our look at bands getting exposure through the Prog Power USA festival.
Currently down to three members and now seeking a new keyboardist for live shows, Egyptian outfit Sand Aura released debut full-length album “Elegy of the Orient” last year. The album can be ordered directly through the band’s website or streamed in its entirety via Bandcamp.
Sand Aura covers a whole lot of ground sound-wise, working off a proto death metal base with deep and guttural vocals, adding in a folksy edge, and then also bringing out clean female vocals. Give it a listen and decide how it sounds yourself through the player below.
Recently, the respected Death Metal Underground site ran a brief synopsis of the new book "Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music" by S. Alexander Reed. The tome came out earlier this year and is a recommended read for anyone immersed in the current huge wave of industrial bands or who has followed the genre since its inception in the early eighties. More...
The number of metal bands out there has exploded in the last few years, and finding acts that meet your tastes can be quite a challenge, especially if you prefer your heavy music underground instead of well known. To help keep up with the ever shifting sea of metal, each Monday we unearth three lesser known bands all grouped by style or location.
We’ve looked at underground experimental bands before, but today we’ll cover three groups on the far fringe of the avant-garde scene. These three metallic offerings are for fans of the most bizarre reaches of music, combining elements that typically never come within miles of each other.
Age of Silence
Norway’s Age of Silence unfortunately only released a single full-length album back in 2004, titled “Acceleration,” and followed that with an EP the next year. True to its name, the band has been mostly silent since then, only popping up in 2010 to announce work was underway on another album, but nothing has come of it yet.
Age of Silence starts with a distinctly Scandinavian metal sound, but goes primarily for clean vocals, lacing in a variety of odd keyboard sound effects that take the music in a different direction than normal.
While there may or may not ever be new Age of Silence material, band member Andy Winter recently released his own solo album, offering more proggy Norwegian metal for fans who can’t get enough.
Every week we take a look at 3 unsigned bands that stand out from the crowd in our Unearthing the Metal Underground column. This week we take a look at the Los Angeles, California death metal scene.
Having recently moved to Los Angeles from New York, I was very impressed with the scene here. Promoters treating bands with respect and aggressively promoting their shows, grass roots marketing, bands helping each other out, everyone staying to hear every band at every show, and of course tons of talent. Of all the shocks I saw, it was the blending of scenes. There are shows with all genres of metal from brutal death, metalcore, thrash, traditional, and even some hard rock/metal cross over bands. The crowds love them all. The music is heavy and the bands are talented, what more do you need?
Today I am going to focus on three of the death metal bands I've come across from the Whittier area of Los Angeles: Syrebris, Insentient, and Infinite Death. More...
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week, I take on the small, but strong Maltese metal scene.
When one thinks Malta, the first thought that comes to mind is a gorgeous tourist destination rich in Greek, Roman and Arabic culture situated between Italy and North Africa. The Maltese metal scene is a much smaller than other island nations like Cyprus, but it is a strong and hard working underground scene. Though bands are not denied the right to play music they want in this free nation, metal in Malta is typically shunned by the typically close minded culture of the nation and the sheer lack of venues that would have them. Some Maltese bands have been welcomed abroad to mainland Europe and the U.K., though the costs for many are too high. However, the country does have its own metal festivals: the Extreme Maltese Metal and Xtreme Metal Assault festivals held in the summer as well as the “M.D.M.” (Malta Doom Metal) held in November in the city of Rabat.
Some Maltese acts have either made it beyond the Mediterranean to tour Europe and the UK, or at the very least been heard worldwide, but still remain largely underground. Today, we will look at three of those acts: Forsaken, Loathe and Weeping Silence. More...
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column examining three metal bands from Turkey, the country which bridges Europe and Asia, and a conversation was struck wherein I mentioned the idea of checking out some of the underground metal music that Turkey’s neighbours, Greece have to offer. Greece is certainly one of the most fascinating countries in Europe, if not the world, owing to its ancient history, philosophers, contributions to science, maths and politics and mythology, and it’s a place that enjoys heavy metal music too. Some of the more significant Greek metal bands around today include Rotting Christ, Firewind and SepticFlesh, but this week we will uncover three bands which aren’t as well known.
Of all the bands featured this week, Suicidal Angels are probably the most well known, having worked extremely hard over the past few years to spread their brand of thrash metal. The group was formed in the Greek capital city of Athens in 2001 by singing guitarist, Nick Melissourgos and eventually recorded their first full length album, "Eternal Domination" in 2007, which was released in July of that year. The record did well enough to gain them a place supporting such thrash legends as Overkill, Kreator and Onslaught. The release of their second album, "Sanctify the Darkness" further solidified their place as one of the best young thrash metal acts around, and led them to more appearances with high profile artists, as well as slots at such festivals as Sonisphere and Wacken Open Air. The band has since released two more full length records, the most recent of which, "Bloodbath," hit the shelves last year.
Suicidal Angels - "Apokathilosis"
With more than 15,000 bands in our database, and hordes more than that in existence, every Monday we like to take a little time to highlight three underground bands that deserve your attention.
Usually our unearthed bands focus on a single sub-genre or geographic region, but today we’ll look bands that have all experienced a similar phenomena: the flip-flop. Favored maneuver of politicians everywhere, and for some reason also plenty of metal bands, these guys aren’t doing it to pick up more votes, as their flip-flips frequently cost them fans.
Metal has its fair share of musical flip-floppers who went from heavy to soft, vice versa, or smashed opposing elements together to create a different type of sound. Our previous look at three genre flip-floppers covered a variety of them, and there are even more well known acts that have taken this route, from Darkthrone to Anathema and Therion. Below you’ll find a sampling of three lesser known acts that have significantly changed sound from their earlier works.
This Swedish death metal act had a cult hit back in 2009 with debut full-length “The Horror” (reviewed here), which was a brutal and unrelenting take on death/thrash that never let up. Short but sweet, the tracks were brief bites of devastation that didn’t overstay their welcome.
Fast forward to 2013, and Tribulation is an altogether different beast. Unlike the other two bands we’ll look at today, this time the change in sound actually made the songs much longer than before. “The Formulas of Death” (check out the review) saw the band become a progressive death metal outfit with plenty of melody and unexpected stylistic shifts. If it weren’t for the remaining thrash influence in the guitar sounds and the recurring death vocals, this would essentially be two different bands.
Hear the difference yourself through the clips below taken from each album. There is a lot going on musically throughout the second album, so a single song doesn’t really give enough to digest the breadth of the change, but you can also check out the new song “When the Sky is Black with Devils” via the band’s Facebook profile.
This edition of Unearthing The Metal Underground was part of our 2013 April Fools pranks.
The much maligned deathcore genre. Whenever you hear the term, it is beset with cringes from some. Actually, though, deathcore gets a bad rap that merits further investigation. When metalcore evolved into deathcore and placed more emphasis on the screaming, growling and more punctuated breakdowns, plenty of bands were still keeping the heaviness and technical quotient at a good level. There's the pummeling force of the Acacia Strain and the progressive finesse of BTBAM straddling the line with technical death metal on the other end, along with a good measure of heavier and original sounding deathcore bands. More...
Amidst all the pig squeals and face shredding tech-death, there’s plenty of music to be found in the metal world that borrows from (or even relies on entirely!) a symphonic sound. These acts aren’t afraid to show off their melodic side, creating unique songs that blend heavy guitars and even screams with more traditional stringed instruments and keyboards.
If power metal isn’t your thing but you still want music with more melody than the standard death metal troupe, check out this week’s crop of bands as we unearth more of the metal underground.
This Ukraine-based group has existed off and on since the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until last week that it finally dropped a debut full-length album titled “Wind of Freedom” via Svarga Music. If the name didn’t tip you off, the lyrics and themes of the music are based heavily on pagan traditions and are dedicated to the history and folklore of the band’s homeland.
Although Paganland describes itself as a “pagan black metal” band, this is much more on the symphonic and folk side than the black metal side of things, and fans of Tyr will be right at home with much of the new disc. Get a sampling of what the band has to offer through the title track available below, or hear more over at Facebook.