Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground Columns
Recently, Kenya celebrated 49 years as a nation independent of colonial rule. In the subsequent times that they have found themselves once again as an autonomous country, several bands have similarly exerted their creative independence. As can be expected, some of those bands are metal - since metal is a worldwide phenomenon. Heavier music has had a rough time in Kenya and in other African nations and cultures due to skepticism and the general belief that it is inherently satanic in nature. In a recent conversation I had with the congenial metal guitarist Christopher Lilako 'Yagami' of In Oath, he says that people are slowly growing accustomed to heavy metal in his country.
Christopher's band has teamed up with members of Kenyan alternative rock bands Void Of Belonging and Nightshift Theory, along with its own members, to help create In Oath's new harder sound. That rock/alternative sound has been more the norm in terms of popularity in Kenya for a while, a sound reflective in the newer metallic sounds emerging from the Eastern African nation. People are more likely to embrace the local favorites RSK, Dove Slimme, Murfy's Flaw or Parking Lot Grass in terms of musical sound, but there is a growing movement of bands prefering a heavier style.
African metal has its own distinctive sound, which scene producer Chris 'Sarcophagus' Marx conveyed with his 1994 compilation "The Death of Africa, Volume I." While that classic anthology contained many bands from the metal powerhouse of South Africa, there were also bands from other parts of the continent. In fact, Marx is putting out a Volume II sequel to that release, which will undoubtedly feature a Kenyan, Botswanan or maybe even an Angolan band. Check out the Facebook page for news on this compilation over at this location. Possibly the one documentary streaming now on Kenyan metal is Rock Scene Kenya, which features many of the musicians we will explore for you today on Metal Underground. Get a glimpse into the Kenyan scene of African metal through its participants as we unearth three bands from Nairobi today.
This combo is one of Kenya's newest entrants. Formed in 2009 and initially influenced by metalcore, these five guys decided to hone their sound into more of a death metal style. Just this year they released their debut EP "Eulogy," four songs of Christian-themed extreme metal. "Eulogy" in its remastered form is available to stream over at bandcamp. In Oath is already recording a full-length album scheduled for 2015 release, which the band says will be its 'defining memento.'
Bassist Steve 'Gitau' Smalls from the band, formerly of Narcissistic Tendencies With Delusions Of Grandeur, made a splash five years ago with his acting debut as the character DJ in the independent film "The Knife Grinder's Tale." That award-winning short film, which received honorable mentions at fourteen foreign film festivals, told the story of a father's journey to uncover the senselessness of his son's murder in the slums of Nairobi.
In Oath - "Eulogy"
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. This week, we will be taking a look at three bands who mix hard rocking sounds with synthesisers. Those of you who have read my posts in the Now Playing threads in our forums will probably be aware by now that I'm a big fan of synthpop and electronic music, particularly the likes of New Order and the Pet Shop Boys. So with this in mind, I went in search of bands that combine these digital sounds with the aggression of heavy metal. As it turns out, there’s quite a few bands out there melding the two, and it’s not a brand new experiment either. In 1998, nu metal outfit, Orgy covered one of the biggest hits by New Order, "Blue Monday" for the second single from their debut album, "Candyass." Make of it what you will.
Orgy aren’t the first band of more modern times to cover a classic synthpop track, most of us have heard Lacuna Coil's rendition of the Depeche Mode staple, "Enjoy The Silence," and even the old guards of heavy metal have taken a stab at paying tribute to their eighties contemporaries. For example, below we can hear German power metal kings Gamma Ray performing a cover of the haunting Pet Shop Boys track, "It’s A Sin." 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. With the ProgPower USA festival still fresh in my mind, this week I will take on the festival's “power” metal side.
Most people think that the majority of what you see and hear at ProgPower USA is just the bands on stage. Of course, this is true, but there are also many other avenues at the festival in which the metal connoisseur can explore and discover new bands. For one, the merchandise area at "Vinyl" is just about the greatest record store you can ever find in the world (see my first reaction to that in my op/ed piece “The ProgPower USA Experience From The Eyes Of A Newbie” over at this location). However, there are times where this is almost too much to take in, so while you are at the festival its best to make time for many trips to the merch area.
Despite the onslaught of material at the merch area, the first place any attendee should check is the free promotional CD that the festival itself gives out each year (see full track listing at this location). For 2012, the giveaway was expanded to three CD’s and all are chock full of power and progressive acts from all over the world. Now I pride myself on knowing thousands of metal bands, but I was shocked at how many I hadn’t heard of on this triple CD. The bands showcased here all appear on the promotional CD, though did not perform at the festival: Seven Kingdoms (USA), Siren’s Cry (Austria) and Draekon (USA). More...
Once in awhile, select troubadours of the heavy metal genre burn hot and bright, much like super-massive stars, and die by exploding in spectacular supernovas well before their time. They never quite make it out of the underground into wider fame, but end up touching quite a few projects in their lifetimes and leaving their mark in unique ways. Optimistically continuing with the astronomical metaphor, the stellar winds and supernovae from the explosion seed space with elements for future stars, fittingly paralleling the life and death of these musicians. Few, however, are accomplished audio engineers as well. This week, we commemorate the underground projects of one such engineer and musician, recently deceased: Simon Oberender.
Audio engineers don’t get half as much credit as the musicians they record for making heavy metal sonically live up to the first half of its title, though they’re ultimately responsible for making sure that the music translates to “heavy” on record. Moreover, as time goes by, they’re being asked to perform increasingly difficult tasks, like “give us a 30-part choir, Gregorian chant section, ethnic hand percussion, and a big organ” while also dealing with the traditional metal rhythm section. As an engineer at Sascha Paeth’s famed Gate Studio in Wolfsburg, Germany, Simon tackled the aforementioned tasks and also performed on an impressive amount of projects, including 4 Epica releases, 3 Kamelot releases, 3 Avantasia releases, 2 Edguy releases, Mayan’s debut release, and 2 Rhapsody of Fire releases.
Aside from these main projects, Simon had also worked on other lesser-known projects. The first of the ones we will spotlight this week is his most recent band, Beyond The Bridge.
Beyond The Bridge
Based out of Germany, Beyond The Bridge is a progressive metal band with a bafflingly impressive debut album (reviewed here) centered on a lofty concept summed up in the title, “The Old Man and the Spirit.” The band recently played their third-ever show at the ProgPower USA festival, making their USA debut just two weeks and two nights ago. Not only was Simon double-slinging instruments with the band live, playing two keyboards and electric guitar, but he was also singing in the choir on the album and served as the albums’s mixing and mastering engineer.
If you ever wondered where much of the hardcore and some of the punk scene went in the past couple of decades, the answer is it went even more underground. Back in the early nineties, when hardcore and metal came together to create the wildly popular thrashcore movement, a lot of the true hardcore punks in the scene remained disenchanted. They identified with the metallic element but wanted the music to remain distinct and focus on ideals and themes of socio-political decay.
No better was this driven home more than by the act of several commercial bands loosely labeled 'punk' by the airwaves, like Green Day or Sublime, that made the true denizens of hardcore create an even more underground niche of brutality in their musical style - thus giving rise to the powerviolence movement. The origin of the term is disputed, but is mostly attributed to Infest guitarist Matt Domino, at the time in the band Neanderthal with Eric Wood, who blurted out 'power fuckin violence' in an interview on alternative Californian station KXLU. The term stuck and was first mentioned in the song "Hispanic Small Man Power (HSMP)" by pioneering genre band Man Is The Bastard. More...
The metal underground is a truly vast and unexplored place, and every week we try to bring a few bands to light that metal fanatcis may not otherwise have a chance to discover. Today we’ll unearth the Lovecraftian underground – three bands that primarily (or even solely!) draw their lyrical and musical style directly from the works of the master of cosmic horror and weird fiction: H.P. Lovecraft.
This style should perhaps more accurately be described as the “Cthulhu Mythos” underground, as many bands don’t stick strictly to Lovecraft’s works alone, but rather pull from the greater mythos created around his work and expanded upon by many novels, games, and movies through the last several decades. Outside of music, the Lovecraft phenomena is an interesting topic deserving of several books, as it has developed amazingly far to become a mythos within a mythos. There are entire religious practices now based around the fake books described in Lovecraft’s stories, along with ceremonial magical traditions using the names and titles of Lovecraftian entities. There is even a graphic novel that postulates Howard Phillips himself really had contact with alien things, but wrote stories about them to make humanity think it’s all fake and keep us off the trail of the horrible truth.
Mind shattering horror and unknowable, malicious entities beyond humanity’s ken are material ripe for heavy metal, which has pulled from this mythos liberally during the past 25 or so years. From Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu” to the Septicflesh track “Lovecraft’s Death,” bands large and small have paid homage to the seafood hating man who warned his fellow Earthlings to stay out of the oceans and away from the stars.
We’ll start off with something a little off the beaten path this week – a gloomy rock opera style group featuring members of bands such as Hortus Animae and Hawkwind. The international act Space Mirrors is definitely a different trip than many metal fans might be used to, but if you ever enjoyed Tiamat or anything that’s along the lines of gothic rock you should be right at home here. Use the silver key and take a journey through the dreamlands through the clips available below.
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. This week, we will be taking a look at three heavy metal bands from Scotland, since it seemed criminal that we hadn't already. There is currently a tourism commercial airing for the country which opens with the line, "Scotland may surprise you," which is certainly evident in its metal scene, containing everything from traditional thrash metal to pagan black metal, and everything in between.
Another band formed in 2006 is Cerebral Bore, who hail from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and perform a brutal brand of death metal that lives up to the harder than nails reputation of the city on the River Clyde. They released their first demo, "The Dead Flesh Architect" in 2006 and soon found themselves garnering attention internationally, making their first trip abroad in August the next year to perform in New York, and have since gone on to perform in many other countries including Russia, India and Israel, as well as supporting some legendary names in extreme metal such as Brutal Truth and Suffocation. In 2010, they signed to Earache Records and released their full length debut, "Maniacal Miscreation," the next year. While touring for the album, the band made headlines when guitarist Paul McGuire and bassist Kyle Rutherford were falsely arrested and jailed in New York on suspicion of murder. The two were released a week later without charge and flown back to Scotland. The band recently released a single entitled, "Horrendous Acts of Iniquity," as well as completing the Summer Slaughter tour which also featured the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Exhumed and will be kicking off a European tour this Friday (September 14th) in Lindau, Germany and last until October 14th.
Cerebral Bore - "The Bald Cadaver"
Monday means it’s time to expand your metallic horizons again as we delve into the underground metal scene and dig up three bands you might not had a chance to check out yet, but which all deserve to be heard by a wider audience. This week we’re looking at heavily atmospheric groups that incorporate specific sonic elements to create an undeniable mood throughout the music. In this instance by “atmospheric” we’re not necessarily referring to ambient or even symphonic bands (although these acts do have some symphonic sounds), but rather to bands that have a clearly present atmosphere in addition to being extreme metal.
This out-of-nowhere band just signed on with Debemur Morti Productions to release an upcoming album titled “Fin De Siècle.” The vocalist’s weird, screechy screams almost would have qualified this act for our previous look at unearthing bands with bizarre vocals, and those screams are put to good use to foster a specific tone and mood.
The abrasive, off-the-wall screams mixed with the atmospheric clean singing and mid-paced guitar riffs draws all ears in, and basically forces attention as the music builds and becomes more frantic. The video for “Megalomanic,” available below, embodies the depressive black metal ideal, creating a sort of unhinged and demented sound, while vaguely giving the impression of being utterly alone in the middle of nowhere.
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, we'll weigh in on the scene around Boston, Massachusetts.
Boston has been my home all my life. Back in 2006 when I first started Nefarious Realm Productions, I worked with local bands, promoting and booking shows. It set the foundation of what NRP is today. Boston has an unbelievable scene spanning all genres. Most people only think of the heavy weights like Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, fast-rising Revocation, etc., but there lies a wealth of bands that are just mind-blowing. Lunglust, Ramming Speed, Sexcrement, The Summoned, Abnormality, Dysentery, Phantom Glue, Give Zombies The Vote, Morne, Sonic Pulse... I could go on and on but Metal Underground.com has limited me to three, and I'm going to span the sub-genres here. Hang on to your pants, you're going for a ride!
This "dance metal" outfit is sure to get you moving, that be breaking' faces or shakin' your booty. Each member brings distinct influences to the table, fusing elements of death metal, groove metal, hardcore, and electronica. Think of Meshuggah, Lamb of God, Bury Your Dead, and The Browning all smashed together.
The five-piece brings quite a live show with their stage antics and their "have fun" attitude. Widow Sunday just recently released a new EP earlier this summer and are already writing for a followup full length to their 2010 debut, 'In These Rusted Veins.' Below is a video for "Blood Money" from 'ITRV' and a live clip of "The Wave" which appears on the new EP, 'Dance Metal." For more on the band, check out their Facebook.
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. This week, we'll be taking a slightly different approach to the article and focusing on hardcore music instead, specifically hardcore music in the United Kingdom.
The history of hardcore in Great Britain dates back a long way, beginning with what would become known as the "UK82" scene (also called "No future punk" and "UK Hardcore" amongst other things,) which featured massively influential bands such as The Exploited and the socially concsious, Discharge, who were so influential that they had a sub-genre named after them called D-Beat (similar to hardcore, only even faster,) which featured other high quality British hardcore acts like The Varukers.
Discharge - "Never Again"
The Varukers - "Soldier Boy"
There’s a whole lotta metal out there, spanning dozens to possibly hundreds of sub-genres, and it can be difficult to find new music to match your tastes if you don’t know where to start looking. Every Monday we unearth three lesser known or unsigned metal bands within specific genres or geographical areas that deserve to be heard by a bigger audience.
With metal’s roots firmly rooted in thrash, and with styles like power metal dominating a big portion of the playing field, heavy music is generally thought of as something fast and furious played while lightning fast fingers work up and down the fretboard. While this is often the case, there’s a large section of metal that likes to take a nice leisurely stroll down aural destruction avenue.
Today we’ll put the spotlight on three acts that have a seriously sludgy component to their music. Sludge, stoner, doom, drone: these genre tags and more all get lumped together and frequently intersect at varying points, so there may be some crossover and any given listener may decide these bands are more one than the other. My only qualification here is that they utterly annihilate musically, usually in slow motion and with a fair share of drawn out notes, like a low speed avalanche of crushing molten metal.
This California act is a bit of a dream for fans of sludge or funeral doom. Formerly called Bewilderbiest before dropping a proper release, Bereft is still very much an unknown in the overall metal scene, even though it features names that will be familiar to fans of extreme metal, including Derek Rydquist (The Faceless) and Charles Elliot (Abysmal Dawn). Moving away from their normal modes of operation, these musicians are producing a more primal, less technical form of extreme metal that’s a disturbing look into the hate and despair humanity is capable of feeling.
Bereft has now released debut album “Leichenhaus” (reviewed here), and while tracks from the release are unfortunately sparse online, there are a few ways to check out the music. A live performance video of two songs off the album can be heard below, or you can check out the full album version of “Withered Efflorescence” via Facebook. Noisecreep is also currently hosting a stream of the track “Ethereal Dispersal” at this location.
Taiwan has no shortage of ass-kicking front women in its growing metal scene, with a collection of female-fronted groups that are making a name for themselves both locally and abroad. Here are three bands from Taiwan with ladies at the helm that prove metal is no longer nearly as male-dominated as it once might have been.
Eye of Violence
Though just in her early twenties, Eye of violence front woman Lala Lin is already a seasoned veteran in the Taiwan metal scene, having previously done time in Hardcase before making a move over to Eye of Violence in 2009. The band has been active in Taiwan, playing all over the country, and recently made its first couple of forays to foreign shores, making two appearances in South Korea. Combining elements of metalcore, deathcore, and hints of electronic music, Eye of Violence has a determinately modern sound for the younger generation of metal fans. Currently, the band is playing in support of its debut EP, “Tears of the Victims.”
I truly would not doubt it if Argentina has almost as many bands as America does, as it's the second largest country in South America. It's history with the metal genre has some similarities with our own, but yet as one would expect it is vastly divergent from our own annals. To arrive at the huge scene they have today, Argentinians went through many hardships in the beginning and along the way.
Back in the late seventies/early eighties rock bands began to play more metallic sounds to add to the rock stylings of locals Pappo's Blues or V8, but during that era there was plenty of government censorship when it came to music. Heavy metal always bore the brunt of the bad press and some bands were even threatened by the authorities. Some bands like Riff added to their own demise by putting out a year-end party "Riff termina el ano sin cadenas," which broke out into such revery, debauchery and violence that it plagued that band for years and almost sounded the death knell for it. More...
The other day I was trading video uploads with fellow staff member Carl, whose taste usually gravitates towards classy traditional metal. I sent him a track from the grindcore band Cuntscrape, "Giving Head to Mr. Ed," leaving him speechless. His reply went something like this - "I thought there was a limit to the extreme. I was wrong." Ha ha, poor Carl.
Nope. There's no limit to the extreme in sight. Back in the late eighties and early nineties, the progenitors of twisted and depraved metal like Lividity or Broken Hope couldn't have imagined how contorted the genre would have gotten. Nowadays it gets more brutal than anyone could have ever envisioned. The horror fantasy themes have given way to pornogrind lyrics, inaudible vocals and psychopathic themes. Over time lyrics have been all but done away with, almost as if they are too sensitive and get in the way of what should be primal. It's all meant to be hilarious and over the top, and goregrind is the last frontier when it comes to offensive, loud metal. More...
The overall realm of metal is an incredibly expansive and diverse place, with many different styles and sub-genres all vying for your attention. To help our readers navigate the metallic landscape we unearth three underground or unsigned metal bands every Monday that deserve to be heard.
Awhile back we covered bands that combine different genres or simply ignore genre trends, and on a similar note this week we’re uncovering three bands that drastically changed either sound or lyrical theme from the early works to their modern releases. There are plenty of more well-known (in the extreme metal community anyway) acts that have gone through such a transformation: Samael’s change from black metal to electronica, Katatonia’s move from harsh growls to a cleaner rock sound, Amorphis switching gears with “Am Universum,” Ulver changing things up on pretty much every album, and so on. Instead of rehashing those bigger names that everyone knows about, instead we’ll cover three lesser known acts that have essentially become different bands over time.
Ereb Altor’s underground days are very quickly waning, with the band now releasing new album “Gastrike” through Napalm Records, but there was a time not long ago when nobody knew about Ereb Altor, and it is a side project of an already unknown band, so we’re going to slip this one in here.
The Swedish duo’s debut album “By Honour” (reviewed here) definitely wanted its audience to take the scenic route and enjoy the ride, with slow moving, Viking-style doom metal that took some clear cues from Bathory. Things started to change a bit and the songs become shorter on the follow-up release “The End,” which as the title suggests, was intended to be the demise of the project. Ereb Altor just wouldn’t die however, and now with third album “Gastrike” (review coming soon) the band has radically shifted gears into mid-paced black metal, with only a few underlying doom and Viking metal moments.
To hear the change, check the title track “By Honour” below, and then listen to either of the two songs from “Gastrike.” With the exception of the atmospheric intros, we’re dealing with two completely different genres between these songs.
From the completely mainstream outfits with a horde of fans to basement one-man acts, heavy metal is composed of a vast multitude of bands – and the number of metal groups continues to constantly grow. Every week we unearth three bands to help expand your metallic horizons and introduce you to styles and sounds you might not have heard otherwise.
Last week we covered groups that blend together a variety of genre styles and break trends within metal, including Germ and Vintage Flesh, two bands that utilize very odd vocal styles. While it can be argued that any extreme metal band uses vocals that most would consider bizarre, there are vocalists within the world of heavy music who go much further and produce sounds that even hardened underground metal lovers may find shocking.
From avant-garde groups like Peccatum with purposefully off-key singing, to the gut-busting and throat-shredding growls of black metal bands like Marduk, there are plenty of new vocal varieties to discover while journeying through the many sub-genres of metal. This week we’ll take a look at three lesser known bands that use vocals you are almost guaranteed to never hear anywhere else.
Taking the concept of evil atmosphere to an entirely new level, Abruptum was a group primarily active in the ‘90s that puts most black metal acts to shame and released its early material through the infamous Deathlike Silence Productions. Rather than evil guitar sounds and high pitched screams, Abruptum uses bizarrely distorted vocals and shrieks of agonized pain – and rumors persist that the screams are authentic due to self-inflicted wounds in the studio.
Listening to Abruptum albums all the way the through really requires a specific mood, as song structures and melody are pretty much thrown out the window in favor of highly chaotic musical expressions. If you’ve got the candles lit and the razors handy, dip into the madness of Abruptum through the clips below.
The big name metal bands may get most of the spotlight, but Metallica and Black Sabbath are just the tip of the heavy iceberg. Every week we search out and share lesser known or unsigned acts that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. For today’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground you’ll get a dose of metal that bucks specific trends and expresses a heavy sound in unexpected ways.
For all the focus on rebellion and the disdain for conformity, heavy metal is undeniably a style of music that breaks down into very regimented genres – black metal, thrash, grindcore, etc. There tends to be a rigid confinement that bands are expected stay within when creating music, and stepping outside those boundaries either leads to derision by hordes of anonymous Internet posters, or the formation of yet another sub-genre.
While there’s a whole division of metal devoted to ignoring those boundaries (prog and avant-garde), some bands simply blur the lines between styles naturally and don’t easily fit in one recognizable category. Breaking the strictures set down by the worldwide conclave of elitist metalheads , these three bands start with a standardized form of metal and then head in unexpected directions that set them apart and make them unique.
The solo band from Tim Yatras of Austere and Woods of Desolation, Germ is a project that exudes a pure love of music, no matter where the sonic inspiration originally comes from. Starting out with a highly atmospheric form of black metal using totally indecipherable vocals, the act then blends in shades of rock and other mainstream elements, including the use of clean singing. Going even a step further, the new album “Wish” mixes in trance and electronic elements, at times sounding almost like an ‘80s movie soundtrack. In a nod to the black metal roots, there is a bit of a lo-fi aura filtering everything, and the harsh vocals screech out from the background, just barely breaking out of the surrounding noise.
What’s interesting about Germ is that its particular blend of these styles rarely sounds like anything else out there. The collision of trance and black metal sounds essentially nothing like Nachtmystium’s forays into similar territory, and it also never falls into any resembling the dance metal or dubstep collaborations that have become par for the course lately.
For a condensed look at this intriguing mixup, check out the four minute track “Asteroid of Sorrow” below, or for a longer float down the cosmic highway that is Germ, instead dive headfirst into the 10 minute sublime ride “An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy.” To check out more from Germ, head over to the band’s Facebook profile.
“An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy”
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 ever emerging Italian power metal scene.
When one thinks Italian power metal, likely the first band to come to mind is Rhapsody, or as time and subsequent “amicable splits” would have it: Rhapsody of Fire and/or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Italy has been spawning off power metal far back into the 1980’s with bands like Domine, Wotan, Wyvern and White Skull, but few have ever reached such worldwide stardom as Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire/LT Rhapsody.
As the 90’s commenced, one of the other well-known pioneering Italian power/progressive exports, Labyrinth, was just starting out under the moniker Visions. It wasn’t until 1994 that the name Labyrinth was born. Within that same year or shortly after, Rhapsody would just start out along with bands like Drakkar, Arthemis, Derdian, Heimdall and Power Symphony. The late ’90’s would see a greater emergence of the scene with another well-known export Elvenking, along with Vision Divine (with Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione) Spellblast, The Dogma and Rapid Fire.
By the time the new century started, the Italian scene was bursting with talented power metal acts. Power metal bands seem to pop up on a more frequent basis that new gellato flavors, however, trying to locate the best of the emerging talent isn’t as easy as consulting the Yelp application on your smart phone. To provide some guidance, this week we introduce three of the lessor known Italian power metal bands: From the Depth, Aeternal Seprium and Nightland. More...
That familiar old school and brutal sound is the foundation on which much of extreme metal is based, but death metal has come a long way since its origins, and plenty of bands have taken it closer the extremes of human ability.
Technical death metal pushes the boundaries of the style, making the music faster, more intricate, and sometimes absurdly complex. Tech-death also generally puts the bass more up toward the front than in either the brutal or melodic varieties, which often leads to some crossover into “progressive” territory and adds a grounding in melody for a point of reference in the storm of metal.
While acts like Obscura and The Faceless get plenty of press and are fairly well known in the metal world, this week we’re going to unearth three lesser-known acts that should be in your technical death metal rotation.
This newly formed Icelandic group is getting ready to release a debut album later on during the summer, dropping an apocalyptic death metal bomb filled with blistering solos and plenty of brutality. The tracks that have been released so far will definitely appeal to fans of Necrophagist or similar acts. Check out tech-death insanity below by listening to the title track off the new album “Solvet Saeclum” or the earlier demo track “Zone of Alienation.”
Though many touring bands are starting to make inroads in China, with most of them bypassing government censors by way of venturing to the Middle Kingdom on tourist visas rather than foolishly attempting to secure an elusive performance visa, few metal bands from China are able to tour outside the country due to the government’s travel restrictions placed on the Chinese people.
“How can that be?” you might ask. “Chinese tourists are everywhere these days, spending RMB like they’re going out of style.” Well, what you might not know is that each and every one of these tourists is only allowed to become well-heeled because they’ve posted what is essentially a large cash bond that is meant to ensure their return to China. And as we all know, being in a metal band and the ability to post a large cash bond are pretty much mutually exclusive.
Getting out is made all the more difficult when you’re a musician playing what is regarded by many authorities in China as a dangerous and highly disruptive form of music. Hell, some bands in China even get banned by the government from playing in their own country, which is exactly what happened to Ordnance, a modern-era Sepultura-esque band from the capital. Ordnance drew the Communist Party’s ire for its overtly subversive lyrical content, and now can basically only perform in the guitar player’s own venue, 13 Club in Beijing. Freedom of expression? Not in Mao’s house.
As another case in point, Painkiller magazine, the nation’s top metal publication, has sponsored a national Wacken Open Air Battle for local bands for the past few years, with the winner gaining a spot at the venerable German festival to beat all festivals. However, in the history of this competition only one band has thus far managed to secure the right to travel outside China and make it to the fest, while the other winners have had to resign themselves to merely enjoying the pride of winning.
Luckily, though, none of this can stop us from reporting on some bands from China that are worth checking out, all of whom made an appearance at the 2012 rendition of the Wacken Battle. We’ll start in Beijing on this week’s installment of Unearthing the Metal Underground.
Ready to Die
Female-fronted five-piece Ready to Die plays an old school, filthy brand of death metal that would fit right on the Ibex Moon label alongside acts like Funerus, or decimating the stage at St. Vitus in New York with Disma. Taking cues from Obituary, Bolt Thrower, and other plodding death metal bands of similar, sludgy taste, Ready to Die is a band that places its focus on simplicity, opting for the one-punch knockout riff rather than the overwhelming jabs and slaps of abject technicality.
The band’s front woman has a growl that could rip the short and curlies off of any of her male counterparts, as can be heard on their lo-fi demo that’s currently streaming online. The production really captures the overall atmosphere of death metal’s early days. This band is one to watch in the Middle Kingdom, and yet another reason to wish that it could be easier for bands from China to actually tour outside their home country. More...