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Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground Columns

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Unearthing The Occult Rock Underground

For this week’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground we’ll take a look at a style that is generally less heavy than our normal offerings, but still of interest to the average metal fan.

Satanic or occult rock bands such as Ghost and Blood Ceremony have been landing recording deals and making it toward the forefront of the metal scene lately, even though their music falls less on the extreme side of the spectrum. Something about the themes and the arrangement of the music calls out to metal lovers though, whether it’s the invocations to Satan to bring about the end or just simply the catchy tunes.

This week we’ll be unearthing three bands who may go about it in slightly different ways, but all of these groups evoke the mood and tone of a different time, not to mention of something supernatural and slightly sinister.

The Devil’s Blood

Dutch female-fronted act The Devil’s Blood has been gaining momentum over the last year since the release of the full-length album “The Time of No Time Evermore” (reviewed here). Clearly drawing on the pioneers and rock acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s, The Devil’s Blood infuses its sound with more of a modern aesthetic and clearer production, which can be heard on the band’s MySpace page.

You can also check out an interview Metalunderground.com conducted with the Devil’s Blood here, or listen to several songs in the players below.

“Christ or Cocaine”
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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Salt Lake City

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 am delving into the ferocious metal offered up to the music gods via the Salt Lake City underground metal scene.

In the past, Utah has been known for many things, such as the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Mormon (LDS) culture (really Utahn’s don’t have horns) and of course… polygamy (which 99% of our population does not practice, even if many them would like to). But unbeknownst to the world, it also contains an amazing array of music. From rock, to alternative, to death metal, local bands are showing the world that Utah/Salt Lake City has far more to offer to the Gods of Metal than terrain, religion or quirky lifestyles.

A Balance of Power

A Balance Of Power is one of the first metal bands I came across upon delving into the local scene. They have a very distinct sound combined of progressive and thrash, whcih culminates into pure metal mayhem. Their sound has take them to great heights in Utah and beyond as well as procuring them the honor of being Utah’s first offical Jagermiester sponsored band. From small intimate stages in clubs to opening Rockstar Mayhem festival in Idaho, A Balance Of Power bring out the metal fans in hordes.

Their music is charged with an intense energy that is catapulted to amazing heights at live shows. They recently released their newest CD in April of 2011, "Pride Preceded the Fall." With fierce vocals, guitar and bass riffs that burn into your soul and powerful drum beats, A Balance Of Power is a band to gratify your metal loving soul. A Balance Of Power is Chuck Stone (vocals), Chris Margetts (guitar), Shane Garner (guitar), Adam Fowler (bass), Marvin Dixon (drums). Check them out at ReverbNation.

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Unearthing The Michigan Metal Underground

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 am exploring the Michigan metal scene. With this column, I am not only discussing a brief history of each band and the sounds they create, I will also show links between the three bands. Just like the death metal that emerged from Stockholm, Sweden, the thrash from California’s northern bay area and the hardcore from New York City, Michigan’s death and black metal scene is one of interchangeable members.

On an international level, Michigan’s largest city has a reputation as “Detroit Rock City” or “Motown.” The city has produced a large number of Rock And Rock Hall of Fame members. In reference to the more extreme rock styles of black and death metal, though, the mid-southern region near the capital of Lansing has better soil for producing the Devil’s music.

Summon

Lansing’s Summon is one of the earliest black metal bands in the U.S. Although the group formed in 1991, it didn’t take off until 1995. From 1992-1994 former Lucifer’s Hammer guitarist Sean “Xaphan” Peters (guitar, vocals) joined with Chas “Necromodeus” Schoals (bass, vocals), Mark Hague (drummer) and Jeff “Tchort” Elrod (R.I.P.) in the black-doom band Masochist (another important underground USBM act). In ’95, Peters, Schoals and Hague left Masochist for Summon, while Elrod formed another black metal group, Wind of the Black Mountains.

Summon made its first recording, “Fire Turns Everything…Black” demo, as the three piece. This demo served as a blue print for the next couple of recordings. Released originally as a cassette tape, the group re-released it in CD format. Later Summon recordings featured revisions of tracks featured on the demo. The hellish screaming chorus of Schoals and Peters, catchy tremolo picking, chugging thrash breaks and whammy bar solos make hitting the stop button difficult on this recording. More...

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Unearthing The Metal Underground: NY Metal

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 am exploring various talented bands in the New York scene.

Sanitarius

First up is Staten Island thrash metal band Sanitarius. At first listen it may sound like a some Metallica/Testament clone, but Sanitarius takes influences from melodic death metal and progressive metal, this band surely isn’t a run of the mill band. The singer Robb Quartararo’s rasp is very similar to that of James Hetfield, but he’ll add in screams ala Slayer. Musically they explore more progressive arrangements and the drummer Dave Cordero adds in interesting fills. Both guitarists are extremely talented and are very tasteful. Check out their songs on MySpace and Reverb Nation pages.

“Slaves of Liberty” Live @ The Delancey, New York City, NY on March 23rd, 2011:
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Unearthing The Instrumental Metal Underground

In this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that all defy one of the most basic and recognizable traits of extreme metal – a strong vocal presence. These bands feature musicians who have ditched the front man to let their instruments do all the screaming, crooning, whispering, chanting, and shouting.

Whether as a conscious decision, or simply due to the lack of a talented vocalist who can match the music, these three lesser known bands all show that metal doesn’t need grunts or shrieks to tear off faces and shatter ear drums. Without a vocal element, the musicians have the opportunity to bring many different sounds to the forefront that are easily lost by other bands, creating a completely different experience than the standard thrash or death metal track.

Odyssey

Spokane based three piece Odyssey is an instrumental act by choice, having no use for vocals getting in the way of the instrumentation. Don’t let that fact make you think the music doesn’t sing, however, as the long tracks are filled to the brim with technical showcases and progressive transitions that paint a picture in the head just as well as a vocalist could conjure with either clean singing or growling.

Odyssey has very clear influences from the technical metal giants, as well as some of the more well known progressive acts, but the music is more about the journey than the label found at the destination. Any given song can have any number of stylistic shifts, and even throws in a sound reminiscent of metalcore or deathcore from time to time, while keeping everything together into a unified whole.

To hear what Odyssey has to offer, you can check out the entire “Schematics” EP (reviewed here), which is available for streaming through the group’s Bandcamp page, or read our interview with the trio at this location. The songs “Iconoclast” and “Ascendance,” from the debut “Objects in Space” album, can also be heard in the clips below.

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Unearthing the Metal Underground: Andes Folk Metal

What more defines a culture than its customs and the influences of the indigenous people that combine to form a sense of nationality? That's the majestic quality of pagan folk metal, that it brings out those qualities of a nation and heritage steeped in tradition. The countries of South America are rich in overtones from the pre-colombian civilizations that existed up until the 16th century. Largely vanquished by Pizarro, other tribes and pandemics such as small pox, the descendents of these native empires remain to this day - continuing their traditions. Pre-hispanic folk metal permeates nearly every country from Mexico to Chile, especially gaining momentum in the upper Andes region nowadays.

Half of the 13 countries in South America are straddled by the immense cordillera of the Andes mountains, an imposing natural fortification that thwarted the Spaniards looking to pillage. While eventually nine countries were colonized by Spain and adopted Spanish as the official language and culture, the ancient ways remained firmly entrenched. South America's burgeoning pre-hispanic folk metal scene can be attributed to a people yearning for self-discovery of their origins and also as a means of superceding the oppression. Rock/metal has always been a viaduct of freedom of expression, something not always possible in that part of the world. Take Peru, for example. Their country was very permissive of cultural and musical liberties in the sixties. Rock bands and surf music were all the rage. Then the coup'd'etat of 1968 ended all that for the better part of two decades. Their neighbors Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia got just as raw of a deal in the political realm. Rock had been viewed as an alienating factor by various governments and it has taken a while for the memories of the supression by right-wing dictatorships and left-wing juntas to subside in the psyche of the masses.

Building back up since the nineties, the scene has been truly vibrant in many of these South American nations. The lands are awash with dozens of thrash, progressive, death and other variations of metal bands - and many rival some of the best American and European bands in terms of sound and originality. Latinos are quite spirited and put a lot of heart into what they do. They don't take things for granted like some of the more jaded listeners of larger nations. Recently in Paraguay, thousands of people protested and picketed on the streets to get Iron Maiden to add a tour date in Asuncion. Would we do that here? No, because we don't have to fight to have a scene.

South American bands have been fine-tuning themselves for years to intricate and professional stylings of the sub-genres. With that, it should come as no surprise that the pagan metal scene has been thriving in the Andean countries. Dubbed "Ancestral Metal," the traditional folkloric take of black (and other) metal is infused with richly synchronized instrumentation from the Incan and other pre-colombian cultures. There are many bands delving into this style, and you can check out a good cross-section of them in these two nice anthologies Metal Nativo Americano Pts. 1-2. Bands take various different approaches to this infusion of native influences with metal. Some are doom, like Kranium of Peru, or progressive symphonic metal like their countrymen Yawarhiem, while others take a folk-rock approach that has metamorphosized during the years like Ecuador's legendary Aztra or an industrial sound like Bolivia's Alcoholika Lo Christo.

What unifies most of these bands is using themes that date back to cultures that have their inceptions over 10,000 (according to many anthropologists) years ago. They integrate the sounds of instruments from their ancestors, such as the traditional "quena" flute, the "zampoña" - a flute with five or six pan-pipe sound holes, or the "charango" - a guitar made either from wood or the back of an armadillo. Even the "quejada" is utilized, which is a percussion instrument made from the jawbone of a horse or donkey. Combine these pre-hispanic notes of the Andes with traditional or death metal, and a sound is derived that is quintessential South American folkloric metal. The native appeal interwoven with metal creates a sound that is as stark and lush as the majestic mountains and rugged valleys that form the backdrop of the countries. The best known song based upon Incan music will probably always be "El Condor Pasa" by the Peruvian Daniel Alomia Robles (covered by Simon and Garfunkel), but now metal bands are doing their own adaptations. Today we will transpose you into that setting by looking at a few bands from the South American highlands and their outlying regions. More...

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Unearthing the NY/NJ Shred Metal Underground

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality underground artists that haven’t gotten the exposure they deserve. This week I am exploring the shred scene in the tri-state area.

Now I wouldn't exactly call it much of a scene here, but there are quite a few talented guitarists in New Jersey and New York. From people posting their own solos/songs on youtube out of a bedroom studio to veteran musicians who book at high class studios to record their album. Today I'll be discussing three acts from across the spectrum. More...

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Unearthing The Underground Ihsahn Side Projects

Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at three bands that haven’t had a chance to make as big an impact in the music scene as they should. Whether due to lack of label support, remote location, or just simple obscurity, there are many bands in the underground well worth the time of any serious metal fan.

Rather than looking at three bands in the same region or connected by a similar style, this week we’re delving into three groups that are all relatively unknown side projects of Norwegian prodigy Ihsahn. Probably best known for his work in black metal legion Emperor (which was covered as part of our “Black Metal History Month” at this location), Ihsahn has since headed out on his own to release three solo albums. But before the stage handle Ihsahn was a name known by itself, Vegard Sverre Tveitan was involved in many different projects ranging from freezing cold black metal to the entirely symphonic and even into more bizarre territory with sounds rarely, if ever, heard elsewhere.

Hardingrock

After releasing his first solo album “The Adversary,” Ihsahn took a year off to work with other acts and continue to write new music. As black metal fans took in his new solo direction and decided if it stood up to the Emperor material, the musician looked to an entirely unexpected source for his latest collaboration. Teaming up with Norwegian hardingfiddle player Knut Buen, the Hardingrock project was born.

Heading in a vastly different direction than would be expected, Hardingrock’s only album “Grimen” (reviewed here) mixes fiddle heavy folk music, keyboards courtesy of Ihsahn’s wife, spoken word segments provided solely in the Nynorsk dialect, and yes, even some blistering black metal screams. If you are willing to try something vastly different than the standard fare, head over to the band’s MySpace page or checkout the songs “Fanitullen,” “Faens Marsj,” or “Daudingen” in the clips below.

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Unearthing The West Country Metal Underground

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 looking at three bands from the West Country (the Southwest of England.)

From Ruin

First up on the agenda is From Ruin, a melodic thrash metal band from the small town Warminster, which is close to Stonehenge. Having only formed in 2009, the band can be seen as newcomers to the scene but have been rapidly increasing their fan base in their two years they’ve been around. Acclaim has already been flooding in for the band for their blend of soulful vocals with pounding instruments.

From Ruin - "Crimson Tears"

From Ruin - "Fear To Tread"
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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Costa Rica

Many years ago, I grew up and graduated from High School in this small Central American country. Nestled between the political hotbeds of Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has maintained it's status as a democratic bastion while it's neighbors are plagued by coup'd'etats and upheaval. Only a couple hours either way from the capital city of San Jose to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica has the ideal party atmosphere. The breathtaking beauty of the country coupled with the cultural tolerance they exhibit has awakened a phenomena in the metal scene.

Back in the old times, Costa Ricans ("Ticos" - as they are referred as) would clamor to several AOR stations to listen to Budgie or Judas Priest, or be found in a downtown bar shooting darts to Saxon. Yes, the Ticos love their metal every bit as much as any salsa or folklorico music. Nowadays they have definitely evolved with the times and share plenty of love for foreign metal and all things imported. Restrictions are not so hard on entrance visas to foreign musicians hereby opening the floodgates to plenty of stellar international talent. Big name acts are a monthly thing now, especially since Costa Ricans have a good standard of living and can afford to buy tickets and fill the clubs. Bookings into such venues as Pepper's Disco Club and a whole host of local bars is routine.

Back in the 80's, I had only seen Santana and Sting ever come down and perform. Since Iron Maiden played in 2008, visits from such luminaries as Anthrax, Moonspell, Therion and countless others ( Slayer this June) are now the norm. In fact, Marduk raised the hairs on the Catholic Church's neck with their visit last July. But even the priests are of a gentle nature in Costa Rica. "Don't use religious artifacts in an obscene manner on stage," implored a local monsignor.

Perhaps the godfathers of the local scene, a lot of credit must be given to Mantra. Formed nearly twenty years ago, these guys made so much possible for the younger crop of Tico musicians. Their 2003 release "Creature" marked the zenith of their creative career, spawning a couple of classic local death thrash songs. Unlike their younger counterparts, Mantra preferred to sing in Spanish and continue to do so. Nowadays, as with many bands that have been around for a long time, they have changed members and their style of metal a bit frequently. To listen to the classic track "El Ojo de Dios" from Mantra, click here.

Similar respect must be given to Sight of Emptiness who brought Costa Rican metal to the forefront with their win at the UK Open Air Bloodstock festival in 2007. They are usually the opener for most of the international acts that come, and we have posted plenty of news articles and videos about them in the past five years. If you are not familiar with their melodic techno thrash sound, listen to the video for "Desolation Whispers" here. Last week they were one of 27 bands to inaugurate the new National Soccer Stadium.

In January, the Documentary "Heavy Metal 506" was produced, showcasing the talents of Costa Rica's heavy hitters in the metal scene. (The title, incidentally, gets it's name from Costa Rica's country calling code). You can listen to the trailer right here. Also, the four part compilation "Costa Rican Metal" includes twenty bands from genres ranging from commerical metal, symphonic black metal, demonic thrash, brutal death and atmospheric. The first part has links to the other three parts and can be listened to here. Today we will take a look at a few of the bands that are also stirring up the Costa Rican scene.

Advent of Bedlam

You may have heard of Advent of Bedlam, who hail from the town of Heredia, or as they have called it before, "Hell-redia," by their previous name. Together over a decade, they used to be known as December's Cold Winter. Under that name, they put out some nice symphonic black metal and an album of enjoyable tunes. Deciding to go for a more blackened thrash sound, they changed their name to Advent of Bedlam a couple of years ago and have contined to receive great mentions, attaining an ACAM Award Songwriter of the Year nomination and a win for their "Ablaze all Shrines" LP. Their song "Manipulating Human Emotions" also appeared in Zero Tolerance Magazine's covermount CD. They produced their whole new album themselves, since the average Latino producer possibly wouldn't understand where they were coming from. Check out the new one from their "Behold the Chaos" album below, along with a few others.

Advent of Bedlam - "The Stench of Your Faith"

Advent of Bedlam - "The Darkest Alliance"

December's Cold Winter - "The Alabaster Corpse"
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Unearthing the Metal Underground in Nagoya, Japan

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we give our readers a look at a few underground bands from scenes around the world to help spread the word about them. In March, I had the chance to do a short tour in Japan, and one of the tour stops was the city of Nagoya. While there, I had the opportunity to share the stage with and meet some of the prominent members of the Nagoya scene.

Deaflock

The members of Deaflock, formed in 2000, spend their days breaking their backs and risking their digits in the factories of Nagoya's industrial wasteland outskirts, and their nights breaking their necks in the city's downtown metal clubs with their own brand of Bay Area thrash. Bringing to mind acts such as Exodus, Heathen, Vio-lence, and Forbidden, Deaflock has an impressive knack for drawing out the rumbling hook and face stomping rhythms, with hints of melody and progressive elements as well. Signed to Arctic Music Group in the U.S. and Alkemist Fanatix in Europe for the re-release of its debut full length album, “Reality of False Pasts,” which first saw the light of day in April of 2008, Deaflock is now looking to break out in a big way, with plans for the next installment of their catalog to be released sometime next year. The band has also appeared on locally released compilation albums put out by various underground labels in Japan. More...

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Unearthing the Metal Underground in Connecticut

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at unsigned bands gracing a given locale. This week we will glance at the scene from Connecticut. Often viewed as the vast wasteland between New York and Boston, Connecticut often gets overlooked in terms of it's metal scene. Particularly distressing, considering many acts such as Fates Warning, Nasty Disaster, The Breathing Process and Liege Lord have heralded from there. Currently there are well over a couple dozen unsigned indie metal acts actively blazing the scene, but today we will take a look at three of the best.

Curse the Son

Coming at you from Hamden is stoner doom metal monster Curse the Son. Fronted by scene veteran and NWOBHM aficionado Ron Vanacore on vocals and guitar and completed by Cheech and Rich Lemley respectively, they describe their music as "the sound of dinosaurs walking the earth." Laying down slabs of riffs and mind-warping song lyrics, they purport to be influenced by valium, MJ and zoloft. Their music will take your higher conscious into one trippy journey. They released a full-length, "Klonopain," on their own last year. To listen to Curse the Son's music, check out the band's My Space Page.

Curse the Son - "Pulsotar Bringer"
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Unearthing The Irish Metal Underground

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 dig into three rocking outfits all hailing from The Republic of Ireland.

Great Britain may be more well known for their heavy metal, but a short trip West finds that the Republic of Ireland has just as strong a heavy metal background. One could even argue that the Irish metal underground is much more varied than the British, boasting a large number of thrash, black, death and in particular doom metal bands. This week we’ll be taking a look at three of the country’s lesser known bands.

Mael Mordha

Proudly claiming themselves to be the world’s only Gaelic doom metal band, Dublin’s Mael Mordha, who take their name from the King of Leinster who led a gruesome rebellion against the High King of Ireland, Brian Ború in 998, formed exactly one thousand years after their namesake’s revolt. They signed with German label, Grau in 2005 and released their first full length album, "Cluain Tarbh" the same year, along with a split record with fellow Irishmen Primordial. Since then, the band has released two more studio albums, with the most recent being, "Manannan" in 2010.

Mael Mordha - "The Serpent And The Black Lake"

Mael Mordha - "Godless Commune Of Sodom"
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Unearthing The Croatian Metal Underground

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 dig into three rocking outfits all hailing from Croatia.

Croatia isn't typically the first band one thinks of when looking for new bands, but metal is famous for being an international phenomena with amazing groups coming from the least well known places. We'll start off our look at Croatian extreme metal acts with two bands heavily influenced by black metal and one that heads into much more groovy territory.

J.W. Pozoj

J.W. Pozoj is an act that mixes the old school black metal vibe with a series of avant-garde and artsy song arrangements. From the abrasive and harsh vocals to the atmospheric clean segments, there's a little of something for everyone from this fantastic act that should be more well known among black metal fans.

The group has a trilogy of linked albums going through the cycle of “Birth,” “Escape,” and “Return.” You can check out Metalunderground.com's review of "Escape of Pojoz" at this location or read our interview with the band members discussing their music here.

To get a taste of what J.W. Pozoj has to offer, check out the band's MySpace page or listen to the songs “I Am The Forest," “Careless Are Your Souls," and “Hisperia” in the clips below.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Austin, TX

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 am exploring the Austin metal scene.

Austin, Texas is often referred to as the live music capital of the world. While country and indie rock have often dominated the city’s musical legacy, the Austin metal scene is alive and well. A stroll down Red River in downtown will reveal many metal-dedicated clubs: Emo’s, Red 7, Headhunter’s, and Mohawk. The following bands are some of the best I’ve discovered playing within those venues.

Iron Age

Iron Age’s hardcore brand of metal caught my eye before I even moved back to Austin. Their album, "The Sleeping Eye," is full of great riffs and piercing vocals that border on black metal stylistically. On stage, Iron Age brings a raw energy that’s part punk, part metal, and all awesome. I’ve seen them open for Baroness, Corrosion of Conformity, and play last year’s SXSW. Needless to say, the crowd was always very warmed up after their set.

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Unearthing The "Black Metal" Underground

Besides being black history month, February also happens to be black metal history month at Metalundergound, and we’ve already taken looks at bands like Emperor and Immortal. Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we look at several quality acts that haven’t managed to make it big yet. To get the month back to its originally intended purpose, we’ll know delve into a series of underground metal bands composed primarily or even entirely of black members.

Heavy metal, of any sub-genre or style, is a worldwide musical phenomenon that easily crosses racial and ethnic boundaries. While it would seem that many metal bands are composed entirely of lanky white dudes with long hair, that’s by no means the only type of group to be found among the metal hordes. Sepultura, Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, and Suffocation are some of the most well known acts to feature black musicians.

Rather than rehash bands you already know and love, instead we’ll unearth several acts that haven’t had a chance to be exposed to the wider metal world.

Crackdust

To start off our look at metal bands composed of black members, we’ll head over to Botswana, Africa to be pummeled to pieces by the death metal act Crackdust. Hailing from a country that hasn’t exactly made it on the musical radar yet, Crackdust still has a well developed and crushing sound that deserves a mosh pit full of metal heads. Details on the band can be found here, or you can check out the songs “Fate,” “Ruptured,” and “Deranged Psychopath” in the clips below.

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Unearthing The Solo Black Metal Underground Part 3

In honor of black metal history month, Metalunderground.com has been looking back at bands that influenced the genre as well as some of the biggest names in the style, most recently examining famous Norwegian act Emperor in the "Sunday Old School" column.

Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground, we look at a handful of quality bands championing the underground and carrying metal forward. This week we'll spotlight three one-man black metal bands that fans of the genre may not have had the chance to hear yet. You can also check out our previous look at solo black metal bands here, as well as solo musicians from a variety of genres at this location.

Hiems

Italy's Hiems is a band worth watching for black metal fanatics who want occasional respite from the non-stop frozen atompshere and rasping screams. Although both of those elements are found throughout solo artist Algol's music, the songs also feature a black 'n roll vibe and even dip into Opeth style prog metal. A sample from the "Worship or Die" album (reviewed here) can be found in the clip below.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Egypt

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be shedding some light on a few quality underground bands in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week we'll be delving into the Egyptian metal scene.

Egypt has long been a subject for many internationally renowned bands, such as Dio, Mercyful Fate, and Symphony X, and with acts like Nile being well known for utilizing Egyptian mythology in their lyrical themes.

Over the past few weeks, Egypt has become a media hot spot due to current events inspired by the recent Tunisian revolution. For two weeks, protesters have been retaliating against the 30 year regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, demanding his immediate dismissal. It all finally came to an end on February 11th, to the sound of millions of Egyptians cheering for a new era of democracy.

The country's metal scene has been active since the early 90s. While it tends to face controversy from mainstream media and traditionalists; it still manages to progress and offer a diverse line up of bands, playing a variety of sub-genres.

We thought with all that, it's time we begin digging into the Egyptian metal scene to see what it has to offer.

Scarab

Originally founded in 2001. Scarab (formerly known as HATESUFFOCATION) have been one of the most active bands in the Egyptian metal scene. Scarab is one of the country's veteran acts, known for their crushing mix of technical death metal and defiant lyrics.

Back in 2009, Scarab released their debut full length album, "Blinding The Masses," through Osmose Productions, and the follow-up to 2007's EP, "Valley of The Sandwalkers." 2009 also saw the band tour outside Egypt, performing for the second time in the UAE (Dubai Desert Rock Festival) and for the first time in Germany (With Full Force Festival).

Scarab is currently recording its second full length album, titled "The Afterlife Illusions," scheduled for a late 2011 release.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In China, Part 2

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. Some time ago, I offered some suggestions on bands to check out in the Chinese metal scene. Well, China is a big and indescribably populous country, so it should be self evident that the nation has a few more hidden gems interspersed amongst its many teeming megalopolises. Let's kick off the Chinese New Year with three more Chinese metal bands worth a listen:

Renchei

Brutal death metal in the Middle Kingdom? Believe it. Renchei, which translates to “human pig,” is named after an unspeakably cruel and unusual punishment invented by none other than Empress Lu Zhi, according to historical texts. When one of the royal consorts displeased her, the empress forced poison down her throat, cut off her hands and feet, scooped her eyeballs out of their sockets, cut out her tongue and, as a final humiliation, forced the debilitated woman to live in a toilet as a human pig, languishing in other peoples' filth until her death. That pretty much sums up Renchei's sound—brutal and unforgiving. Taking cues from the likes of Devourment, Dying Fetus, Skinless, and American brutal death metal in general, Renchei offers up a Chinese take on the western technical, guttural, slamming sound. Operating out of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, the band released a six song EP in 2010, “Relic of Disobedience,” featuring five originals and a Disgorge (U.S.) cover. Renchei is currently signed to BrutalReign Productions, a Chinese death metal label established in Xuzhou in 2009 that has begun to acquire acts in China and as far abroad as the U.S.

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Unearthing The All Female Metal Underground

With ladies like Angela Gossow and Vibeke Stene fronting bands with primarily male members, the heavy metal scene has shown that women can just be as bad ass as men. While the female fronted band has gone from curiosity to accepted member of the metal kingdom, heavier acts still tend toward having mostly men among their ranks. Breaking that trend are a few groups that buck the established norm and bust out the girl power. With this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that rock out 100% wang free.

Astarte

Kittie is probably the most well known group to feature only women handling the instruments and vocals, but there are plenty of all-girl bands that show up the kittens in terms of brutality. There’s no purr and all claws to be found in Greece’s Astarte, which leans heavily towards the black metal side of the spectrum.

Currently signed to Avantgare Records, Astarte has released five full-length albums so far, and even managed to catch Dimmu Borgir’s attention. Symphonic black metal icon Shagrath appeared in a guest spot on the “Ring of Sorrow” song off the band’s “Sirens” album. To get started with this all-girl act you can check out the video for the “Mutter Astarte” track, the collaboration with Shagrath, and the song “Black Mighty Gods” in the clips below.

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