"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Archive: Columns

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Sunday Old School: Helloween

Power metal is a genre that has been somewhat neglected by the Sunday Old School column. It’s still very much alive however (go to a metal festival in Europe if you don’t believe me) and this week we’ll be making up for our past snub by taking a look at one of the most revered bands in the field, Helloween. Helloween were formed in 1984 in the German city of Hamburg by singing guitarist, Kai Hansen, along with drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, bassist Markus Grosskopf and second guitarist Michael Weikath. They soon signed to Noise Records and appeared on a compilation album named, "Death Metal," which was notable for its inclusion of other bands such as Hellhammer and Running Wild. Only a year after forming, they released a self-titled EP and their first full length album, "Walls of Jericho." The record received mixed reviews but is a popular one amongst fans and is notable for a number of reasons, including being the namesake of wrestler Chris Jericho and his signature move, and perhaps most importantly for being the only full length Helloween record where Hansen handled the vocal duties, after deciding to concentrate on his guitar work following the release of another EP entitled, "Judas."

Their search for a new lead singer led to the recruitment of eighteen year old vocalist, Michael Kiske and the band wanted to celebrate the new addition by releasing a double album, but this idea was thwarted by the record company. As a compromise, they released one album, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1" in 1987, and a companion record, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2" in 1988. Both albums received near universal praise and sold well, with the second part being particularly successful, partly thanks to the single, "I Want Out," which was aired heavily on the MTV show, "Headbanger’s Ball," and took part in the first Headbanger’s Ball Tour, along with Californian thrash masters Exodus and headliners, Anthrax. As the band’s star continued to rise, they were dealt a massive blow when Hansen announced that he would be leaving the group as a result of poor health, amongst a number of other reasons including tensions with bandmates and the record company. His last recorded appearance with the band came in the form of a live album named, "Live in the U.K." (known in the United States as "I Want Out Live.") before being replaced by Roland Grapow, formerly of the band, Rampage and going on to form the band, Gamma Ray. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: The Porn Stache

This week classic bands with new videos, classic ex-band mates with new videos, and the classic look of the porn stache. More...

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Pit Stories: A Truly Dedicated Fan

Each Tuesday we have metal musicians check in with their most memorable mosh pit stories from live shows.

This week vocalist Tom Emmans of Odium shares the following story of a truly dedicated (or perhaps just overly drunk) fan fighting through the pain to see the end of a show:

One time at a show in our home town a fan broke a beer bottle in the pit and it sliced his whole arm down to the bone. Everyone was freaking out cause they thought someone had knifed him. Turns out he was just partying and having a good time, not even realizing he was bleeding all over the place. When the ambulance arrived he was trying to convince them to let him stay until we were done. They were like "Uh no. You could bleed out. Your entire arm is cut to the bone." So they raced him to the hospital and stitched him up. He showed up for our last song drunk as fuck, smiling from ear to ear. See you at the next one brother!

You can check out Odium's music by downloading the track "No Way Out" on the free "Happy Metal Annihilation Volume 2" compilation over here, or watch a music video for the track below.

Check back in again next week as we continue to share more Pit Stories from rock and metal bands. More...

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Unearthing The Canadian Metal Underground

It’s Monday again, which means it’s time to explore three more lesser known bands in the metal underground. Today’s exploration to the underground world features our neighbors to the north, which is home to its fair share of metal legends, from the most extreme to the most melodic. We’ve actually looked at Canadian acts several times before, specifically focusing on Toronto and the Maritimes previously, and today we’ll trek there again for three bands that cross the genre spectrum.

I suppose I should start out with a bit of disclosure: I’m not from Canada, and I’ve only been there once for a fishing trip years ago, although the border is only a few hours north of me. So unfortunately these are bands I know solely via their music and their online presence, and I haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with them in the live scene personally.

While working on the review for the new Chariots of the Gods album “Tides of War,” I got to thinking about the very solid lineup of bands from the frigid north, especially in the underground metal scene. There’s a fairly large grouping of what are essentially “second tier” bands currently active – these guys bring the metal full force, but they haven’t gotten signed with Nuclear Blast or Metal Blade or any of the larger labels focusing on heavy music. They still manage to get hooked up with PR companies to keep their presence known however, release high quality albums, and a good deal of them stay busy with touring and festival appearances.

Chariots of the Gods

Is this Ottawa act composed of thrash maniacs who are really into melodic death metal, or are they in an MDM band that can’t give up their love for Megadeth? Either way, this is pretty crushing, headbanging-mandatory stuff.

Chariots of the Gods will be officially dropping debut full-length album “Tides of War” later this month (January 29th to be precise), and the band has already released teasers that should more than pique the interest of metalheads. We recently had the opportunity to premiere the track “Unbound,” which features a guest appearance by Aleksi Sihvonen of Norther, and you can also hear the album’s title track below. For some more background on the band and info on the album’s themes, check out our recent interview here.

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Sunday Old School: Fight

It’s a new year, and for some people, it means a new beginning. A new beginning was exactly what Rob Halford was aiming for in 1992 after leaving Judas Priest, one of the biggest and most influential bands in the history of heavy metal music, and formed a new band named, Fight. The name encapsulated the attitude of the band, which aimed to bridge the brand of heavy metal popularised by Priest and their contemporaries such as Iron Maiden and Saxon, with the fresher, more "street" sound of young, exciting bands of the time such as Pantera and Sepultura. Halford recruited Racer X drummer Scott Travis into his new group, after getting to know him from his time in Judas Priest, along with bass player "Jay Jay" Freeman and guitarists Brian Tilse and Russ Parrish, the latter of which would go on to form Steel Panther.

After spending a year perfecting their sound, the quintet finally released their debut album, "War of Words" through Epic Records in September 1993, which received a very positive response from metal fans and peaked at number 83 on the Billboard album charts. The album contained a number of instantly recognisable tracks, from the pounding title track to the machine gun speed opener, "Into the Pit" to the catchy finale, "Reality – A New Beginning." More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: New Year Video Marathon

This week another European Video Invasion (France, UK, Sweden) as well as representation from Australia; also, a weird video from Pittsburgh. Damn, that city is strange… More...

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Pit Stories: Projectile Vomit T.K.O.

Every week we have metal fans and musicians check in with their favorite mosh pit stories. Today guitarist/vocalist Chris Friesen of Ontario's Adrenechrome shares the following tale of a fight in the pit coming to an unexpectedly quick end:

While attending a CKY show in Toronto a good friend of mine ended up in a violent altercation with a fellow concert goer (something to do with a bumped girlfriend). Being quite drunk, the pair squared off in the middle of the pit to exchange fisticuffs. The first blow of the bout was scored by the angry boyfriend, a solid punch to my friends mid section.

The answer to the punch was a devastating finishing move a la Mortal Kombat, he proceeded to projectile vomit in an arc covering his assailant and the dozen or so other concert goers in the pit with digested beer and street meat, needless to say his opponent was unwilling to continue the fight resulting in a very rock 'n roll T.K.O.

Adrenechrome released debut EP "Hideous Appetites" back in November of 2012, and you can hear the full release at this location, or find more info on the band via Facebook.

Be sure to check back in next Tuesday are we share more metal mosh pit stories.

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Sunday Old School: Rigor Mortis

Many times a band becomes well known and its musicians end up starting new musical collaborations that live off of the name of that pioneering act. The reverse was true of Texas quartet Rigor Mortis. Although fairly influential and cult in the thrash metal underground, its members went on to bigger success in other, more well-known metal acts. In the beginning, though, it was just the four of them - or better stated, three.

Rigor Mortis was the brain child of New York guitarist Mike Scaccia, drummer Harden Harrison and bassist Casey Orr. Basing themselves out of Dallas in 1983, the band had no official singer and usually had Casey on the mic. Years later, that was why Rigor Mortis normally had several instrumental tracks and started off its debut album with "Welcome to Your Funeral." Vocalist Bruce Corbitt didn't come into the picture until late 1987. He'd only been in a Black Sabbath covers band and wasn't sure of himself on the helm, but determined to prove himself. He said he wanted it badly, wanted to be a really bad mofo. Thus began the official line-up of Rigor Mortis. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Cocaine Cowboys

Swedish metal sensation Crashdiet have posted the music video for their new single "Cocaine Cowboys", taken from the band's forthcoming album 'The Savage Playground.' The new album is due for release in January through Frontiers Records. Crashdiet will be hitting the road in February with Sister and Toxic Rose in a package named the 'Scandinavian Hell Tour.' In the meantime, here’s a look at their new video for “Cocaine Cowboys.” More...

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Pit Stories: Xul's Mudslide Party

Every week we check in with fans and bands from around the world to get their favorite pit and road stories from metal shows.

This week Canadian blackened death metal act Xul shares the following story of a small town suddenly hosting a party as bad weather prevented travel:

We had a mini tour lined up that consisted of Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton shows in the span of 4 days. Living in Vernon (half way between Vancouver and Calgary) we went to Van for our first show. It was an awesome turnout and and a good set. A good start to the tour. We had a day off before we had to head to Calgary so we decided to go back to Vernon and sleep a night in our own beds. There was talk of HWY 1 being closed but we didn't think it was going to be a big deal. We were wrong.

We woke up the next morning early enough to check the weather reports before we headed out. All that was said was that HWY 1 was closed due to mudslides and that there was no timeline for its opening. HWY 1 is a direct route to Calgary. It’s about an 8 hr drive from Vernon. I'd say it would have taken us 9 because we're riding in a short bus that hits a top speed of 90km. It was early in the morning and we had to make a quick decision as we had to be in Calgary that night for a show. We could either go south and take a ferry but there was rumours it was closed due to the extreme weather (we later found out it would have been a horrible idea) or head north and go through Jasper then down from Edmonton to Calgary. We chose to go North.
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Unearthing The German Metal Underground

Heavy metal was almost certainly born in the English city of Birmingham, but ask most fans of the genre (especially the European ones) and they'll tell you that the real home of heavy metal is Germany. The country hosts many metal festivals every year, including one of, if not the most famous of them all, Wacken Open Air, along with the likes of Summer Breeze Open Air, Ragnarök and Bang Your Head!!!. Germany has long been a place for rock musicians to ply their trade and build a loyal following: From the Beatles spending much of their early days in Hamburg, to the formation of the Scorpions in 1965, to the rise in German thrash bands like Kreator and Sodom, as well as popularising power metal through such acts as Helloween and Blind Guardian, to modern favourites such as Rammstein, Germany certainly has one of the richest histories in rock and metal music. This week we'll be looking at three young bands to come from the country to help prove that it's still top of the tree when it comes to the genre we all know and love.

Arcthuris

Formed in the federal state of Saarland in 2003, the band consists of only one member, who goes by the simple alias, A.H. He recorded the first Arcthuris demo, "The Grim White Woman" soon after the project's inception and released it the next year. Arcthuris has also self-released all of their full length albums, beginning in 2005 with "Ruf des Zerfalls." It would be four years until another Arcthuris album surfaced in the form of, "Children of Nibiru," but since then, material has come quite steadily, with two more albums, "Mondsucht" and "Ghouls of Nepenthe" following in 2011 and 2012 respectively. As one might expect from a one man metal band, Arcthuris started life primarily a black metal venture, but has grown to display a more ambient sound along the way.

Arcthuris - "Lucustas Liebestraum"

Arcthuris - "If I Could"
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Sunday Old School: Lillian Axe

More groovy (SEE: melodic) versus glam (SEE: dramatic), Lillian Axe managed to recruit a loyal following without an abundance of commercial success. Often regarded as an underrated and unknown gem, the group continues to perform and record in obscurity. Their look (big hair and tight leather) grouped this band in with the glam bands of the eighties (and early nineties); however, the music of Lillian Axe still holds up, a major difference between Lillian Axe and other bands during this time. They are sort of the “indie” Edward Norton of metal that is if Edward Norton’s career had never blown up (at least for a few years), and if Norton was from The Big Easy. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: If You Love…

With several new videos to sift through before the end of the year let’s cut to the chase and see which are for you, and which are probably not… More...

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Pit Stories: A Bouncer Finds Love

Every week we share pit stories from rock and metal acts across the globe. This week bassist/vocalist Sean Arata of Fort Wayne based hard rock band Downstait shares the following tale of a bouncer finding love after a fan gets out of control:

We were playing a show with Ra in Flint, Michigan, and some guy was drugged out of the mind in the crowd, and picking physical fights with everyone, including the girl he came with.

One of the bouncers tried to get him out of the place, he resisted, and the bouncer blasted him in the face, which knocked him out, but also shattered his hand. They both go to the hospital, and the girl goes along.

We come back about a year later, and the bouncer fills us in about how the guy he knocked out thanked him for bringing him to the hospital, not remembering he was the one who put him there in the first place. Also, he filled us in that he and the girl he defended were getting married soon.

Downstait recently canceled a string of December tour dates due to illness within the band, but you can hear music from the act and find out about upcoming live appearances at the Downstait Facebook profile here. Check back in next week for more mosh pit stories from fans and band members.

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Sunday Old School: Deicide

With Christmas two days away, it’s more than likely that by now, we’ve all seen the "Keep Christ in Christmas" stickers/posters/statuses on Facebook, but most non-believers are well aware of Christmas being a Christian festival and don’t want to remove Jesus from this time of the year. However, if there’s one band that seems intent on removing Jesus from everything, it’s one of Florida’s many legendary death metal bands, Deicide. Deicide were formed in the city of Tampa in July 1987, initially under the name Amon, by vocalist/bassist, Glen Benton and guitarist Brian Hoffman, who soon recruited his brother, Eric to be the band’s second guitarist. With the lineup rounded out by drummer Steve Asheim, the group recorded an eight track demo entitled, "Feasting the Beast." After gigging sporadically around their home city, the band recorded a second demo, "Sacrificial" at Morrisound Studios with producer, Scott Burns, a place and man who would go on to be instrumental in the development of death metal.

Following the recording, Amon changed their name to Carnage and began performing live more regularly. Very soon, Carnage, or rather, Benton, gained notice from Roadrunner Records, when he reportedly barged into the office of an A&R man and aggressively demanded that they sign his group. The next day, Carnage were offered contracts by the label, but were urged to make a name change, leading them to settle on their current moniker, Deicide. They teamed up with Scott Burns again to record their self-titled, debut album, which was released in 1990. The album went on to become one of the best selling death metal albums of all time, being listed by Soundscan as the second highest shifting unit of the genre, behind the third Morbid Angel album, "Covenant." They followed this effort two years later with, "Legion," a much more ambitious album, which focused more the technical area of death metal. It was well received by fans, but was met with a mixed reception from critics, and only the song, "Dead but Dreaming" would go on to feature prominently in future live sets. More...

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Pit Stories: A Rolling Chair Pit On Barge To Hell

Every week we share pit stories from bands and fans across the globe. This week, I’m going to share one of my own experiences, from my adventure on the Barge To Hell a couple weeks ago:

On day two of the world’s most metal cruise, Municipal Waste was playing the smaller Spectrum Lounge for the group’s first performance of the cruise. The band played fast and loose with its brand of "party metal" crossover thrash. Just a few songs into the set, some metal heads in the crowd got the idea to grab the chairs that are on wheels and roll around in the mosh pit area of the main floor. It looked a lot like bumper cars, but then other people began pushing them or grabbing hold of arms of people in the chairs and slinging them through the pit, causing some high speed collisions and overturned chairs.

Soon after this began, Municipal Waste frontman Tony Foresta commented on how they are “the shortest band in metal” and asked the crowd for a circle pit. With the lights in his face and his short stature, it appeared he couldn’t see what was going on behind the people up front at the barrier. As the band launched into their next song, the pit erupted into more chaos as moshers attempted a circle pit around the chair pit to little avail.

It was a surreal experience, but it looked FUN! The crowd would attempt to do the same during other thrash sets like Bonded By Blood and Havok, but no other pit compared to Municipal Waste’s rolling chair pit on Barge to Hell.

Being unable to zoom out and capture the whole scene, this video really doesn’t do the chair pit justice, but it’s all I’ve got to give an idea of what was going on:

A full Barge To Hell report is forthcoming, as well as tons of photos from the metal cruise.

Be sure to check back next Tuesday as we share more mosh pit stories from metal bands.

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Unearthing More Of The Symphonic Metal Scene

Heavy music has been steadily evolving since its first major appearances, from slow moving doom to blistering fast thrash and onto the most brutal death metal. Somewhere after figuring out corpse paint and freezing cold riffs somebody decided extreme metal could include unexpected elements like string instruments, keyboards, and other orchestral leanings. The symphonic and the extreme collided, and somehow it worked out.

Now some 15 - 20 years later bands are still finding ways to meld together these two styles, but for symphonic black metal junkies the pool of available talent isn’t as wide as with other sub-genres. You’ve likely heard everything from Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child a hundred times over, blazed through the couple of Dragon Lord releases, imported all those Opera IX CDs, and are done working through the Carach Angren back catalog…so what now?

We’ve previously taken a look at a few symphonic black metal acts as well as other heavily atmospheric bands, but there’s still more underground groups worth checking out if you need more orchestral influenced black metal.

Saille

This Belgian outfit is on the verge of releasing second album “Ritu” in January 2013 (reviewed here), which follows the debut “Irreversible Decay” album. The album focuses on different rites of various cultures and mythologies, including a dose of Lovecraftian rituals with songs like “Haunter of the Dark” and “Fhtagn.”

For more info on the album, check out our interview with the band just after the recording process was finished. Get acquainted with Saille’s version of symphonic black metal through songs off both albums, available below.

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Sunday Old School: Helmet

Say what you like about the era of Generation X, there was some fantastic music around. We’ve already looked at a few of the bands popular at the time such as Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Living Colour, and this week we’ll be examining one of the most innovative bands of the era, Helmet. Helmet was formed in early 1989 by guitarist Page Hamilton, shortly after his departure from the New York based noise rock band, Band of Susans. Before long, they attracted the attention of US Marine, Tom Hazelmyer, who was also the founder of Amphetamine Reptile Records, who had previously put out records from the likes of Killdozer and soon signed Helmet to the label. Their first release for Amphetamine Reptile was the seven inch single, "Born Annoying," which was followed the next year by their full length debut, "Strap It On." The album was very well received by listeners and is now regarded as a classic by fans of post-hardcore music, as well as becoming a small influence in metal, as evidenced when Deftones covered the song, "Sinatra" years later. Critics were also very welcoming of the debut, praising its atmospheric approach and distinctive riffs.

A year after the release of, "Strap It On," Helmet signed a new deal with major label, Interscope, who reportedly paid the group one million dollars for their next album. They began recording the album, which was to be entitled, "Meantime" in late 1991 and eventually released it the next summer. The time and (alleged) budget proved to be well worth the effort, as "Meantime" broke the band into the mainstream, peaking at number 68 on the Billboard Charts and becoming their first (and only) Gold Record in the United States, thanks largely to the success of the title track and the song, "Unsung." Once again, they had also put out a record which was adored by many critics, several of which gave the album perfect scores. The success of "Meantime" meant a much bigger increase in tour dates and soon the band found themselves performing in Europe, Asia and South America, as well as their native, United States. The heavy touring schedule, coupled with the new found spotlight brought problems to the band and strengthened internal tensions, eventually leading guitarist Peter Mengede to quit the group, with Rest In Pieces guitarist, Rob Echeverria taking his place. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Vince Neil Throws a Punch

At a recent solo show, Vince Neil (Motley Crue) had a fan removed from a show, but not before throwing a punch at him. During the concert (footage below), Vince stopped during the song, “Kick Start My Heart” and is heard shouting at the fan before lunging at him with an old-school uppercut. More...

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Unearthing The Malaysian Metal Underground

Malaysia is a country that has really begun to make it's name known in the last few years. It's become a popular holiday destination, it has one of the most stable infrastructures in South East Asia and has become a major investing force in association football (soccer,) with Malaysian entrepeneurs buying into such football teams as Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City. But what is the music scene like in Malaysia? And more specifically, how is heavy metal treated there? A quick Google search will quickly bring up a BBC article from 2001, in which the Malaysian government declared a crack down on the genre. But there are still metal bands active in the constitutional monarchy, and this week we'll be looking at three of them.

Humiliation

First up is Humiliation, a band from the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur who provide an ear catching take on death metal, being influenced mostly by such British extreme metal pioneers as Benediction and Bolt Thrower. The group was formed in 2009 and spent three months recording their debut EP, "Face The Disaster," which was released in November that year through Nebiula Production. The next year, they were able to record and release their first full length effort, "Dawn Of Warfare," which (including an intro and an outro) contained a total of twelve tracks. Since then, the band has soldiered on, despite losing some members along the way, they have been able to continue writing new material, and released their second full length album, "Seek To Survive" in September of last year. The band has also branced out when it comes to touring, having recently played in such countries as Germany, Poland and Romania.

Humiliation - "Minefields"
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