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Unearthing More Of The Genre Blending Underground

Although there may be stagnation in many areas of the heavy music scene, particularly at the most visible and mainstream levels, such is not the case with a swath of metal’s underground sector.

Sure, there are dime a dozen bands that all sound the same and use the exact same breakdown of low growls and clean singing (you know which ones I’m talking about – they like to call themselves “melodic hardcore” or “post-something or other”). There are even plenty of groups that claim they transcend genre or don’t care about sub-genre tags because “music is music” - and this is frequently a warning sign what you are about to hear will suck, hard, and very likely be a copy of something else that was just as lame.

But if you skim off that top layer of bafflingly-popular gunk, there are bands to be found that genuinely ignore borders between styles and let a wide range of genres seep into each other, creating unique and interesting sounds.

In previous Unearthing columns we’ve looked at a few metal bands that blend different genres or ignore metal trends as well as experimental or avant-garde acts, and today we’ll unearth three more outfits in those categories. These are musicians that don’t mind getting some prog in their death metal or some black metal in their electronica, and they’ll even play with mainstream elements while still hitting the extreme notes without skipping a beat.

Blutmond

This Swiss avant-garde outfit has three full-length releases under its belt, with the new album “The Revolution is Dead!” (review coming soon) just dropping last month through Code666 Records. Despite the title’s claim, the metal revolution certainly isn’t dead, as Blutmond plays with just about everything that can be found in the musician’s toolkit: black metal collides with saxophone, female vocals, and even some goth and industrial elements.

As a statement from the band itself recently said, the latest album is “a roller coaster of mindfucked hate songs full of love and lots of lost dreams.” This is a group worth checking out for fans of Oblomov, Furia, or black metal bands that all around don’t give a good goddamn about remaining “trve” or “kvlt.” Four tracks from “The Revolution is Dead!” can be heard through the player below.

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Sunday Old School: Anathema

Over the past few months, Sunday Old School has examined British outfit, My Dying Bride and Swedish metal favourites, Katatonia, who, along with Paradise Lost, are known as three of the four bands who helped to pioneer the death/doom genre. This week, we’ll be completing the set by taking a look at Anathema, another band instrumental in launching the sub-genre, but who soon found themselves on an entirely different musical path. Anathema were formed in the English city of Liverpool in 1990, initially under the name of Pagan Angel. They recorded their first demo, "An Iliad of Woes," in November of that year which soon spread around the English music scene and caught the interest of several labels, with the band eventually settling on Peaceville Records following the release of their second demo, "All Faith is Lost." Their first release through Peaceville was an EP named, "The Crestfallen," which earned them enough credibility that they were able to tour with American death metal favourites, Cannibal Corpse. They followed, "The Crestfallen" with their first full length album, "Serenades," which also earned the band significant exposure and featured a music video for the song, "Sweet Tears," which soon gained airplay on MTV. As well as television exposure, the band were soon able to tour throughout Europe and were even scheduled to perform at a festival in Brazil.

Despite the rapidly growing fan base and success, vocalist Darren White decided to leave the band in 1995. Rather than searching for a new singer, guitarist Vincent Cavanagh took over the spot behind the microphone, and later that year, Anathema released their second studio album, "The Silent Enigma," which marked Cavanagh’s debut recording with the band, after he had made his live debut as the group’s frontman when they had toured with countrymen, Cathedral. They followed, "The Silent Enigma" a year later with their third full length, "Eternity," which received near universal acclaim. The album was notable for moving away from the doom metal sound and more towards alternative rock, with some psychedelic and gothic influences also present. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Friday Old School

This week a look at new videos from Ugly Kid Joe, Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.), Izzy Stradlin (ex-Guns N’ Roses), and Great White; for those keeping a timeline at home, Ugly Kid Joe would be considered the “new” band of this group. More...

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Unearthing The Brazilian Crossover Underground

Back in the eighties, many old school metalheads got their first dose of Brazilian music when those first two classic Sepultura albums came out, along with releases from Overdose and Vulcano. Over in Brazil, though, those bands were a small handful of many in an already vibrant scene. Tape traders started getting wind of this scene and began looking towards other Brazilian bands, which led to great interest in two albums on Roadrunner from another classic act by the name of Ratos de Porao. "Brasil" and the crossover milestone "Anarkophobia" on Roadrunner made us dig a little deeper into the thrashcore scene of this country.

Crossover and extreme metal have thirty years strong down in the tropic of capricorn. RDP and fellow countrymen Lobotomia could hold their own against any stateside crossover band. And when you dig into Brazil's punk/metal history, it is overwhelming to see that their scene - which dates back to the days of Venom, Discharge and the Sex Pistols - continues to be huge and fractured into several subgenres just like our own. A few years before Ratos de Porao came on the scene, Restos de Nada were possibly the first recognized punk band. As can be expected, they hailed from the southeastern region of Sao Paolo - whose urban setting gave rise to their songs of social decay. More...

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Sunday Old School: Kix

Kix were popular in the glam scene, yet under the radar band that had minor success in the eighties. In fact, they were around before the second round of glam acts (SEE: Poison, Warrant, etc…) and many feel had their stage show stolen by these bands. Regardless, their sleazy style of music (which was never really glam) and their great live shows this was always a “band’s band” and didn’t reach the commercial success of others (SEE: Poison, Warrant, etc…). More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Video Marathon

This week a real treat with (lucky) seven new videos featuring girls with cranium accessories, vampires, F-bombs, and of course, sass.

Ten's video for their single “Gunrunning” is from their new anticipated studio album entitled 'Heresy And Creed.' I can dig the black and white and the groovy sound (dig and groovy in the same sentence – yes, I’m high right now), but not so sure about the Michael Jackson style marching jacket. Also, the awkward lean into the guitar player makes me feel weird down there…

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Pit Stories: '50s Prom Night

We scour the heavy metal and hard rock landscape to get Pit Stories from musicians across the globe, and today we have an interesting look at an "un-pit" of sorts when the crowd experiences genre confusion. Oregon based "melodic wondercore" act Whispers of Wonder shares the following story:

Whispers Of Wonder was paying live at a local venue here in Portland called the Hawthorne. We were the second to last band on the bill. Now the kind of music we play isn't necessarily as brutal as the local scene is comfortable with, and sometimes fans aren't quite sure how to act in the crowd. Now before we had hit the stage there was a big empty pit with 3 hardcore dancers in it, but once we got started something unfolded unlike anything we have ever seen at a show of our genre.

People weren't moshing. It wasn't a violent mosh fest. It was a dance pit. The best way to describe it is prom night in the 1950's, though the soundtrack wasn't exactly as upbeat. And they kept it going throughout our whole set. All of a sudden an entire crowd of people looked like some scene out of an episode of The Peanuts. It was definitely a night to remember.

Whispers of Wonder will release the new EP "The First Year" this coming November 27th, 2012 and pre-orders are available at this location. You can also check out the band's music via Facebook here.

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Unearthing The Norwegian Metal Underground

Every week we dig deep into the metal scene and unearth three acts that are unsigned or simply less well known than many other bands. Today we look at a mecca for metal in general and black metal in particular: Norway.

The country has taken on a sort of mythical level of significance for underground enthusiasts, where one imagines a tribunal of grim metal masters passing judgment on what is and is not trve black metal, but despite that impression the country houses a variety of musicians that cover the musical spectrum and frequently cross genre lines. While anyone familiar with the scene will likely be well acquainted with the likes of Emperor or Mayhem, there are still plenty of unknown hard rock and metal bands hidden there to discover.

Beyond the Morninglight

Breaking ranks with the sound that has put Norway onto the extreme metal map, Beyond the Morninglight is a gloomy and atmospheric rock and roll act that drops the harsh vocals and many of the heavier elements. What it lacks in brutality it makes up for in an infectious version of metal-influenced rock that gets stuck in the head.

The band has two full-length releases now, a self-titled debut and the newly released “Liberation” album, which takes an even darker turn. You can stream both of the full Beyond the Morninglight releases through Misantrof ANTI-Records, or you can check out two songs, one from each album, in the clips below.

“By Midnight We Rock”
Beyond The Morninglight - By Midnight We Rock by HeavyHardMetalmania More...

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Sunday Old School: Benediction

We’ve seen before how Britain played a major part in the development of grindcore by producing such bands as Extreme Noise Terror and Bolt Thrower amongst others, but what about death metal? While the United States arguably produced the most well known death metal bands, the U.K. had some high quality contributions of their own. Everyone knows Scouse noise merchants, Carcass of course, but there’s another band that certainly deserves a mention when talking about the best in British extreme metal, namely, Benediction. Benediction was formed in the city of Birmingham, arguably the birthplace of heavy metal music, in 1989 by bassist, Paul Adams, along with vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway and guitarists Darren Brookes and Peter Rew. They recorded their first demo, "The Dreams You Dread" the same year and quickly garnered interest from German label, Nuclear Blast Records, signing a deal with them soon after. Only a year after they formed, Benediction released their debut full length album, "Subconscious Terror" in 1990, which gained favourable reviews in the metal media and impressed many of their contemporaries, so much so that Napalm Death invited Greenway to join them as their new vocalist, replacing the recently departed, Lee Dorrian, who had left to form the doom metal band, Cathedral.

Now in need of a new frontman, the group turned to fellow Brummie, Dave Ingram to take over behind the microphone. Following live shows with Bolt Thrower and Nocturnus (an American death metal band notable for fusing keyboards with their death metal sound,) the band recorded and released their sophomore album, "The Grand Leveller," in 1991. The record received an even better reception than their debut and helped spread their name in the international death metal scene. Despite the acclaim, Adams decided to leave the band after a tour with Dismember, leaving Brookes to perform bass duties as well as guitars on their next record, an EP entitled, "Dark is the Season." Eventually, they were able to find a new bass player in Cerebral Fix member, Frank Healy, who joined just in time to perform with their band during their first visit to Israel, before making his Benediction recording debut on the group’s third album, "Transcend the Rubicon." More...

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Rockstar Ramblings: Gas Mask Gary

Canadian hard rockers Diemonds have released a new music video for the single "Get The Fuck Outta Here" from the album 'The Bad Pack', released on October 2nd through Underground Operations. Fans of horror movies and hard rock will enjoy this mini production. More...

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Unearthing The West Country Metal Underground Pt.3

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 another look at three metal bands from the West Country (the South West of England,) all with their own take on the genre.

Flayed Disciple

Formed in Taunton, the county town of Somerset in 2008, the awesomely named, Flayed Disciple have been performing their own brand of brutal thrash metal ever since. They released their first record, an EP entitled, "Drawn Viscera" the next year, earning almost instant acclaim in the local metal scene and going on to perform with the likes of South Western thrash legends, Onslaught and New Wave of British Heavy Metal heroes, Diamond Head. In late 2011 they signed a deal with Grindscene Records, which led to the release of their debut full length album, "Death Hammer," which was also given away with copies of the May edition of Terrorizer magazine. The group has been able to perform at a number of festivals over the years, including the ever growing Bloodstock Open Air and will soon be embarking on a trip to India where they will perform a handful of shows along with a slot on the Indian Metal Festival, the very first heavy metal festival in the country, which will be headlined by French death metal outfit, Gojira.

Flayed Disciple - "Ejaculate While Killing"
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Sunday Old School: King's X

Kings-XMost bands come together with the idea of making music, but a select few combine in such a way that they make magic. That is the case with America's ultimate power trio defined King's X, although at the time these three musicians were not aware of the impact that their collaboration would have on the metal and rock community.

The time was 1979 and the place was Evangel College in Missouri. Jerry Gaskill, enrolled in the institute for a degree in Biblical studies, met Doug (dUg) Pinnick there. Jerry was from New Jersey and Doug came down from Chicago to work with a project that Greg Volz from Petra had assembled. DUg was from a religious, Baptist background himself and had been involved in several bands in Illinois along with promoting the Christian music scene in Florida. (It was during this time in Florida that one of dUg's friends got into a car wreck, collected a settlement and bought dUg his first 'official' bass guitar). When the Petra project folded, band member Phil Keaggy invited the both of them to join his new band. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Swedish Invasion

Anyone looking for rock and roll highlighted by sleazy guitars, big choruses, and tattoos are well aware (and have been for some time) of the scene in Sweden. Veteran, new, and reformed bands continue to put out new music as well as some entertaining videos. This week we look at three of these videos.

Swedish rockers SISTER SIN have released a music video for "End Of The Line", the first single from the band's upcoming album 'Now And Forever.' Filmed at an old nuclear reactor testing facility in Stockholm, Sweden, SISTER SIN is clearly in a mood for kicking ass.

I realize this is at a nuclear reactor site, but the video begins with an Asylum feel, or at least some sort of mental institution. Liv Jagrell is not happy, also not hungry. She is ripped, sweaty, and working out inside a small cement cell. Outside (of the alleged mental institution) there are explosions. Not Macy’s type fireworks: bombs going off, signaling Armageddon. Inside, Liv does pull-ups. The video continues with more explosions and then push-ups. Liv is preparing for war. After her “Prison Work Out” she approaches her stash of guns. Hey, what type of mental facility is this? So maybe this is just her own personal bunker, a place where she can get away from that crazy outside world and get in a good workout. Also, a great place to stash her guns…

Sweden's KILLER BEE are back with a refreshed line-up and a new album called 'Hell & Back.' The band has released their first official music video from the album, for the single "Step Into My World.” This is not to be confused with the comic relief track “My World” from Guns N’ Roses ‘Use Your Illusion II’, no, this is serious.

The video displays depressing clips of poverty, rioting, and begging. A quick break from the documentary shows the band. I enjoy the abundance of jean jackets and the use of a globe as “the world on fire”, also good use of the fist pump. The video (depressing documentary) continues with more world hunger, missile crisis, etc… very somber video, I think I’m going to go listen to “My World” and cheer myself up…

TOXICROSE, a brand new band out of Sweden featuring GEMINI FIVE and LIPSTIXX 'N' BULLETZ members, have released a music video for the track "A Song For The Weak.” The song is taken from the band's upcoming debut EP, soon to be released by City Of Lights/Rock It Up Records.

The video begins very formal – an introduction to the band. My personal opinion is that the broken glass is unnecessary, but then again, that’s just me. This is pretty much what is coming out of Sweden these days: lots of guitars, lots of hair, lots of leather, and lots of chains. There is definitely s glam inspiration, but more in a Hanoi Rocks way, versus late eighties Sunset Strip. The songs are bluesy enough to hide the pop grooves and choruses. It’s glam with an edge…

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Pit Stories: Don't Mosh In Leather

If you're tired of all the election coverage and need something amusing to break up the non-stop political material, we've got a new Pit Story this week, courtesy of J.R. from New York act Slam One Down. He had this story to share of a Hellyeah pit having unexpected consequences for the band:

One night Roach and I went to promote our new demo CD at a Hellyeah concert. Roach left me with the CDs to go and mosh. Funny thing was that it was winter and Roach still had his leather jacket on while he was moshing. He looked like such an idiot with that leather jacket on. Plus you all know how sweaty it gets inside a mosh pit, and he had that leather jacket soaked in sweat.

A few days later we took a roadtrip to another gig that we were playing and there was this awful smell in the car on the way up. Yep it was the jacket! It smelled so bad and I think he threw it out that night.

Slam One Down is out now with new album "Who Really Wants To Live Forever," and you can check out tracks from the release at the band's official website or Facebook profile. Be sure to check back in again next Tuesday as we share more mosh pit stories from metal bands.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground at ProgPower USA

Each week, carrying on faithfully in the tradition of bringing the bands that are currently simmering in the underground up to a rolling boil, we feature several quality underground bands in their respective genres. With the 'power' side of the ProgPower USA XIII festival already unearthed in October, the 'prog' side remains unspoken for.

The ProgPower USA festival has taken turns at skewing the balance toward one genre, but has been notorious for bringing in bands who straddle the line between both in the eyes of those with a more liberal view of things. The lines of demarcation are not very clear and the next year's roster often ends up surprising many. Fortunately, many prog bands are able to weave their way into the system and capture some attention. One such band hopped the ocean to pre-empt their 2nd album release, unveiling that they would be selling the CD months in advance at the show.

Haken

Few bands brought the prog with such unabashed love as Haken in the festival's history. As the openers of Day Two of 2011, a spot happily filled this year by fellow prog-heads Beyond The Bridge, the boys of Haken unleashed a set list that included one song from their upcoming album, "Visions" (reviewed here,) but focused mostly on the first album, "Aquarius." Multiple melodic themes are developed throughout the albums, with expert re-interpretations for emotional impact linking up with the storylines. Both albums are concept albums, and both involve songs that go beyond the 20-minute mark, showing their prog side.

Haken is a five-piece, with keyboardist and Haken main brain Richard Henshall performing both keyboard and guitar duties. Henshall and Diego Tejeida both focus on crafting synthesizer sounds not heard elsewhere, which often makes for multi-faceted lead tones. Haken bassist Tom Maclean heads a prog metal sideproject by the name of To-Mera with Henshall assisting, as well.

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Sunday Old School: Soundgarden

Since Sunday Old School almost always finishes it's month of sundays with a column about a group from the glam metal scene, it always seems so natural to kick the next month off with one of the so-called "grunge" acts, given it was the next stage in popular rock music. And who better to start November off than Soundgarden, whose reunion has been of the most anticipated in recent times? Soundgarden was formed from the ashes of a band named The Shemps, which featured singing drummer, Chris Cornell and bass player Hiro Yamamoto. The two kept in contact after The Shemps’ demise and were soon joined by guitarist Kim Thayil, who moved to Washington with Yamamoto and future Sub Pop founder, Bruce Pavitt, from Park Forest, Illinois. The trio adopted the name, Soundgarden from a sculpture next to Magnuson Park, Seattle and soon became a four piece, when they hired drummer Scott Sundquist in order for Cornell to focus on his vocals. This lineup would continue for around a year and make the first Soundgarden recordings, which surfaced on a compilation album named, "Deep Six," before Sundquist left to be replaced by Skin Yard drummer, Matt Cameron. The band’s live performances made them one of the stand out groups in an area which had many quality bands, and it was thanks to their blistering presence that KCMU DJ Jonathan Poneman offered to contribute twenty thousand dollars to Sub Pop Records, in order to fund a Soundgarden release, which came in 1987 in the form of the single, "Hunted Down," which also featured a highly regarded b-side in, "Nothing To Say."

The band released two further EPs, "Screaming Life" and "Fopp" through Sub Pop before deciding to sign with SST Records for their first full length effort, snubbing the interest of major labels in the process. They then released their first LP, "Ultramega OK" on Halloween, 1988, and soon found themselves regularly on MTV, thanks to the music video for "Flower," as well as eventually being nominated for a Grammy award for Best Metal Performance 1990, in addition to touring overseas for the first time. Following the "Ultramega OK" tours, the band got to work on their second album, during which they claim ideas weren’t flowing freely from all members, leaving Cornell to write the bulk of it. The second album surfaced in September 1989 as, "Louder Than Love" and would prove to be their last record with Yamamoto, who left to go back to college after he felt he was unable to contribute to the band anymore. He was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist, Jason Everman, and the band hit the road again, this time in support of Canadian progressive metal act, Voivod, with Faith No More opening the shows. There was initially some problems with the distribution for "Louder Than Love," with some retailers taking umbrage with the lyrics to the songs, "Big Dumb Sex" and "Hands All Over," but nonetheless, it became the band’s first record to hit the Billboard 200, peaking at number 108. More...

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Kenya

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.

In Oath

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"

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Sunday Old School: Warrant

Few bands will ever sniff the success Warrant had in 1989-1990: two multi-platinum albums, a Rolling Stone chart number one single, and a headlining tour. The band created a song named “Cherry Pie” and sold millions of more records because of it! (True story.) Then they were off the radio, then conflict, and then finally abuse and the death of their lead songwriter. The band continues to carry on, but it will never be the same as the summer of ‘89. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Appetite For Democracy

While Guns N’ Roses is set for their 12 show - Las Vegas residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The Hard Rock Casino isn’t missing a beat on “cashing” in on this event, producing 2,500 $25 commemorative chips to be distributed this Friday. More...

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Sunday Old School: Vision Of Disorder

There’s probably no hardcore scene more famous than the one in New York. It’s produced legendary bands that have been going steadily for decades, such as Sick Of It All, as well as bands which have gone away, only to come back stronger than ever such as Agnostic Front. Another band that fits in the latter category is Long Island suburbanites, Vision Of Disorder. Vision Of Disorder was formed in 1992 by guitarist Mike Kennedy and Matt Baumbach, along with vocalist Tim Williams, drummer Brendon Cohen and bassist Mike Fleischmann, who left the band shortly after they formed, only to return a short time later. Following the release of numerous demos, the band got to work on an EP entitled, "Still," that proved to be something of a breakthrough release for the band, garnering a strong underground fan base. It was also while recording, "Still" that they partook in the documentary, "N.Y.H.C." alongside such bands as Madball, Crown Of Thornz and No Redeeming Social Value. The buzz around the group and their, "Still" record led them to sign a deal with Supersoul Records, a subsidiary of Roadrunner Records and they released their self-titled debut album in October 1996. The album was an underground hit, with many fans still considering it to be their best work to date and praising it for the innovative approach to traditional hardcore music.

The band then moved to Roadrunner Records itself, through which they released their sophomore effort, "Imprint" in July 1998. The album marked an important moment in the history of the group, receiving favourable reviews and becoming their best selling album to date, but alienated many of their old fans who were less than impressed with their new sound. Vision of Disorder were forced to record the album in only two weeks by Roadrunner, a move which did not sit well with the band and led to them leaving the company. Instead of working on new material, the quintet decided to re-record nine songs for their next CD, "For the Bleeders," which was released in 1999 through Go Kart Records. More...

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