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

Archive: Columns

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Sunday Old School: Jag Panzer

While the cities in New York, Florida and the Bay Area drove the early power/thrash independent music scene in the early eighties, another legendary U.S. band came to prominence far up in the Rocky Mountains. A group of musicians who knew each other since the second grade started their own band in homage to the European scene, calling themselves Tyrant before learning of the L.A. and German bands of the same name. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Porn Surfing and Beer

This week we have videos set in a church, a barn, and Oktoberfest. Pour yourself a tall boy, lock your doors, and prepare for a spiritual journey. More...

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Pit Stories: Failed Festival Backflip

Every week Metalunderground.com checks in with musicians and fans to get their most memorable Pit Stories. Today, drummer Will Green from Ohio act Set to Reflect shares the following story about an unfortunate fan failing to pull of a back flip during a Burden of a Day set at the Cornerstone festival:

July 2nd, 2009. It was the most humid 105 degree Illinois day I'd ever lived through, and being smashed together between the 20,000 people at Cornerstone festival was not helping the already over-heated situation. I noticed one extremely lanky, yet absurd kid as I stood on the edge of the pit and watched everyone throw down to Burden of a Day. He was pulling out all the moves. Picking up the change, Windmills, spin kicks... you name it, he was performing it. The band's fantastic live presence only escalated the energy in the pit, and by midway through the show, he was acting more insane than anyone I've seen to this day. That was when it happened...

The next thing I know, the kid is jumping near the edge of the stage and doing a back-flip off... at least, half of a back-flip. As he landed awkwardly, you could see the bone pop out of his leg. His shin acted as if it were a third knee, and the look of shock on his face said it all. It was apparent that no one there had ever seen anything so gruesome in real life, as it took a full minute for anyone to come to his aid due to the immediate surprise of what had just occurred.

Once we were done lifting him and helping him to the outskirts of the tent, the paramedics arrived and carted him off. The image, however, is forever burned into my memory.

Set to Reflect's latest EP "A New Path To Walk On" is out now through Standby Records. For more info on the band, head over to the Set to Reflect Facebook profile here.

Check back in next Tuesday for more mosh pit stories, and let us know your favorite story from a live show in the comments below.

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Unearthing More Genre Flip-Floppers

With more than 15,000 bands in our database, and hordes more than that in existence, every Monday we like to take a little time to highlight three underground bands that deserve your attention.

Usually our unearthed bands focus on a single sub-genre or geographic region, but today we’ll look bands that have all experienced a similar phenomena: the flip-flop. Favored maneuver of politicians everywhere, and for some reason also plenty of metal bands, these guys aren’t doing it to pick up more votes, as their flip-flips frequently cost them fans.

Metal has its fair share of musical flip-floppers who went from heavy to soft, vice versa, or smashed opposing elements together to create a different type of sound. Our previous look at three genre flip-floppers covered a variety of them, and there are even more well known acts that have taken this route, from Darkthrone to Anathema and Therion. Below you’ll find a sampling of three lesser known acts that have significantly changed sound from their earlier works.

Tribulation

This Swedish death metal act had a cult hit back in 2009 with debut full-length “The Horror” (reviewed here), which was a brutal and unrelenting take on death/thrash that never let up. Short but sweet, the tracks were brief bites of devastation that didn’t overstay their welcome.

Fast forward to 2013, and Tribulation is an altogether different beast. Unlike the other two bands we’ll look at today, this time the change in sound actually made the songs much longer than before. “The Formulas of Death” (check out the review) saw the band become a progressive death metal outfit with plenty of melody and unexpected stylistic shifts. If it weren’t for the remaining thrash influence in the guitar sounds and the recurring death vocals, this would essentially be two different bands.

Hear the difference yourself through the clips below taken from each album. There is a lot going on musically throughout the second album, so a single song doesn’t really give enough to digest the breadth of the change, but you can also check out the new song “When the Sky is Black with Devils” via the band’s Facebook profile.

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Sunday Old School: Entombed

Going through the Sunday Old School archives, it’s notable that most of the death metal we’ve covered tends to focus on American bands such as Obituary, Morbid Angel and Deicide, but the country that arguably has one of the most respected death metal scenes in the world, is the northern European country of Sweden, and one of their most notable contributions was Entombed. Entombed began life from the ashes of another acclaimed extreme metal group, Nihilist, who formed in the Swedish capital city of Stockholm in 1987 and quickly established themselves as one of the most important names in the then burgeoning death metal in Sweden. After bassist Johnny Hedlund left to form, Unleashed, the rest of the band carried on as Entombed and soon signed a deal with Earache Records, who had recently released such seminal works from Napalm Death, Carcass and Godflesh, through which they released their debut album, "Left Hand Path" in the spring of 1990.

The album was an instant favourite among the extreme metal crowd, and has gone on to be described as the blueprint for Swedish death metal, thanks primarily to the guitar tone used and is now regarded as one of the best death metal records in history. This tone was used once more on their sophomore album, "Clandestine," which again received rave reviews from the metal media and established the group as one of the most exciting, in a genre that was at the top of it’s game. "Clandestine" was also seen as more accessible than "Left Hand Path," and as a further step towards the unique Swedish take on death metal.

Despite receiving acclaim for their first two albums, Entombed took the surprising step of changing their sound somewhat, incorporating a more rock and roll vibe into their death metal roots, to create a genre known as "death and roll." This change in direction resulted in the 1993 album, "Wolverine Blues," which caused a rift between the band and Earache after the label agreed a deal with Marvel Comics to use images of their famous character of the same name, to help Entombed reach a broader audience, without consulting the band. This included featuring the Wolverine character on the front cover of the record, and even including a mini Wolverine comic inside the album. The Marvel version of "Wolverine Blues" was also heavily censored, going as far as to remove the song, "Out of Hand" completely. The album itself received a very mixed response, with some fans not to keen on the change in direction, while publications such as Guitar World hailed it as the best death metal album of the year. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: An Off-Road Affair

This week rock and roll representatives from the suburbs of Philadelphia, state of Ohio, and Portugal bring us videos. Also, a special bonus video from one of Canada's finest for our viewing pleasure. More...

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Pit Stories: Pantera Stops The Show

Each week we check in with metal musicians to get their favorite mosh pit stories. Today Eric Dow, vocalist of Helsott, shares the following story of a Pantera pit from a Long Beach show:

The Pantera pit in 2000. It was just flat out the biggest, craziest fucking most single fucking chaos even I’ve ever been involved in. I think the Long Beach Sports Arena, makes the whole floor a pit…and they stopped the song, if you didn’t pit. They would stop the song, it didn’t matter if they were three minutes into it…or two minutes, or whatever. Pantera would stop the fucking song if they weren’t happy. So the pit grew about half way…I mean, it was still the biggest pit I’d ever been in…The whole fucking floor. They took the chairs out, it was just concrete. They stopped the song…I thought that was pretty funny. Phil Anselmo was like ‘you didn’t believe me, did you? If you guys are not moving around, we will fucking stop the song again.’

I think the only people that didn’t move were the guys who had their spot on the rail and I wouldn’t have moved either. But yeah, that whole fucking bottom floor…was probably easily 8,000 people. People going this way, people going that way….and then the whole song – the song was ‘Becoming’ – and the whole song, I think I got around the pit twice. It was that big….and I got hit by so many different people. Fuck what was I… I think I was 18... no, no I was 17…that’s right, I was 17 years old at the time. Shit just isn’t like that anymore, man. Concerts are nowhere near like they used to be.
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Unearthing The Screamo Underground

This edition of Unearthing The Metal Underground was part of our 2013 April Fools pranks.

The much maligned deathcore genre. Whenever you hear the term, it is beset with cringes from some. Actually, though, deathcore gets a bad rap that merits further investigation. When metalcore evolved into deathcore and placed more emphasis on the screaming, growling and more punctuated breakdowns, plenty of bands were still keeping the heaviness and technical quotient at a good level. There's the pummeling force of the Acacia Strain and the progressive finesse of BTBAM straddling the line with technical death metal on the other end, along with a good measure of heavier and original sounding deathcore bands. More...

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Sunday Old School: Whitesnake

With tens of millions of albums sold, David Coverdale’s turbulent relationship with Tawny Kitaen, and the hair that all other hair would be judged by…we give you Whitesnake. As David Coverdale’s hair grew so did album sales. Is this a coincidence? Coverdale would say (presumably) that his hair and album sales are not related and this is a misconception. The facts are that during his eighties reign (when his hair was at an all-time Aqua Net high) album sales were through the roof. Later, he teamed up with Jimmy Page to form Coverdale/Page, shorter hair, fewer sales. Coincidence? More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Counting Sheep

This week a game of cat and mouse, middle fingers, and hot sheep populate a week of hit or miss videos. More...

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Sunday Old School: Xentrix

On February 3rd of this year, Sunday Old School took a look at Acid Reign, one of Britain’s best contributions to thrash metal. A day later, another of the British thrash greats, Xentrix announced that they had decided to reunite, after people had demanded them to do so for years. This week, we will be giving Xentrix the recognition they deserve, and examining the career of one of the biggest names in British thrash. Xentrix were formed in the Lancashire city of Preston and garnered themselves plenty of interest when their demo received a perfect score in Kerrang! magazine, which eventually led to a deal with Roadrunner Records, following a successful audition. Through the label, the band released their first full length album, "Shattered Existence" in 1989, and embarked on a tour with fellow thrashers, Sabbat, to support the release.

The band followed the release of their debut album with a single, a cover of the Ray Parker Jr. hit, "Ghostbusters." It was a controversial move in several aspects, not least in the copyright area, which forced the band to re-issue the record with a different cover due to use of the "Ghostbusters" logo without permission. Despite the novelty of a thrash metal version of the song, the band had rightly earned the respect of their peers with, "Shattered Existence," as evidenced by their slot opening for Bay Area heavy hitters, Testament and the group soon set to work on a second album, which was released in 1990 under the title, "For Whose Advantage?" The album was a hit amongst thrash fans, being heralded as one of the best thrash releases of the year, with the title track and the song, "Questions" in particular receiving praise, and they once again hit the road with Sabbat to promote the album. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Freakshow

Heaven & Earth have just released the official video for the single "No Money, No Love.” The video features magicians, old school working girls, and little people. "No Money, No Love" is featured on the band's forthcoming studio album 'Dig.' More...

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Sunday Old School: Gamma Ray

A short while ago, Sunday Old School took a look at German power metal heroes, Helloween, which was founded by guitarist Kai Hansen in 1984. Hansen left the group in 1989, only to return in some style a year later, with a new band that soon become one of the biggest and most influential in their field, Gamma Ray. The seeds of the group were sewn while Hansen was doing some studio work for countrymen, Blind Guardian, and decided to form his own project afterwards, teaming up with his friend, Ralf Scheepers, who would handle the vocal duties. The duo would soon become a quartet when they added bass player Uwe Wessel and drummer Mathias Burchardt. Despite the problems Hansen had previously had with the company, Gamma Ray signed a deal with Noise Records for their first album, "Heading For Tomorrow," which was released in February 1990 and was received very warmly by the music press and metal fans alike. Shortly after their debut was released, Gamma Ray made several changes by hiring a new drummer and guitarist in Uli Kusch and Dirk Schlächter respectively. This new incarnation of the band released an EP later that year entitled, "Heaven Can Wait," before releasing their first full length studio album together in September 1991, "Sigh No More." Despite it’s somewhat comic album cover, the record was significantly darker than, "Heading For Tomorrow," with lyrics covering topics such as the Persian Gulf War that was ongoing at the time.

Once the band returned from a Japanese tour, they made yet another lineup change, with founding bassist Uwe Wessel and Kusch leaving the group due to disagreements, with Kusch going on to join Helloween, making his debut on the fan favourite, "Master of Rings." The duo were replaced by bass player Jan Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack, who made their presence known to fans in 1993 with the third Gamma Ray album, "Insanity and Genius," which was recorded at the band’s own custom studio. "Insanity and Genius" was closer sonically to "Heading for Tomorrow," and likewise received some very positive reviews. It was notable for Hansen singing on the track, "Heal Me" and Schlächter performing vocal duties on the song, "Your Tørn Is Over." More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Living Dangerously

This week we return to videos featuring bad ass jean jackets, crazy over sized sunglasses, and horrible story lines. More...

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Unearthing More Symphonic/Melodic Metal Bands

Amidst all the pig squeals and face shredding tech-death, there’s plenty of music to be found in the metal world that borrows from (or even relies on entirely!) a symphonic sound. These acts aren’t afraid to show off their melodic side, creating unique songs that blend heavy guitars and even screams with more traditional stringed instruments and keyboards.

If power metal isn’t your thing but you still want music with more melody than the standard death metal troupe, check out this week’s crop of bands as we unearth more of the metal underground.

Paganland

This Ukraine-based group has existed off and on since the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until last week that it finally dropped a debut full-length album titled “Wind of Freedom” via Svarga Music. If the name didn’t tip you off, the lyrics and themes of the music are based heavily on pagan traditions and are dedicated to the history and folklore of the band’s homeland.

Although Paganland describes itself as a “pagan black metal” band, this is much more on the symphonic and folk side than the black metal side of things, and fans of Tyr will be right at home with much of the new disc. Get a sampling of what the band has to offer through the title track available below, or hear more over at Facebook.

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Sunday Old School: Fates Warning

The band I bring you today has special significance to me, because looking at its history is almost like looking at a mirror image of my own. Thirty years ago this year, when I got my start on college radio, these guys were the first band I ever sat in on an interview with. That interview was done by the other metal DJ on WNHU, with Joe DiBiase and John Arch sitting behind the mic with a demo in hand for their new band Misfit. That session was also one of their very first interviews as a band. Special times from a period long ago indeed. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Bret Michaels, Fired!

It has been a while since I’ve wasted precious time watching Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, but when I heard both Bret Michaels (Poison) and Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) would be contestants, well, I was in. Both had appeared in previous versions of the series, Michaels winning and Snider not. Last time, Michaels went to great lengths to secure his victory, staging a brain hemorrhage just weeks before the finale. That’s good acting Bret! As for Dee, I’m just hoping he doesn’t bring his family into this. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nuclear Assault

It seems to be a fairly regular start to the story of many metal bands: "It began with a firing…" In this week’s case, the story of Nuclear Assault began when New York thrash giants Anthrax fired their bass player, Danny Lilker, who decided to form a new band with a more aggressive approach. His first recruitment into the band that would become Nuclear Assault was vocalist John Connelly, who had previously been a roadie with Anthrax, before rounding out the lineup with guitarist Mike Bogush and drummer Scott Duboys. With the group now complete, they soon recorded a demo which featured some of the songs that would become staples of their future live shows such as, "Hang the Pope" and "Stranded in Hell." They followed the demo with their first live show at the Union Jack in South River, New Jersey, before deciding that Bogush should be replaced, with his position being taken by Anthony Bramante, who made his debut with the band at the legendary L’Amour club in Brooklyn. Nuclear Assault made another change after this performance, when drummer Scott Duboys left the group and was replaced by Glenn Evans, formerly of TT Quick. This new incarnation of the band recorded a second demo entitled, "Live Suffer Die" and increased their profile by performing across the United States.

Their hard work paid off and the quartet signed a multi-album deal with Combat Records, who had previously released the debut album from Megadeth, as well as several records from European bands such as Celtic Frost, Venom and Raven. The first of these albums came in April 1986 under the title, "Game Over." The record was a hit among thrash fans and it earned the group a spot supporting speed metal act Agent Steel and British outfit Atomkraft in Europe, garnering them attention across the Atlantic. Despite their deal with Combat, Nuclear Assault felt that their contract with the label was very constrictive and they left to sign with I.R.S. Records, releasing their sophomore album, and their first for their new label, "Survive" in 1988. The record was a success, reaching number 145 in the Billboard Album Chart and spawning two singles in the form of "Fight to be Free" and the Led Zeppelin cover, "Good Times Bad Times." The commercial success of "Survive" led to the group touring extensively, including performing as the opening act for Californian thrash kings, Slayer, and their own headlining tour of Europe, where they were supported by British thrashers, Acid Reign. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Low Budget Edition

Some videos are made with blue light special budgets while others are made to look cheap or gritty despite pumping in the cash. This week we look at videos from both sides of the monetary track and see if money really matters. More...

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Pit Stories: Fen's Prank Gone Awry

Every Tuesday, Metalunderground.com checks in with bands from around the world to hear their most memorable Pit Stories from live shows. Today we have a story from Vancouver's Fen (not to be confused with the U.K. act) about a band prank backfiring:

Last fall, on a day off from our BC/Alberta tour we climbed a small mountain in Fruitvale. We reached a lookout and Jeff and Taty sat down to enjoy the view of the valley while the rest of us kept bushwhacking to see if there was a higher peak. Along the way Nando scratched his forehead on a branch so we hatched a plan to freak out the others. We came back down to the viewpoint with Sam and I propping Nando up on either side, and there was blood smeared on his forehead. We said he'd fallen and hit his head and he pretended to be dazed. Jeff jumped up and doted over Nando with a terrible look of concern, helping us as we laid him down on the moss. Then we started laughing. Jeff was pissed. Taty said we were shitty actors. It was the classic horror movie intro.

The next day we were in Calgary at Vern's Bar. It was a Tuesday night and we were stoked there was anyone there at all. After we played, it was The Reckless Heroes, a hilariously energetic punk metal band. They flew all around the stage while people just sat and watched. Still pumped from our set, Sam and I started a pit. It maxed out at 5-6 people so there was a ton of room and we were getting some pretty good runs at each other. The bassist kept jumping off the stage and bashing around with us. At the end of the night, loading up gear I noticed Sam was missing. Jeff said, "Didn't you hear, he messed up his foot while moshing."

Right away I was suspicious, thinking Jeff was setting me up as revenge for the shit we'd pulled on the mountain, but I went along with it, helping carry Sam's gear while he sat in the bar with his foot up on a chair and sipping beer. When it was time to leave he walked only on the heel of that foot. It looked pretty painful, but I was paranoid that the second I showed any sympathy, he would start walking normally and Jeff would jump out of the woodwork and call me a sucker for carrying the extra gear. Two days later the foot was turning black and after an x-ray it was officially declared broken. I felt like a jerk for being so suspicious. Sam played the rest of the gigs in a chair in front of his 4x12.

Fen is out with latest album "Of Losing Interest," and you can also check out the music video for "A Long Line" below. For more info on the band, head over to the Fen Facebook profile here, and be sure to check back next week for more Pit Stories. More...

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