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Sunday Old School: Lawnmower Deth

Self-parody has been something of a tradition in heavy metal since the early 1980s when such television shows as "The Comic Strip Presents… Bad News" and films like, "This Is Spinal Tap" made fun of the lyrical content and fashion in heavy metal. Subsequently, some bands were formed to solely mock the genre, even if they were metal fans themselves. One of the best examples of such a group is Lawnmower Deth, a thrash metal outfit from Ravenshead in Nottinghamshire, England. The band was formed in 1987 by Chris Flint and Joseph Whitaker along with School mates Pete Lee, Steve Nesfield and Chris Parkes, who all took up bizarre and comedic stage names such as Concorde Faceripper (Nesfield,) Qualcast "Koffee Perkulator" Mutilator (Lee) and Explodin' Dr Jaggers Flymo (Flint,) amongst others. They made their debut recording as part of a split album with Metal Duck and named their side of the record, "Mower Liberation Front."

The band’s side of the album was surprisingly well received and the positive responses allowed them to record a full length studio album, which came in the form of 1990’s. "Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth." As well as their own songs, the band became known for their satirical take on other artist’s hits such as "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds and perhaps most famously, the Kim Wylde smash, "Kids In America," which Wylde later claimed to enjoy. The album was well received by fans with a sense of humour and a second album, "Return Of The Fabulous Metal Bozo Clowns" followed in 1992. It was around this time that they began to produce music videos, which like the music, were tongue in cheek in nature and humourous. More...

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Pit Stories: Adding Insult To Injury

We've been chatting with bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite or most infamous mosh pit stories from metal shows. For this week's edition, Josh Middleton of Sylosis talks about the crazy antics at Sonisphere and how a festival goer decided to add insult to injury with a fallen metal fan.

There are usually so many crazy things that when you're put on the spot you can't think of any! We've had some really brutal walls of death and circle pits at the festivals we did last year and have some cool footage on our youtube. This is pretty gross but at last years Sonisphere we were playing and some of our friends in another band saw these jocks all off their faces on drugs. One of the dudes fell over and one of his friends just decided to piss all over him...pretty weird. You get all kinds of weirdos at festivals.

Sylosis is fresh off the release of sophomore album "Edge of the Earth," recently dropped a music video for the song "Empyreal," and will be headed to the Brutal Assault festival later this summer. To hear what the band had to say about the album and the video clip, you can check out our recent interview with Josh here.

Feel free to share your favorite mosh pit story below, and check back next Tuesday to get even more Pit Stories from metal shows.

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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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Sunday Old School: Anvil

By now, more or less every heavy metal fan knows the story of Anvil, thanks largely to the hit documentary movie, "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil." Whether it was the film or the music that made you a fan though, it's undeniable that Anvil are one of the most influential North American bands in the history of heavy metal. The seeds of the group were sewn back in 1973 when guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudrow and drummer Rob Reiner began jamming together, being influenced by the seventies heavy metal of Cactus and Black Sabbath. By 1978 the duo had formed a complete lineup which also featured guitarist Dave Allison and bassist Ian Dickson and Anvil was born.

The group released their debut album, "Hard 'n' Heavy" in 1981, initially under the moniker, "Lips," though it would later be released under the Anvil name. After the record's release, Motorhead mainman Lemmy invited Kudrow to become the band's new guitarist, filling in for the recently departed "Fast" Eddie Clarke, but the invitation was declined. Although it might not have been the wisest move financially, the next Anvil album would prove to be an underground classic in eighties metal, emerging in the form of "Metal On Metal" in 1982. The album included the superb title track as well as the Anvil live staples, "Mothra" and "666." The album was also a commercial success in the neighboring United States, where it reached number 91 on the Billboard album charts. Despite the success of the record, the band found follow up fame elusive, due in part to their restrictive record deal, which denied them the opportunity to sign with larger companies.

Although Anvil eventually broke free to sign with Metal Blade Records, they were still unable to regain the popularity which "Metal On Metal" seemed to promise. A slew of albums, including live records, were released throughout the eighties, nineties and 2000's but all with practically no success, and in some cases, almost no response, leaving the band to sometimes play to virtually empty venues. It was during the preparation for their thirteenth album that their biggest adventure would begin, as an old fan from the United Kingdom, who had since gone on to become a screenwriter, decided to make a documentary on the group. The documentary saw the band embark on a European tour with poor to mixed results, struggle to finance their new album, "This Is Thirteen" and eventually take to the stage in Japan to an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The film breathed a new life into the band, as audiences worldwide witnessed the struggles that come with the dedication to heavy metal, from mortgage problems to homelessness. Ever since then, the band has been performing regularly, appearing at such prestigious events as the Download Festival in England and filming a cameo for the movie, "The Green Hornet." Last week however, the band finally unleashed their highly anticipated new studio album, "Juggernaut Of Justice," which was released through The End Records on May 10th More...

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Pit Stories: Getting Up Front For Slayer

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week Jeff of Hull goes all the way back to his teens to tell a story from a Meshuggah and Slayer show:

Back in my mid-teens I was lucky enough, or unlucky enough, depending on how you look at it to live in the Philly area. In the decrepit streets of this city you will find ye ole' Electric Factory. It just so happened that on one particular day Meshuggah was opening up for Slayer so all around a fucking TITs show. The show began with the standard philly practice of heavy drinking and passing out on nitris in the parking lot. One van had about 12 tanks in it but that's another story. After chugging a handful of beers and numerous blabbering conversations in a super low toned nitris voice I walked into the venue.

Meshuggah eventually went on. It was awesome! But that is not where the story is... While waiting for Slayer to go on I found myself way in the back of the club because, well, that's where the beers are. I don't know about you but if you are going to see Slayer you need to get as close as humanly possible and go bat-shit crazy. So how does one get through a packed house of muscle bound freaks, biker dudes, and general Philly shit-heads, especially all of whom are just waiting for the moment when Slayer hits the stage. Here's how, crowd mother fucking surfing.

I realize this is normally an act done properly while a band is actually playing or if you are into getting touched on every inch of your body by strangers, mostly dude strangers. I was not into any of that but Slayer I was. So FUCK IT. I patted the guy in front of me on the shoulder. He turned his head, I pointed up with as sincere a face as I could make. Without hesitation his hands folded below his waist, I jump on and here goes my god damn ride. Most people would turn around and show signs of absolute confusion. Again, one van, 12 tanks. There were a few moments I felt violated but I guess that's the price you pay. I was almost dropped about 8 times due to unsuspecting dudes high as fuck or tripping on that weeks colored gel tap. Luckily for me I am a lanky twig of a man (that's what she said) so I was easily caught by some random person who some how cared about someone besides themselves, weird, doesn't fit in at a Slayer show I know. But in the end I MADE IT! Front row! Right in the face of it all. Within landing there no more than 30 seconds went by and BOOM! Slayer hits the stage, I hit the closest person I see and thus the mosh-pit is born.

Hull has been putting the finishing touches on their upcoming new album since tearing it up at SXSW as part of a tour with Batillus. Check out their tour diary here. The band's sophomore full-length will be co-produced by Brett Romnes (who played drums on the "Viking Funeral" EP) and mixed by Billy Anderson (Sleep, High On Fire, Neurosis, EHG, Melvins et al). The record is slated for release this summer with another bout of live dates to follow.

Check back next Tuesday as we share more Pit Stories.

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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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Sunday Old School: Winter

Death metal is a sub-genre that has widely expanded its definition since first receiving this stylistic tag. From the severely distorted guitar tones to unrecognizable low growls and blast beats, death metal has always been a style of extremes. Arguably, death metal’s extremeness is untouchable, especially in the area of paces.

During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, bands were competing for the title of fastest band on the planet. Some death metal groups took a 90-degree turn. Instead of playing 500-notes per song, these groups fleshed out just a few, monstrous chords. By combining the harsh sounds of death metal with the slovenly tempos of doom a new category surfaced, death/doom. In turn, an even slower and more distorted form grew out of this style, funeral doom. Winter was one of the bands that spawned this metal hybrid.

Winter’s unique apocalyptic vision first appeared in 1988. The NYC-area band released its first and only full-length “Into Darkness” in 1990 via Future Shock Records. Nuclear Blast picked up the record in 1992 and released their “Servants of the Warsmen” video on the “Death is Just the Beginning” VHS compilation. This track seemed out of place. It’s languid tempos were like listening to the other bands (Hypocrisy, Master, Brutality, Macabre, etc.) in slow motion. Being the oddball in a crowd is not always anathema, though, because whether viewers liked it or not, this track made an impression.

Winter definitely made an impact on doom metal’s deathly offspring. Their down-tempo compositions influenced funeral doom and drone styles. In order to confirm this statement, I contacted two musicians who feel “Into Darkness” is a classic recording.

Patrick Bruss plays in several death metal bands including Ribspreader, Crypticus and Tombstones. Also, he has mixed and mastered numerous artists such as Acid Witch, Cianide, Cardiac Arrest and Impetigo.

Greg Anderson is a figurehead in the area of extremely slow metal. Anderson has played in numerous groups including Sunn O(((, Goatsnake, Thorr’s Hammer and Burning Witch. He is co-owner of Southern Lord Records.

Both artists agree that “Into Darkness” is a classic album. “Winter,” states Bruss, “was way ahead of the times. The album is especially great for being so un-trendy. In a time when everyone wanted to play fast and technical, these guys were all about mood and a sense of dread…I think bands like this don't set-out to make statements, they just make the music that comes naturally to them while ignoring what's popular. That, in itself, is a great statement… It definitely helped to create a new style of Doom.”


Greg Anderson saw something different in “Into Darkness,” too. Winter’s style was untypical from everything Anderson had heard at the time of discovery. The record influenced him as a musician.

“When I heard that record in the mid ‘90s there weren’t a lot of bands playing in that style. There are only a handful of bands that contributed to my musical perversion (laughs) and playing at the time—Eyehategod, St. Vitus, Trouble and bands like that. Winter was different because they had a punk and hardcore edge, but they had low, growling vocals, which was something the bands I mentioned didn’t really have. They were like a more punk version of Celtic Frost with some death metal vocals. It was really a unique sound at that time. I thought they were amazing!

Anderson continues, “This record was definitely an influence when I played with Thorr’s Hammer (mid ‘90s). We were into anything slow and heavy that we could get our hands on. Back then, there weren’t a lot of releases like that. Those bands were very underground and obscure. Any of that stuff was definitely an influence.”

“Into Darkness” not only inspired Anderson to up the ante on his down-tempo arrangements, he believes it may have also inspired some of his artists on Southern Lord. “Sure, they definitely influenced some of the bands I worked with, but at that time, they were very unique. Nowadays, there are a million bands doing that style. At that time, there were only a handful of bands doing that.”

“Into Darkness” did have its faster moments. These came as punky, Celtic Frost dirges. As Anderson notes above, these elements were part of what made the record so unique. Bruss concurs, “The up-tempo parts sound almost exactly like Napalm Death on syrup. How can you not love that? The slowest D-Beats ever!”

Hanging notes and lethargic-moving kick drums create a mood in its own, but “Into Darkness” contained layers of instrumentation, some working together, some apart. Guitar effects and organs bring trippy elements to the mix. Greg Anderson informed me that the group used a Hammond B3 organ, which a session jazz organist played. Using any type of keys, piano, synth or organ was a novel concept at that time. “It’s really cool because a lot of bands at that time weren’t doing that kind of thing, either,” states Anderson.

From the production to the album’s noisy aspects, Bruss likes the album’s over all vibe. “The noises add a great Sludge element to it while still being ambient.” He hails from the Studio Sunlight death metal side of engineering, so he could not say the production influenced him as a professional. However, he likes the album’s production. “I think it's spot-on. It's grimy, sludgy, & heavy, but also clear. A great production is one you don't notice over the music and this definitely fits the bill.”

With the exception of sludge masters Eyehategod, at the time he discovered Winter, Greg Anderson’s taste were more towards the traditional side of doom—St. Vitus, The Obsessed and Trouble. Bruss mentioned a couple of funeral doom bands from that era that he saw, along with Winter, as pioneering doom/death acts. “They [Winter], along with Thergothon and Disembowelment formed the Unholy Trinity of early death/doom and all three are essential albums that helped define a genre.”

About a year-and-a-half ago, Greg Anderson received a call from Winter. He said he was “flattered” and “blown away” by the fact that they called him to do the reissue because he’s a big fan of the record. As this article establishes, he felt “Into Darkness” is a “pretty important record.” He wanted to take a different approach with this release, though, because it felt it did not receive the treatment it deserved.

“The thing about that record is every time someone put it out it had shoddy packaging. Labels didn’t seem to put a lot of care into it, so we decided to give it a nice packaging. It comes with an 18-page booklet, flyers and liner notes. They were really hands-on in creating the packaging for this, which is something that we really tried to do. To me, this is the definitive version of this release, especially the vinyl. It was originally released on very limited vinyl. This time it comes with a gatefold jacket and a fanzine-style booklet. I wanted to create a nice, archival piece for this album.”

Winter reunited in 2010, apparently just to play shows such as Roadburn Festival 2011 and a recent Roadburn warm-up gig. Southern Lord will release the album April 12, 2011. Read the review of “Into Darkness.”

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Giving Back

Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) is admitting that not only did he fall off the wagon in 2008, but fellow toxic twin, Joe Perry also joined him while they attempted to record a new album. The way Tyler tells it is that Joe was snorting so many prescription drugs he was unable to play guitar. Note that contrary to rumors, snorting non-prescription drugs does not enhance playing guitar…

With eight out of thirteen tracks completed, Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row) is expected to have a new album released in the Summer of 2011. Bach is promising rock and roll with clean vocals and lots of screaming. All signs are pointing to Sebastian putting his “country music” years behind him. It appears everyone has agreed to just ignore this and make believe it never happened and that’s fine with me...

After attending classes and making a donation to M.A.D.D., Vince Neil (Motley Crue) is fully clear of his DUI charge. Neil will have the weekend to rest and then appear back in court on Monday for battery and disorderly conduct charges. For those keeping track it’s: Vince Neil 2, Lindsay Lohan 2 for number of court appearances in 2011. The good news is both are below their annual average, the bad news is we are only one-third through the year… More...

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Pit Stories: Broken Nose(s) In The Pit

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week new The Accused frontman Kevin Cochneuer tells us about not just one broken nose sustained in the mosh pit, but two:

I was at The Showbox Market venues here in Seattle catching a Motorhead/C.O.C show, this had to of been like 5-6 yrs ago. I'm rock'n out and going totally crazy in the pit, anyone who has been to a Motorhead show knows that the pit can get pretty crazy! So I'm bebopping around and decide that I'm going to run the other way only to slam face first into the top of some guys head! Instantly knowing I broke my nose! I made my way out of the pit, which seemed to be a mile long at this point, and headed to the restroom to see the damage. Sure enough it was broken. My nose was totaled and hanging out on the right side of my face. As I'm standing there assessing the damage' a passer buy walks in and asks " Hay man are you okay!" To his reply I grabbed my nose and with a quick tug forced it back in to a seemingly normal position. With a gush of blood I said " No problems here buddy!" Then like a true soldier or a total idiot I went back into the pit!

But wait, there's more! Just last year I was at another show with a friend of mine. I want to say it was Overkill at the El Corazon in Seattle and we were both in the pit. Word to the wise just because you have a friend in the pit does not mean its any safer! Okay so I'm rock'n out like usual and my "friend" comes up from behind and pins my arms to my side. Now I'm helpless to any oncoming battery from the nearest caveman. Sure enough, BANG! We get slammed and hit the ground. With my face smashed against the floor and my buddy flailing on top of me like a turtle on his back once again my nose was broken! I know now that if I want to go in to a pit that I stay clear of my friends and keep my head down because you never know who or what is going to come around a brake your face!

I was actually caught on video in a pit at the American Carnage tour that happened last year! You can view it here!!! [-ed: or below] I'm the big guy with the shaved head clearly dominating the center of the pit and yes the long haired guy that is standing next to me is the "friend" from the Overkill show!

That is my pit stories! I hope you enjoy the and I hope you learn something from them!

The Accused recently posted a new music video for the track "Hemline," which appears on the band's 2009 album "The Curse Of Martha Splatterhead."

In addition to new frontman Kevin Cochneuer (previously unannounced), the band added drummer Warren A. Pease earlier this year.

Check back next Tuesday as we share more Pit Stories.

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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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Sunday Old School: Samson

Last month we took a look at Wolfsbane and saw what singer Blaze Bayley was up to before (and eventually after) he joined Iron Maiden. This week we take a look at what another of Iron Maiden’s singers did before he joined the band, this time it’s world renowned and current vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the band, Samson. Samson was formed in 1977, a time when punk had exploded in the United Kingdom and for a brief time, long haired, hard rock and heavy metal bands became rather unpopular. Nevertheless, the band continued to hone their craft and in 1979, they released their debut album, "Survivors," which featured guitarist and bane namesake, Paul Samson handling the vocal duties in a lineup which also included bassist Chris Aylmer and iconic drummer, Thunderstick. However, shortly after the release of the record, Samson stepped away from the microphone to make way for the band’s new vocalist "Bruce Bruce," better known today as Bruce Dickinson.

With Dickinson now in tow, the band re-released "Survivors" to feature their new vocalist and soon released their second album, “Head On.” The album proved to be a successful one for Samson, reaching number 34 in the UK album charts and earning rave reviews from critics. The record is also notable for the song, "Thunderburst," which was co-written with Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris and would appear the next year on the Iron Maiden album, "Killers," in the guise of, "The Ides Of March." Despite the success of the record however, the group soon found themselves being booked on mismatched tours as a result of poor management and after one more album, "Shock Tactics," which featured the charting single, "Riding With The Angels," Bruce Dickinson left the band to join Iron Maiden, after Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood got talking to Dickinson following Samson’s performance at the Reading festival in 1981 (which was later released as a live album in 1990.)

The band then soldiered on, recruiting new vocalist Nicky Moore. The change in singer was not without it’s rewards, as the subsequent album, "Before the Storm," yielded two singles, "Losing My Grip" and "Red Skies," which were able to hit the British singles charts. Unfortunately this was to be the last taste of chart success Samson would receive, as their later releases were overshadowed by other heavy metal stars of the time, not least Iron Maiden, and the New Wave Of British Heavy movement had begun to grind to a halt. Although the band hadn’t released an album since 1993, they never officially disbanded, but were effectively forced to do so in 2002, when guitarist Paul Samson tragically passed away after a battle with cancer. Five years later, bass player Aylmer would also pass away, effectively ending any speculation there may have been regarding a Samson reunion of any kind. Nowadays, the band are often looked upon favourably by NWOBHM fans as one of the best of it’s day. They released some truly spectacular music and stood out amongst many of the other groups, not least for locking their drummer in a cage at any given opportunity. More...

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Pit Stories: Stage Dive Splat

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week Rafa Martinez of Black Cobra shares a story from their Japanese tour a couple years ago and has some video evidence to go along with it:

It was September of 2007 and it was Black Cobra's first tour in Japan. We had just released our second album as a split with Eternal Elysium and we were touring with them in support of the release. It was the third day of the tour and the crowds had been great but nothing like we were about to see.

That day we played in the city of Kawasaki which lies in the outskirts of Tokyo. The crowd was going absolutely bananas. There was a kid in the front row that looked like he was having a seizure. We were playing the last song of the set and it was almost the end of the song when all of a sudden someone from the crowd climbed through the barricade onto one of the PA speakers and stage dove only to find that no one in the crowd noticed his audacious acrobatics... Everyone was too busy pitting so no one caught him and the dude flew head first right through the eye of the slam pit on to the dance floor. Splat!

Check out a video of the events below:

Black Cobra will record a new album in 2011; stay tuned for more info. In the meantime, you can check out some of their past music on the band's MySpace player.

Check back next Tuesday as we share more Pit Stories.

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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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Sunday Old School: W.A.S.P.

In 1982, when Blackie Lawless put together his band W.A.S.P. (original members: Blackie Lawless, Rik Fox, Randy Piper, and Tony Richards ) there was an immediate buzz over what did the band name/acronym W.A.S.P. represent? From We Are Sexual Perverts to We Are Satan’s People, only the We Are was agreed upon. It was also agreed that Lawless was clearly a marketing genius. The answer is if you go to the dead wax area on W.A.S.P.’s first LP. You will see “we are sexually perverted” inscribed.

The band recorded their first song titled “Animal (F**ck Like a Beast),” which would later be the first song on their self-titled album W.A.S.P. This track would be pulled from the distribution so stores in the U.S. would carry it. It was clear from the start that this band would create and live a unique identity. If fellow Sunset Strip bands like Ratt were going to be about sex and hookers, and Motley Crue was going to be about drugs and strippers, well, then W.A.S.P. decided early on they were going to be about raping hookers and strippers who are on drugs.

In addition to groupies and cutters, their music also got the attention of the Washington D.C. based Parents Music Research Center (P.M.R.C.). A group of up-tight suits led by Tipper Gore declaring war on sex, violence, and vulgar musical lyrics, the basis for their argument was The Filthy Fifteen, a list of songs demonstrating their mission. In their eyes, this list (and not Tipper Gore’s pant suits) was destroying society. W.A.S.P.’s “Animal” was on the list with fellow heavy metal acts Motley Crue and Twisted Sister as well as pop stars Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton. Sheena Easton was on the list for a song named “Sugar Walls,” which I’m guessing pissed off Lawless because he didn’t come up with this song title first. Due to the “list,” the band received death and bomb threats from followers of the P.M.R.C. Blackie Lawless was even shot at twice. That is one more time than Ronald Reagan was shot at. Looking back, many forget that W.A.S.P. was a part of the The Filthy Fifteen, but they were part of it, and at the time pretty proud of this. More...

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Pit Stories: Poster Pranks And An Awkward Ending

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week Teloch of Nidingr, and now also of Mayhem, sent in a pit story along with some photo evidence:

Ok, this was back when I was doing guitars in 1349. We played a festival here in Europe; I don't remember what festival it was, but I'm guessing this was in 2007. Celtic Frost played the same festival, and we were just back from doing a tour with them in North America, so we got to know them pretty well. As soon as CF started their gig at this festival I was starting to get drunk, hence I was having a good time and wanted to raise some hell.

Together with Mustis from Dimmu Borgir, I went to the production office and got some tools to work with. I ended up with a poster with a message to Franco their drummer, as I also did a couple of times when we did the tour with them. I think one of the posters read: "Franco, I have AIDS," which I was waving around in the pit, hiding my face so that none of the guys in CF could see who the idiot with the poster was.

At this time I took it a step further; since I was playing at the festival I had a backstage pass. So I went up onstage, started to mosh around the Celtic guys with the poster taped around my body. For the finale, I stagedived head first with my hands to my side, headbutting at least two other heads before I landed, fainted, woke up with no shoes, and had to take the van back with Celtic Frost to our hotel after the gig. Tom G. did not seem very happy with my stunt, but I for one, had a good time.

Photo evidence after the jump: More...

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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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Sunday Old School: Madball

What did you get up to when you were twelve years old? Did you play video games at home, play sports outside or go fishing with your dad? Whatever it was, chances are you weren’t in a hardcore band. Not a lot of people can say that, but Freddy Cricien can. Freddy Cricien is the younger half brother of Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret and would frequently join the band onstage to perform The Animals’ song, "It’s My Life." Eventually, Cricien was encouraged to start his own band, which he did in 1988 at the age of twelve with Miret on bass, Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma and drummer Will Shepler. Naming the band, Madball, their music mostly comprised of unused Agnostic Front material and they quickly released their first demo, "Ball Of Destruction" in 1989. After adding a second guitarist in the form of Matt Henderson and spending a few more years performing, the band finally released another record in 1992 entitled, "Droppin’ Many Suckers."

Following Miret’s departure, Cricien recruited a friend of his, Hoya Roc to become the band’s new bassist and shortly afterwards, the group found themselves signed to Roadrunner Records. Through the label, Madball released their full length album, "Set It Off" in 1994, which enabled the band to tour not only across America, but also in Europe, performing at such events as Dynamo Open Air, as well as appearing in the documentary movie NYHC in 1995. They continued to expand their fanbase the next year when they released "Demonstrating My Style," a record which features the song, "Pride (Times Are Changing,)" arguable their most well known song along with the title track from "Set It Off." Two more albums, "Look My Way" and "Hold It Down" were released in 1998 and 2000 respectively, both of which received good reviews from critics and were met with positive feedback from fans, before the band decided to call it a day in early 2001.

The split didn’t last long however as Cricien and Hoya resurrected Madball late the next year, writing new music and touring internationally. Although the group came back in 2002, it would take until 2005 before they released a new full length album (though an EP entitled, NYHC was released in 2004,) which came in the shape of "Legacy." Since the release of the record, Madball have continued to perform all over the world, cementing their place as one of the true greats of the New York hardcore scene, easily ranking highly with Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All. They’ve also been releasing new music, with "Infiltrate The System" hitting the shelves in 2007, before their most recent record, "Empire" was released last year. The Madball name is now proving to transcend genres and the band has become rather popular amongst the New York hip-hop scene, being referenced by the likes of Ill Bill and Q Unique, not least in part to Cricien's own hip-hop outputs under the name Freddy Madball, the moniker with which he released his solo album, "Catholic Guilt." More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: The Tax Man

News wires across the globe were quick to pick up the report that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne owed a reported 1.7 million dollars in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The Osbourne's reportedly have paid this debt that was, in their words, news to them. It’s too bad because that is obviously a lot of money. Other ways they could have spent 1.7 million dollars:

Sharon could slip the 1.7 to Donald Trump as a political “donation” in hopes of becoming his running mate for the next Presidential election…

Pay for a billboard over Hollywood’s Sunset strip and hire Randy “Macho Man” Savage to promote Jani Lane’s new EP. Lane has a new EP coming soon that will be a free download with a choice to pay. Let’s make this happen. Lane and Savage side by side over West Hollywood. Lane needs to get back to making music and Savage needs to get back to selling consumer products. How does this benefit Ozzy? Probably doesn’t, but let’s assume Sharon has a crush on Randy Savage, if so, call it an early Christmas present. For more information go to www.stepintoaslimjim.com... More...

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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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Sunday Old School: Pentagram

It’s amazing that some bands can have such a massive influence on a genre yet still remain unheard of by many music lovers. In this case, we’re talking about Virginia’s, Pentagram, who had an effect on the doom metal genre almost as great as Black Sabbath’s. The band was formed in 1971 by singer Bobby Liebling and drummer Geof O’Keefe, who were looking to form a band in the vein of some of the then recent underground sensations like Black Sabbath, UFO and Sir Lord Baltimore. The two found themselves going through a number of musicians all year until their bassist at the time, Vincent McAllister, switched to guitars and they recruited a new bassist in Greg Mayne and this lineup, known to fans as their "classic" lineup began rehearsing together on Christmas Day 1971. The group continued to write and perform material, but found their attempts at gaining major label interest were thwarted each time and the band eventually broke up with only a few demo recordings to their name, on New Year’s Eve 1975, two weeks after Bobby Liebling and his girlfriend were arrested.

In 1980, Liebling became the singer for a band named Death Row, which featured drummer Joe Hasselvander, who would later joing British heavy metal trio Raven, amongst others. After a while of performing together and including old Pentagram numbers in their set, the group decided to adopt the Pentagram name and much like the original incarnation of the band, found themselves struggling for years for a record deal. However, this time, their patience was rewarded when they decided to self-release an album in 1985 and begin to earn recognition from a wider section of heavy metal fans. Although the album was self-titled, it would eventually become known as "Relentless," after it was re-released through Peaceville Records in 1993 and is more commonly known by this mantle today. Their second album, "Day Of Reckoning" would follow in 1987, being released through Napalm Records this time. However, tensions rose once again and Pentagram called it a day soon afterwards. A quick reunion followed in 1993, just in time for the band to release their third album, "Be Forewarned" before they split up again.

Once more however, Pentagram would return, this time as a duo comprised of Liebling and Hasselvander and the two released two more albums, "Review Your Choices" in 1999 and "Sub-Basement" in 2001, before Hasselvander left. Rather than letting the band rest once more however, Liebling recruited a brand new lineup and they released, "Show ‘em How" in 2004, which featured only three original tracks, the rest of the record comprising of re-recorded older material. After the album’s release, the band went very quiet and was assumed to have broken up once again, before Liebling confirmed in 2008 that Pentagram were set to return with another new lineup. This time, the reunion shows went down very well with fans and the band found themselves being booked for more shows. After contacting many labels, the group finally found a new home when they signed to Metal Blade Records, through which they will release their new album, "Last Rites," their first in seven years, on April 12th. More...

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