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Sunday Old School: Pagan Altar

The worst inspiration in choosing which bands get covered in the Sunday Old School column is always whenever a band member dies. With the sad passing of Pagan Altar vocalist, Terry Jones this past week, it seemed only fitting that we take a look at one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's lesser known, though highly influential bands, who along with contemporaries, Witchfinder General, were a big part of forging the genre we know today as doom metal.

Pagan Altar was founded in 1978 by Terry Jones, along with his brother Alan on guitar and were joined in their venture by Glenn Robinson, Les Moody and Ivor Harper. Somewhat typically for heavy metal bands of their time, they focused on occult themes and dark subject matter, though without being as overtly Satanic as Venom, for example. This original lineup didn't last long and at the beginning of the eighties, Pagan Altar consisted of what is now known as their "classic" lineup, which saw the Jones brothers joined by bassist Trever Portch and Israeli native, John Mizrahi on drums. More...

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Pit Stories: The Show We Weren't Supposed To Play

Time for a new Pit Story for all you rabid show loving metal heads. This week U.K. outfit Bad Guys share the following tale of playing a show they hadn't been invited to play and causing a whole lottta ruckus with the Melvins:

Our first gig was in a crowded chalet at a Butlins holiday resort in Minehead, South West Engerland. It was an early All Tomorrow's Parties festival in 2008 curated by Melvins/Mike Patton and we hadn't been asked to play. So we played anyway.

Sneaking the equipment in, shoving the fold up beds out of the way and inviting the entire drunken festival back to the chalet was the easy part, getting them out without trashing the place was a little trickier. But we'd not planned that far ahead.

We had no songs, just handful of riffs and Stuart sang lyrics from a little notebook he had that looked like a miniature bible. It was cold outside so people started climbing through the windows and it quickly became a packed, sweaty party. Everyone was drunk enough to not notice we didn't have any songs and starting going a little nuts. There was a dude crowd surfing in the kitchenette area and breakfast cereal was being thrown around the lounge/sleeping room, mud was being trampled up the walls, ceiling and television and fist holes started to appear in the thin plasterboard walls.

It all started going really wrong when Jared from the Melvins climbed through the window, standing on the power cable to my amp, ripping it out of the socket and the kitchen table collapsed under the weight of the 7 dudes standing on it. It became a drum - vocal ensemble for a short while after that until security finally swamped the chalet and shut us down, some disgruntled kid head butted a security guard and was being pinned to the bonnet (hood) of a car outside.

The Head of Butlin's slapped a £450 fine on us for rebuilding the chalet and removed our wristbands for the festival. We were back in the festival within the hour and started planning next year’s chalet gig.

The Bad Guys recently dropped a new album titled "Bad Guynaecology," which can be streamed at Bandcamp here or in the player below. More...

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Sunday Old School: Nile

History is a subject which may have bored many people in school, but even those who dozed off during lessons will agree that along with the occult and war, it makes for one of the best topics for heavy metal. Motorhead for example has written several songs about famous wars, as well as an album entitled, "1916," while Iced Earth took things further with a concept album about the American Civil War. Iron Maiden approached the culture of ancient Egypt on their fifth album, "Powerslave," and other bands have touched on it too. But for one band, this wondrous civilisation was to inspire not only their lyrics, but their album titles and even their name. Far away from the Pyramids, in Greensville, South Carolina in fact, this band came to life, under the moniker, Nile.

The group emerged from the remnants of a thrash metal band called Morriah, who achieved success locally and were able to perform some shows with the then emerging death metal champions such as Morbid Angel. After their dissolution in the early nineties, member Karl Sanders decided to form a new, heavier band, joined by bassist and vocalist, Chief Spires and drummer, Pete Hammoura. Their first release came two years after forming, with the 1995 EP, "Festivals of Atonement," which was distributed via their own label, Anubis Records. It circulated strongly and helped them to build up enough of a fan base to support the likes of Obituary and Deicide amongst other death metal giants. More...

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Sunday Old School: Amorphis

When being interviewed a few years back in Tampere, Sakis Tholis of Rotting Christ stated that he believes Finland is now the capital of metal music. Looking at how many bands come from there and how commercially successful the genre is in the country, one could say it’s quite hard to argue with the man. It wasn’t always this way though, Finnish bands had to work hard to build both scenes and reputations and one of the bands who really helped make Finland a metal force was a group from the capital city, Helsinki, who go by the name, Amorphis.

Amorphis was put together in 1990 by drummer and guitarist, Jan Rechberger and Esa Holopainen, both members of the thrash metal outfit, Violent Solution, which struggled on for a while as the duo recruited a former bandmate, Tomi Koivusaari on vocals and guitar, as well as bass player, Oppu Laine. The band put together a demo, "Disment of Soul," the next year, helmed by the Stratovarius guitarist, Timo Tolkki, which was deemed good enough for the band to be offered a worldwide recording deal with Relapse Records. Their debut album was then released in 1992 under the title, "The Karelian Isthmus," receiving some very high praise upon release. It was much more of a solid death metal album than later releases, albeit with some doom influences on display, a style which could also be heard on the demo collection, "Privilege of Evil," which was released a year later. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Low Budget Rock

Unless you make hip hop videos, the days of big budget videos are pretty much gone. This week a couple rock bands release effective videos on a budget. Hip hop videos do rule though: lots of money, cars and women... More...

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Thrashback Thursday: Bind Torture Kill

New York has a reputation worldwide for being hard as nails and producing tough guys, which is something that has been represented in their music throughout the decades. Hip hop is a well known contribution New York has made to music, but their punk, hardcore and metal legacy is certainly the stuff of legends as well, having produced such bands as The Ramones, Agnostic Front and Anthrax to name but a few. Another band who personified what their home was all about, particular in the vocalist's accent, was Long Island's own, Suffocation, probably one of New York's best known death metal bands along with Cannibal Corpse. Their music was unforgiving in its brutality and punished the ears of audiences throughout the nineties until the band split in 1998.

Luckily for fans of the group and the genre, Suffocation reunited in 2003 and a year later released the excellent album, "Souls to Deny." The record helped put them back on the metal map after five years away and in 2006, they solidified that the comeback was for real by releasing a self-titled album. Like their previous efforts, the album was a display of sonic violence and extremes, earning good reviews in nearly every publication and delighting fans with a re-recording of the old track, "Prelude to Repulsion" from their album, "Breeding the Spawn." It also produced two music videos, one for "Abomination Reborn" and one for today's featured song, "Bind Torture Kill."

The song was inspired by the serial killer, Dennis Rader, also known as the "BTK strangler" after his infamous signature. This horrifying subject is captured perfectly in the song, which has a pummeling intro before getting into the grizzly business. Like the majority of Suffocation's catalogue, it's a relentless bulldozer of a song, encapsulating the claustrophobic fear of a victim of violence and aggression that comes with a mindset hellbent on causing destruction. It was a highlight on a solid album and was popular enough that even the History Channel, who then actually made programmes about history, took notice and featured the song in an advertisement for their series on the dark ages. It's an excellent slab of brutal death metal that put any worries about Suffocation not living up to their own blood soaked legacy to rest. More...

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Pit Stories: The Summer Of '89

We've all got fond memories of that one unforgettable show, and for this week's Pit Story, Daemonskald from the Canadian band SIG:AR:TYR shares this tale of seeing Metallica live back in '89:

In the summer of 1989, I was 19 and drove with a group of friends from London, Ontario to the famous Pine Knob Theatre in Michigan to see Metallica on the Justice For All tour. It was a very hot day, and there were 5 of us in a compact car with no air conditioning. Even with the windows rolled down for most of the 3 hour drive, all of us were in muscle shirts and sticking to each other in a horrifying, sweltering mess.

When we arrived, it was like a big football tailgate party in the parking lot with everyone partying it up before the gates opened. One of our guys got very friendly with a girl in the pickup truck parked beside us, and before we knew it, had run off with her into the bushes. Meanwhile, her big, mean-looking boyfriend came back wondering where she had got to. Some of his friends pointed towards our vehicle, and we actually watched him angrily put on brass knuckles and wait for them to come back. The girl and our friend came back separately, and she must of came up with a good excuse because things cooled down and we could stop worrying that we were going to get into a giant brawl before we even got into the venue.

The Cult opened up the show. At one point Ian Astbury seemed to have lost his famous cowboy hat in the crazy crowd. Metallica was amazing, but the one thing I remember most is that the crowd started a giant bonfire in the lawn seats and it just seemed to grow in size as the night went on. Then, hundreds of people started to mosh around the giant fire like some ancient pagan ritual. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen at a concert. Whenever I hear Creeping Death, that memorable day as a teenager in the 80’s always comes to mind.

SIG:AR:TYR will release the "Northen" full-length album - the band's first studio release in five years - later this coming Fall, with more details at this location. More...

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Sunday Old School: Fastway

One of the great things about the internet is that younger headbangers can find all sorts of bands so much easier than they could twenty years. Where once fans may have wondered what happened to certain members of bands, they are now able to find their subsequent or side projects with much greater ease. One such band who achieved success in their time but for a while were swept away featured a very important member of the classic lineup of one of metal’s most important bands, Motorhead, whose guitarist Eddie Clarke would leave for a new group, Fastway.

Fastway was formed in 1983 when "Fast" Eddie Clarke became disillusioned with Motorhead and teamed up with UFO bass player, Pete Way, who had also become disgruntled with his band. They recruited former Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley and Irish singer Dave King. Despite Way being a founding member and half of the group’s namesake, he decided to leave the project early on because he was unable to escape his record deal with Chrysalis Records and instead opted to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band, later forming a new group, Waysted. More...

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Thrashback Thursday: Teacher's Pet

What a band Venom are and what an album, "Black Metal" is. It's a classic, pure and simple. It's credited with spawning an entire sub-genre of metal and was one of the most radical releases of its time, comparable only to Venom's first album, "Welcome To Hell." It cemented Venom's place as the band everyone had to hear and as time has passed, it's become even more vital to the collection of every headbanger. The album's title track is perhaps the most well known, a frenzied blast of energy with an unforgettable hook, but there were other staples on display too, such as regular set closer, "Countess Bathory," which has been covered countless times and is arguably one of the best structured songs on the record. "Buried Alive" was another standout track, notable for the sound of dirt being shoveled on to the microphone at the beginning, while "Leave Me In Hell" was another insanity driven slice of mania, but the song that really stood out to my impressionable, fifteen year old self, was the fifth song on the album, "Teacher's Pet."

The song, as the title crudely suggests, was a departure from the usual Satanic themes and ventured into the other territory Venom were partial to discussing; Sex. They'd dealt with this subject on their debut with, "Red Light Fever," but this time turned their attentions to the fantasies many a schoolboy had in their developing years, penning a tribute to that one hot teacher. Musically, the song is fabulous as well, bordering on camp with the guitar interpretation of "I'm the King of the Castle" before building into another fantastic thrill ride with a catchy chourus. It's one of the most fun songs on the album, as clearly evidenced by the mid-song lapse into the classic English anthem, "Get Ya Tits Out for the Lads," and as a teen listener, was a cheeky number that you had to play for your friends. It's still a good laugh today, as well as being a generally great, fast metal song, and a snapshot of what made Venom so loved. More...

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Pit Stories: Brian Fair Breaks Nose

It's time for another round of Pit Stories. This story comes to us via Matt Garzilli of Sworn Enemy. Brian Fair of Shadows Fall thought he could mosh in during Sworn Enemy and then play a show but he went to the hospital instead. More...

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Sunday Old School: Septicflesh

Greece is a country as fascinating as it is beautiful, though it’s had plenty of problems to contend with over the years, in recent times being one of the countries worst hit by the global financial crisis. Such harshness, as well as a history both violent and cultured, seem to be a perfect place for metal music to be born and thrive, and so it is that this week, we’ll take a look at one of their best known contributions to the field, Septicflesh.

Septic Flesh was formed in the Greek capital city of Athens in 1990 by bassist/vocalist, Spiros Antoniou, with his younger brother Christos Antoniou on guitar, as well as second guitarist Sotiris Vayenas. Nineteen months after coming together, the group released their first demo, "Temple of the Lost Race," which didn't take long to sell out and is now a highly sought after collectable. It was songs from this demo, as well as, "Morpheus (The Dreamlord,") which helped the band grab the attention of Holy Records, who signed the band up and released their debut full length album, "Mystic Places of Dawn" in 1994. The record was co-produced by former Rotting Christ keyboardist, Magus Wampyr and is still considered to be one of the best releases by Septic Flesh, as well as one of the best of the year, a notable feat considering this was the same year Emperor released, "In the Nightshade Eclipse" and Mayhem unleashed, "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas." More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Cruel Intentions

This week new videos from Tom Keifer (Cinderella), Lizzy DeVine (Vains Of Jenna) returns and some good ole boys play an AC/DC classic for our pleasure. More...

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Thrashback Thursday: Ember's Fire

Paradise Lost are truly one of the great names in British heavy metal. When thrash exploded in the eighties, the focus shifted away from British heavy metal for the most part, save for Iron Maiden, Saxon and some underground favourites, and towards the United States, where the majority of the big metal stars have come from since. But there were some innovative, trailblazing names back in the United Kingdom, a select company which along with Napalm Death and Carcass, Paradise Lost has assured themselves a place. The band have released some outstanding albums throughout their entire career, most of the particularly noteworthy coming in the early to mid nineties, two of which, "Gothic" and "Icon," gave a name to a sub-genre we still use today, gothic metal.

Though "Gothic" was released in 1991 and a third album, "Shades of God," came a year after, it was not until the release of "Icon" in 1993 that the term "gothic metal," really came into use, with Paradise Lost being the first band to use the phrase, for seemingly little more reason according to singer, Nick Holmes in a Kerrang! interview, than the fact that traces of Sisters of Mercy could be heard in their music. "Icon" was part of a string of classic Paradise Lost albums, arguably concluding with the following album, "Draconian Times," and as such featured some excellent songwriting, memorable music and continuing changes.

One of the best known songs from the album would probably be the record's opener, "Embers Fire," a wonderful, atmospheric piece which really shone the light on the gothic rock influences the group incorporated. The first few notes are chilling enough, before exploding into a cavernous vibe of darkness, complete with well placed lead guitar displays and a vocal performance which serves as much as a warning as it does a guide to head nodding. The cautionary tone of voice foreboding of an almost unforgettable chourus, featuring confrontational lyrics and a terrifying sense of claustrophobia. The atmosphere is the thing of nightmares, but the song is the stuff of dreams. More...

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Pit Stories: Emmure Ruins A Whole Tour

It's time for another bout of Pit Stories, and this week we find out about how Emmure ruined an entire tour for German band Annisokay (but what goes around comes around, as Emmure also just cancelled a tour due to health issues...). Annisokay shared this tale from the pit:

At a time where things really started rolling with the band, we went to an Emmure show in our hometown. While the rest of our band watched the show from a chilling place in the back, our drummer, who was a huge Emmure fan at this time, went to the first row and was more then excited to mosh to their songs. However when the first song started, something really bad happened to his right foot. He doesn’t really know what, but the pain was horrible.

When he made his way back to us out of the pit, the Emmure set was already half way through. He took of his shoe and his foot was double the normal size. A later visit in the hospital confirmed our worries. He fractured his feet and had to wear a plaster for many, many weeks. A whole tour had to be cancelled, but our drummer learned to play our songs with his left foot only, so the damage to the band was kept relatively small.

However, our own shows usually have a lot of pit action going on, including huge wall of deaths or stage dives even by our own front man Dave. It’s really good that we nearly never heard about any bad injuries that happened to our crowds yet.

The new Annisokay album "Enigmatic Smile" dropped today - April 14th - via Long Branch Records/SPV. Check out a music video off the album below. More...

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Classic Paintings Become Metal Album Covers

Master painters Hieronymus Bosch, John Martin and Jean Delville all have something in common with Metal music: some of their works have become iconic album covers for bands like Morbid Angel, Candlemass and While Heaven Wept, among many others.

Metal Underground and the online art community And Justice For Art present this peculiar collection of albums that mix classic visual imagery with heavy sounds. Check it out and let us know what you think. More...

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Sunday Old School: Watchtower

Progressive metal appears to be one of the longer lasting popular sub-genres over the years, with bands such as Dream Theater and Queensryche selling very well, others like Atheist, Cynic and Fates Warning becoming underground legends and younger acts such as Periphery now making a name for them self in the field. It’s hard to pinpoint a time or which band specifically really launched the genre, but there are those who certainly need to be name checked and acknowledged as an important part of it, one of which would be Watchtower.

The band were formed in Austin, Texas in 1982 by guitarist Billy White and drummer, Rick Colaluca, with Doug Keyser joining soon afterwards on bass and eventually brought in Jason McMaster on vocals. They initially performed covers of bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal such as Raven and Iron Maiden, as well as older heavy rock like Thin Lizzy before working on their own material. They made their recording debut the next year with a contribution to a Texas Hardcore Compilation, in the guise of the song, "Meltdown," which they would later release themselves as a demo, which featured three other tracks. More...

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Pit Stories: The Drunk Drummer Gets Home Aloned

Every time the glory of New Release Tuesday rolls around we also share show stories provided by metal bands from across the globe.

Usually these stories take place right in the pit, but sometimes the shenanigans metal musicians get into aren't constrained to the performance itself. This week Raven shares a tale of accidentally Home Alone-ing the band's drummer at the Wacken festival:

In 1997 we started a European tour with Tank & Hammefall as opening bands. The 1st show was the Wacken festival (which was a good bit smaller in those days). All 3 bands were travelling on one bus...

So, in Hamburg we picked up the backline at some crazy warehouse. Joe went to the bathroom and since no one did a head count.... the guy locked up the place and the bus left without him! We did not notice for about 30 mins, and freaked! Meanwhile Joe is smashing shit up trying to reach someone – the guy finally heard him before he left... and stuck him in a cab (about 400 euro) along with a bottle of whisky!

So our very drunk drummer turned up just in time for a 10 hour fight with the organizers who wanted us to play in this tent while our opening bands played the main stage....but that's another story...

Raven's new album "ExtermiNation" (reviewed here) is set for release on April 27th (Europe) and April 28th (USA) via SPV/Steamhammer Records. Check out a clip taken from the release below. More...

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Sunday Old School: Gillan

One of the great things about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is that not only did it bring the spotlight to new, young bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Venom, amongst many others, but it sparked a renewed interest in some of the older guard and their outputs. Judas Priest were one band whose popularity was boosted higher than ever when they released "British Steel" in the glorious year for metal that was 1980, and the same thing happened to Ozzy Osbourne when he released his debut studio effort, "Blizzard of Ozz," five months later. Someone else who found his musical endeavours reaching a young head banging fan base was (then) former Deep Purple singer, Ian Gillan, who launched his own eponymous band in 1978.

Ian Gillan decided to form the band after becoming bored of his jazz fusion outfit, The Ian Gillan Band, retaining only keyboardist Colin Towns and recruiting new blood in bassist John McCoy, drummer Liam Genockery, and guitarist Steve Byrd. That year, the group recorded their first album, a self-titled effort, but found they were only able to get a record deal in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This debut was very much steeped in progressive rock, a style which had been almost obliterated by the ruling punk scene at the time.

Though it wasn't officially released in the United Kingdom until almost fifteen years later, it still sold well there via imports, helped along by positive reviews that those journalists who had heard it gave the album and an appearance at that year’s Reading Festival. The interest was great enough to earn the band a European deal with Acrobat Records though before a second album could be recorded, the group brought in new drummer, Mick Underwood and guitarist, Bernie Torme. Torme was to be a massive part of Gillan, essentially changing their sound towards a more heavy metal style and culminating in the excellent 1979 album, "Mr. Universe," which peaked at number eleven in the British albums chart.

Gillan “Mr. Universe” (Live 1981)

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Vince Neil’s Blue Cup

Vince Neil has once again become a YouTube sensation or punch line depending on your viewpoint. This week Neil sang the National Anthem at a Las Vegas Outlaws inaugural football game. (Special guest surprise at 7:35…) More...

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Sunday Old School: Running Wild

Disclaimer: MetalUnderground.com does not support piracy of any kind and strongly encourages readers to buy their music and not plunder the seven seas. We do however, fully endorse any metal band who wants to base their image or lyrics around pirates, and there are a few. Pirates have become a popular topic amongst people over the past twenty years, thanks in part to successful franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Monkey Island games, so it’s no surprise that the drunken, debauched world of piracy found its way to the drunken, debauched world of heavy metal. It did so before either of the aforementioned franchises in fact and before bands such as Alestorm and Swashbuckle performed under the Jolly Roger, and most people would give full credit for the invention of pirate metal to a band from Hamburg, which were appropriately named, Running Wild.

The seeds of the band were sown in 1976 when members of the bands Granite Hearts and Grober Unfug began jamming together, eventually decided to form a new band with a new name. It seemed to be a relatively lengthy search as they didn’t settle on the moniker, Running Wild, until 1979, taking its name from the Judas Priest song of the same name. They released their first demos in 1981 and soldiered on for a few years this way, certain that their hard work would pay off. As luck would have it, it did, and they were eventually picked up by Noise Records, who released their debut album, "Gates to Purgatory" in 1984. Lyrically, the album was based more in fantasy and Satanic themes than the historical topics they would later adopt, though the record did feature a song entitled, "Genghis Khan." More...

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