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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 3. Emperor

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it, and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

The Emperor is dead, long live the Emperor! Or at least that’s how the rallying cry goes these days, and with good reason. Bands like Immortal and Marduk may still be churning out albums in our current decade, but if there is one name synonymous with black metal, it is Emperor. In honor of black metal history month, we previously looked at two bands that influenced early black metal (Sodom and King Diamond), and now we’ll delve into the heart of the subject with a band that represents the core ideals and sounds of the genre.

Despite having only recorded four main studio albums, the last of which came out a full decade ago, Emperor is still one of the most widely known, widely respected, and widely requested black metal bands in existence. The group of kids from Norway who became Emperor probably had no idea what they were going to eventually birth when they started putting together rasping screams and freezing cold atmosphere. Emperor has left a lasting mark on the world of extreme metal, and not just for fans of Norwegian black metal. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: The White Fox

Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue, Sixx A.M.) is looking for a new rock band to mentor and sign. Sixx has even put out the email address: Nikki@sixxsense.com for anyone to contact him. I’ve created three email drafts, but stopped short of sending each because I’m unable to craft a message without referencing his jumpsuit craze during the Theatre of Pain years… More...

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Pit Stories: Ranch Bowl Rafter Party

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week our Pit Story comes from Alex Oden of Black Epiphany and Mortiferous Scorn. Alex shared the following tale of fans taking the party just a bit too far at the Ranch Bowl in Omaha:

I think the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in concert was at this club in Omaha called the Ranch Bowl. I’m on stage and I look up and there were kids jumping on stage running around and diving off. At one point there must have been ten or fifteen kids on stage running into us and everything on stage.

I had to guard my amp and guitars from them while still trying to play music. Finally some security got up there and started getting the majority of the fans off the stage. Then towards the end of that same show I looked out into the middle of the mosh pit and see a guy hanging from the rafters on the ceiling. The Ranch Bowl in Omaha was by far my favorite place to play.

Black Epiphany is currently in the process of recording a new full-length album. You can also download the band's "Mocking the Dead" album for free at this location. Alex Oden also recently conducted an interview with Metalunderground.com, which can be found here.

Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Egypt

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be shedding some light on a few quality underground bands in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week we'll be delving into the Egyptian metal scene.

Egypt has long been a subject for many internationally renowned bands, such as Dio, Mercyful Fate, and Symphony X, and with acts like Nile being well known for utilizing Egyptian mythology in their lyrical themes.

Over the past few weeks, Egypt has become a media hot spot due to current events inspired by the recent Tunisian revolution. For two weeks, protesters have been retaliating against the 30 year regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, demanding his immediate dismissal. It all finally came to an end on February 11th, to the sound of millions of Egyptians cheering for a new era of democracy.

The country's metal scene has been active since the early 90s. While it tends to face controversy from mainstream media and traditionalists; it still manages to progress and offer a diverse line up of bands, playing a variety of sub-genres.

We thought with all that, it's time we begin digging into the Egyptian metal scene to see what it has to offer.

Scarab

Originally founded in 2001. Scarab (formerly known as HATESUFFOCATION) have been one of the most active bands in the Egyptian metal scene. Scarab is one of the country's veteran acts, known for their crushing mix of technical death metal and defiant lyrics.

Back in 2009, Scarab released their debut full length album, "Blinding The Masses," through Osmose Productions, and the follow-up to 2007's EP, "Valley of The Sandwalkers." 2009 also saw the band tour outside Egypt, performing for the second time in the UAE (Dubai Desert Rock Festival) and for the first time in Germany (With Full Force Festival).

Scarab is currently recording its second full length album, titled "The Afterlife Illusions," scheduled for a late 2011 release.

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2. King Diamond

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

It seems every genre of music has it’s great storytellers. Country music has Johnny Cash, folk rock has Bob Dylan, Hip-Hop has Slick Rick and heavy metal? We have King Diamond. King Diamond, (born Kim Bendrix Petersen in Copenhagen, Denmark,) and his image have become one of the iconic staples of metal music, being one of the first heavy metal performers to popularise the black and white face paint which is so common today, particularly in black metal, a genre which King helped launch with his previous band, Mercyful Fate, as well as his eponymous band, which he launched in 1985 with the single, "No Presents For Christmas."

Following the single’s release, the King Diamond band released their first album, "Fatal Portrait," on which five of the songs told a short story about a spirit being imprisoned in a candle. The album is notable for being only one of two King Diamond albums that are not complete concept albums. It gained the band a following, which strengthened tenfold when the group released their next studio album, "Abigail," widely considered to be the best album King Diamond has recorded. This album was solely dedicated to telling the story of a young couple who arrive at a mansion and discover the macabre history the house possesses. A new album followed the next year, simply entitled, "Them," which contained the song, "Welcome Home," perhaps the band’s most well known song, not least for it’s inclusion in the Kevin Smith comedy film, "Clerks 2." A sequel named, “Conspiracy” was released in 1989. Both albums were well received by fans but garnered a lukewarm reception from critics and were the last King Diamond albums recorded with drummer Mikkey Dee, now a member of Motorhead. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Speaking of…

While Warrant is putting the finishing touch on their new album we take a moment to think about Jani Lane and where he may be. I like to think he is part of a mentoring program, helping lead singers get through serving their time in jail/prison. Right now Jani is opening a letter with his next project, the letter says simply: Vince Neil… More...

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Pit Stories: The Most Fear-Inspiring Pit Ever

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week, Devon Graves of Psychotic Waltz, The Shadow Theory, and Deadsoul Tribe tells a story of the most fearsome pit he's ever witnessed:

Since I personally do not relate to the moshing part of metal, here is the only story I can offer. It was somewhere around 1990. Slayer was performing at the massive Los Angeles Forum. Every seat in the house was sold out. The entire floor section which is the size of a basketball court was one huge mosh pit! I have friends who like to mosh, but seeing this sight, they were scared to death. This was a truly frightening sight to behold. In retrospect, I must say I long for the days that a metal band could sell out an entire sports arena. But the moshing is just too violent and negative for me and is something I can live without.

All I can say is: at least it was a Slayer pit. They are always insane, and that one sounds like it was epic.

The Shadow Theory just released their first studio album, "Behind the Black Veil," in North America this past January. The album tells a horror story of a man who wakes from one nightmare into another, until he can no longer tell where the dream ends and reality begins, or if he was ever dreaming at all. "The Sound of Flies" from the new album can be heard at the band's MySpace page.

Pyschotic Waltz will be embarking on the "Power of Metal" tour this month alongside Thaurorod, Symphony X, Nevermore, and Mercenary.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In China, Part 2

Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. Some time ago, I offered some suggestions on bands to check out in the Chinese metal scene. Well, China is a big and indescribably populous country, so it should be self evident that the nation has a few more hidden gems interspersed amongst its many teeming megalopolises. Let's kick off the Chinese New Year with three more Chinese metal bands worth a listen:

Renchei

Brutal death metal in the Middle Kingdom? Believe it. Renchei, which translates to “human pig,” is named after an unspeakably cruel and unusual punishment invented by none other than Empress Lu Zhi, according to historical texts. When one of the royal consorts displeased her, the empress forced poison down her throat, cut off her hands and feet, scooped her eyeballs out of their sockets, cut out her tongue and, as a final humiliation, forced the debilitated woman to live in a toilet as a human pig, languishing in other peoples' filth until her death. That pretty much sums up Renchei's sound—brutal and unforgiving. Taking cues from the likes of Devourment, Dying Fetus, Skinless, and American brutal death metal in general, Renchei offers up a Chinese take on the western technical, guttural, slamming sound. Operating out of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, the band released a six song EP in 2010, “Relic of Disobedience,” featuring five originals and a Disgorge (U.S.) cover. Renchei is currently signed to BrutalReign Productions, a Chinese death metal label established in Xuzhou in 2009 that has begun to acquire acts in China and as far abroad as the U.S.

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 1. Sodom

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

While American thrash metal has it’s Big Four, with constant debate among fans as to who belongs there and who should be added to expand the number, German thrash metal has always had their Three Kings, who’s reign will never be challenged. We’ve already looked at Destruction, so this week we’ll be examining Sodom, who along with Destruction, proved to be a major influence on black metal as it is known today. The band was formed in 1981 by Tom “Angelripper” Such as an attempt to escape from his job as a coal miner and took much of their inspiration from New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Venom, Tank and Saxon. After going through a few members, they eventually signed to SPV/Steamhammer Records and released their debut EP, “In The Sign Of Evil,” with a full length album, “Obsessed By Cruelty” following shortly afterwards. The album was widely panned by critics, dismissing the group as a second rate Venom and criticising their occult themed lyrics. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: The Ozzy Bowl

It was reported last week that Vince Neil (Motley Crue) owes 1 million dollars in taxes. He has since denied this report, but I’m assuming one of his many business ventures will cover the expense if needed. If not, expect a hat to circulate the crowd during this year’s Crue Fest…

Bret Michaels (Poison) continues to recover from heart surgery. The surgery was originally to fix a hole in his heart, but turned into a much larger procedure when they found an actual VH1 cameraman wrapped around his aortic valve…

Warrant has hit a new milestone with allowing their ballad “Heaven”, to be used in a commercial by the laundry detergent, Gain. Given eighties rockers seem to resonate with the forty something MILF (and non-MILF) crowds could we be seeing the start of something new? How about Skid Row’s “I Remember You” for PMS medication for that special time of the month? For men, well I can’t think of a better song than Def Leppard’s “Rocket” to sell penis enlargement products. Public service announcements for STD prevention? Motley Crue’s “Red Hot” works, of course, “I Remember You” may also work here as well… More...

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Pit Stories: Mr. Megaphone

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week, Roddy Lane from Virgina metal band Mindset shares his band's complete on-stage meltdown for your reading pleasure:

The gig in question actually took place in our home town (which made the events of that night seem worse as the club was packed and everyone witnessed a band come unglued). At the time we had taken an extended break from touring for our second record. The band had been plagued by in-fighting and label problems, so morale was really low. It was around the third song of the night when I pulled out my cliché, rock and roll megaphone. It was honestly an integral part of said tune, guys. My then-girlfriend had actually spent quite a bit of money on this piece of shit (I’m referring to the megaphone-not myself). Well, the thing didn’t work. Flat out. Because I’m a half-breed, idiot cave-man, I snapped…..and nearly crushed the megaphone into a fine powder. I tried to make light of my outburst by hiking what was left of Mr. Megaphone into my drummer’s kit. Mr. megaphone not only ruined some serious drum hardware-it also hit drummer Kenny in the face.

Being the great guy he is (thankfully) - instead of putting his fist through my jawbone, Kenny began disassembling his drum set with extreme prejudice. Then he walked off the stage. Our guitar player, for some insane reason, launched into the intro of what would’ve been our fourth song (keep in mind we hadn’t even made it to the first chorus of the third song). He tried so hard to keep things together, but ignorant minds prevailed that night. Our little nightmare continued as the guitarist and I realized that bass player John hadn’t been playing ANYTHING. He was having a meltdown of his own. John had evidently unplugged his bass during the second song (don’t ask me how none of us noticed) and laid it face down on the stage. Then he stood on it and stared blankly at the crowd.

We all knew the evening was FUBAR and there was no fixing anything at that moment. Especially after I told the HOME CROWD they could collectively fuck off. Completely unnecessary. Then I smashed the vocal mic into my forehead as hard as I could. I walked off stage, out the front door of the club, and drove the hell home. Good night friends and family - you all just paid ten bucks a head to see Mindset play for less than 15 minutes.

Mindset (not to be confused with the Maryland hardcore punk band of the same name) previously released a couple of albums on Noise Records and is currently unsigned, although they did recently release an "Unearthed" collection via Sacrifice Records. You can hear some of their music on the band's MySpace page. Roddy also has a solo record and a project called The Fifth Column.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The All Female Metal Underground

With ladies like Angela Gossow and Vibeke Stene fronting bands with primarily male members, the heavy metal scene has shown that women can just be as bad ass as men. While the female fronted band has gone from curiosity to accepted member of the metal kingdom, heavier acts still tend toward having mostly men among their ranks. Breaking that trend are a few groups that buck the established norm and bust out the girl power. With this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that rock out 100% wang free.

Astarte

Kittie is probably the most well known group to feature only women handling the instruments and vocals, but there are plenty of all-girl bands that show up the kittens in terms of brutality. There’s no purr and all claws to be found in Greece’s Astarte, which leans heavily towards the black metal side of the spectrum.

Currently signed to Avantgare Records, Astarte has released five full-length albums so far, and even managed to catch Dimmu Borgir’s attention. Symphonic black metal icon Shagrath appeared in a guest spot on the “Ring of Sorrow” song off the band’s “Sirens” album. To get started with this all-girl act you can check out the video for the “Mutter Astarte” track, the collaboration with Shagrath, and the song “Black Mighty Gods” in the clips below.

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Sunday Old School: Motley Crue

The story of Motley Crue is not a well kept secret. In fact, turn on your television there is a twenty percent chance you will still see them right now. Albeit there is less than a one percent chance they will be performing. The band is made up of founder Nikki Sixx (bass), Vince Neil (vocals), Tommy Lee (drums), and Mick Mars (guitar).

In 1981 Motley Crue released the album "Too Fast For Love" on their own label, Leathur Records. A mix of hard rock, glam, and punk, "Too Fast For Love" (because it was their own label), was essentially a demo tape until Elektra picked it up and rereleased in 1982. The raw energy on this album laid the foundation for eight studio albums to follow.

"Shout At The Devil": This was Nikki Sixx’s black magic time. This is most often labeled as the greatest of the Crue albums from die-hard fans. Next, "Theatre of Pain": The album that established Motley as a glam band, too much glam for most. As if planned (probably not given the heroin usage at this time), "Girls, Girls, Girls" was the next album aimed at toning down the glam side, placing the focus on motorcycles and strippers. The next album became their most popular, "Dr. Feelgood." This is also the first album with the band was sober, coincidence? For those concerned about the strippers, they were still there. They never left after the "Girls, Girls, Girls" record.

After Vince left the band (or was fired), Nikki and Co. created a self titled album that sounded pretty cool, but just didn’t sound right without Neil. After several years the band got back together for "Generation Swine," an honest effort to grow musically and try new things. Despite a couple minor hits, it didn’t work. A few years later (without Tommy) the Crue would put out, "New Tattoo," an attempt to back to the original Motley sound, also just not quite there (which is probably directly related to a missing Tommy Lee). Most recently, Motley released "Saints of Los Angeles" (reviewed here), originally a record to compliment their autobiography, "The Dirt," their ninth studio album delivered, pleasing both their die-hard fans as well as a few critics. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: What If?

This week a look back at what if certain break-ups, decisions, or meetings didn’t happen and how it would have turned out for the parties involved.

WHAT IF VAN HALEN DOESN’T SPLIT?
David Lee Roth stays with the VH brothers and continues touring to support the 1984 album. Eventually Roth loses his voice for a very long time, but this doesn’t stop Eddie and Alex from making their next album, an instrumental only record, titled: 1986. Despite Roth’s voice gone, they still tour (with DLR only doing karate kicks on stage) and for two years sell out arenas worldwide. Eventually, their popularity dies down with the ill-advised 1990 album titled: Still Runnin’ With The Devil. As for Sammy Hagar? Without VH in his way he focuses on his tequila, eventually forming a strong partnership with a leading brand and goes on to make billions with Jose Haggar… More...

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Pit Stories: Epic Afterparty

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Fredrik Johansson of Tuck From Hell shares a story of a good show and even better "afterparty":

Back in 2009 we played a venue in our hometown. The venue was crowded and it was magic in the air. The show was supreme but there was this guy in the audience that was so god damn drunk that he probably didn't even knew that he was there. At first he was just moshing and having fun, then he had a little to fun I guess, when he tried to crash the stage. Suddenly out of nowhere he punched a guy in the face. The police came and took him. Well the show went great for us and now on to the legendary afterparty:

Our singer Niklas Tuck Ingels has an old Dodge Van that was supposed to take us to the afterparty. We met some girl that was sober enough to drive it. Allthough the van didn't start, so Niklas (drunk as hell and butt-naked) stopped a guy and got his jump-starting cables. Yippi-kei-ey the van started. But the girl couldn't drive at all. The whole band, and some other people we brought along, were thrown around in the back seat. Ten minutes later we arrived to the apartment that belonged to a dude we met at the show. That dude started to play some classical music on his acoustic guitar and I went berserk, yelling that Petrus (lead guitar in Tuck from Hell) should play “Battery” instead. So after a while Petrus started shredding, and people went insane! headbanging, moshing and breaking stuff, we kind of thrashed the whole apartment except for his computer. We ended up watching some weird Japanese torture-films that he had, whilst drinking up his 400 dollar bottle of whiskey. Epic, Indeed.

Tuck From Hell recently announced some new shows in support of their upcoming album, "Thrashing," which is due out on January 25th, 2011 via Metalville Records. "Thrashing" can currently be heard in its entirety on AOL Music.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In New York City

Most unsigned bands I talk to, regardless of their location, seem to uniformly agree on one thing: their local scene sucks. While I'm sure that's sometimes the case, I'll bet that it often isn't; it's a commonly held misconception by struggling bands that somewhere in the world there are magical cities where ordinary folks flock to see local bands in droves. While this is a nice little fantasy, such a place doesn't actually exist, but it doesn't mean that all of your local scenes suck. Bands are just looking at it the wrong way. Any strong scene is made up of the BANDS themselves, not random non-musician fans. It's about bands supporting other bands, putting together shows, coming out to see each other, teaming up. That's what makes a strong scene, not how many hot girls show up.

NYC's metal scene is currently brimming with talent. This doesn't mean, of course, that folks flock by the hundreds to see local band bills. For the most part, audiences are comprised of bands coming out to support other bands, and on any given night you'll find a modest but strong crowd at a number of simultaneously happening metal shows.

To showcase the caliber of talent in NYC's metal scene to the rest of the world, we at MetalSucks decided to release a free digital compilation called "NYC Sucks." We had so many great bands on the table that we were forced to split it up into two volumes, to be released a month apart. Metal Underground.com has graciously given me the opportunity to showcase three of the bands on the comp never before covered on this site. All of the bands covered today are on Volume 1, available now.

Wizardry

The first time I saw Wizardry, their costumes and performance were so over the top that I was seriously convinced the dudes who set up their gear were hired roadies. That the venue was the dark, dank basement of Lit Lounge -- which holds 30 people in front of the stage, tops -- made this premise even more ridiculous. Of course it turned out that it was just the dudes in the band, pre-costume, but that should underscore how much effort they put into their live show. Wizardry plays a brand of metal that's a healthy mix of traditional and stoner, like what White Wizzard (see what I did there?) might sound like if they smoked crazy amounts of weed.

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Sunday Old School: Extreme Noise Terror

Recently, the English county of Suffolk was given a shock when Cradle Of Filth frontman, Dani Filth, who hails from Ipswich town, was voted the county’s greatest cultural icon. But many fans of extreme metal and punk who have been around for a while would perhaps instead prefer this title to go to Extreme Noise Terror, one of the most influential grindcore and crust punk bands of all time. The group formed in 1985, also in the town of Ipswich and were notable for being one of the few bands that utilised the use of two vocalists, being inspired in this angle by Antisect. Before long, the band signed with Manic Ears Records and released a split LP with Chaos UK entitled, "Radioactive Earslaughter." Around this time, the band were being grouped with another bunch of British bands, including Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower, under an ever changing label, eventually becoming known as grindcore, though the band expressed discomfort with the term.

After releasing the split LP with Chaos UK, the band attracted the attention of legendary DJ John Peel, who offered them a prestigious "Peel Session" slot, which in turn allowed ENT to record their debut full length album, ”A Holocaust In Your Head,” which has since become one of the most acclaimed grindcore albums in history. The band continued to garner interest from strange places, not least when they were contacted by Bill Drummond of legendary acid house band, The KLF. Drummond asked Extreme Noise Terror to re-record the KLF song, "3 A.M. Eternal," with the intention of getting the band television time on the famous Top of the Pops program. Despite the good performance of the single, the BBC denied the band an appearance on the show, fearing the song wasn’t appropriate for broadcast, which led to The KLF boycotting the program. However, the two groups did team up for a performance at the 1992 BRIT Awards, which made national news when the performance culminated in a machine gun being fired into the crowd.

Following this controversy, Extreme Noise Terror continued to tour wherever they could, going through a number of lineup changes in the process. Eventually, the band signed a new deal with Earache Records, re-recording a wealth of old material for the, “Retro-bution” release. Not long after however, the band faced one of their biggest challenges when vocalist Phil Vane left the band, but the band was helped when Napalm Death vocalist Barney Greenway, who had just been fired from his band, decided to join ENT. Funnily enough, Phil Vane became the new singer for Napalm Death, although he would never record an album with them. Now with Greenway in tow, the band got to work on a new studio album, resulting in, "Damage 381." The album saw the band enter a more death metal orientated area, incorporating blast beats and more screams. Following the release of the album however, Greenway returned to Napalm Death and Vane eventually came back to ENT. Since then, the band has continued to change members, with vocalist Dean Jones remaining the only constant member, as Vane left again in 1999, only to return in 2006. The band continue to tour and record new material, often in the form of split EPs. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: American Idol and Glee

While out promoting for Amercian Idol, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) was quoted saying “American Idol is not rock n’ roll”, “American Idol will take Aerosmith up a few notches”, and that “Joe Perry is a loose cannon”. This was all in one interview! In related news, Tyler mentions he can’t find Joe Perry. He’s hiding Steven, waiting for all of this to go away. You can remove your head from Ryan Seacrest’s ass. He’s not in there… More...

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Pit Stories: Smooth Move

We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Swedish classic heavy metal band Astral Doors sends in a story about how keyboardist Jocke Roberg got his nickname:

This story takes place about 4 years ago in Southern Germany. We were the support act to the fantasy metal heroes Blind Guardian. I can't remember what town we played in, but that's not really important.

Some headline acts treat their support bands like crap and don't allow the technicians to do a proper job. How many gigs haven't you attended where the sound during the support band's actual show has been terrible? In this case however I must pay my tribute to Blind Guardian and their crew: they gave us everything they had, every night. For two months we were treated like kings and the technicians and the rest of the crew did an amazing job for us; night after night. We filmed all 37 gigs, so it's documented:) Thank you Guardians!

Ok, at the gig this particular night, our keyboard player, Jocke Roberg, had a really bad stomach. He was running in and out of the WC before the gig...doing his thing. The show started and everything went really well the first couple of songs. During song four or five, he felt it was time again. He started to sweat and the panic was close. When it was time for one of our most popular songs, “Evil is Forever”, where we use a recorded organ-hymn-kind-of-intro, which he normally plays along to; he took his chance: he ran behind stage, found a bucket and did the big one. We wondered where the hell he went and we were quite prepared to play the rest of the gig without keyboard. However: just as the recorded intro was finished, Mr. Roberg was back on stage. He completed the gig and everything went great. Ever since that day we call him Jocke Bucket!

Astral Doors' "Best of" collection, "Testament of Rock - The Best of Astral Doors" (reviewed here), will be released in North American on January 25th. You can hear the new single, "Victory," on the band's MySpace player.

Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.

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Unearthing The Experimental Underground, Part 2

The big names in metal get a lot of press and are famous for a reason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a treasure trove of high quality metal bands hiding out in the underground. Each week with the Unearthing the Underground column we take a look at unknown bands in a specific genre or location that deserve to be heard by a wider audience.

Metal is unique in the musical world for the many different varieties to be found within it’s overall borders. “Experimental” or “Avant-Garde” metal bands are those groups that head outside the standard boundaries of the stylistic breakdowns, combining different sounds or even making up entirely new ones. Whether it’s extremely discordant vocals, a meshing of non-metal music with heavy atmosphere, or even random bouts of circus music, experimental metal typically has something that prevents the mainstream from recognizing it. These bands usually manage to get a small, but devoted, cult following that enjoys the odd juxtapositions and flagrant disregard for what’s socially acceptable in music.

In the last Unearthing the Experimental Underground we looked at the Czech Republic’s Oblomov, Poland’s Furia, and Italy’s Viscera///. This time around we’ll dig into U.S. based act Hallowed Butchery, as well as Virus and Source of Tide from Norway.

Hallowed Butchery

Maine based multi-instrumentalist Ryan Fairfield is the mastermind behind solo act Hallowed Butchery, which was previously known as Hallowed Butchery of the Son. Metalunderground conducted an interview with Ryan, in which he discussed the name change and the project’s upcoming work.

Hallowed Butchery frequently uses the stylistic elements of doom, with long, lingering guitar tones and slow moving music. There’s also a good deal of black metal to be heard in the music, along with some truly odd sounds that often defy easy description. One of the project's more experimental works is the fourteen minute epic “Coffin Life,” which was included on a recent split with New York’s Batillus. The song chronicles the life, demise, and surprising afterlife of a man who commits suicide, going through several distinct changes in style. A clip from the epic song can be heard at the band’s MySpace page.

The video below also contains the track “The Kennebec” from the band’s debut EP “Funeral Rites for the Living.” More...

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