It’s interesting that in well over a hundred columns, Sunday Old School has barely touched on the folk metal sub-genre, (unless you include Primordial and Bathory.) This week we will be rectifying this by examining one of, if not the first folk metal band, Skyclad. Skyclad was formed in 1990 by vocalist Martin Walkyier, who had recently left his position as lead vocalist of the thrash metal outfit, Sabbat, and former Satan guitarist Steve Ramsey, with the intention of forming the "ultimate pagan metal band," which initially included such ideas as costumes, though thankfully these were soon ruled out. The original lineup was completed by drummer Keith Baxter (later of Northern Irish alternative metal group, Therapy?) and bass player Graeme English, who had worked with Ramsey as part of Pariah. They soon signed with Noise Records, a surprising choice considering how they were alleged to have treated Sabbat and released their first album, "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" in 1991.
They added to their ranks after a tour with New Jersey thrash metal legends Overkill, when they recruited Fritha Jenkins to perform keyboard and violin duties and released their acclaimed sophomore record, "A Burnt Offering of the Bone Idol," the next year, in what was to be the first of several album titles involving what appears to be Walkyier’s love of puns, something brought up again on the third album, "Jonah’s Ark," on which they had replaced Jenkins with Cath Howell. Their next album was to be entitled, "Prince of the Poverty Line," which according to some members is their biggest selling album to date and is loosely a concept album, dealing with a decaying Britain left after the Thatcherite reign. Special editions of the album included a number of tracks from the groups, "Tracks From the Wilderness" EP, including a faithful but unique cover of "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy. Skyclad soon faced difficulties in keeping a stable lineup. After replacing Howell with Georgina Biddle for their fifth album, "The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea," both Pugh and Baxter decided to leave the group, though the band were still able to support Black Sabbath on their 1995 "Forbidden" tour, albeit as a last minute replacement for Tiamat, as well as releasing another album that year named, "Irrational Anthems." More...
This week a classic new vs. old video showdown; on one side we have Aerosmith, the other side, The Last Vegas. Aerosmith is famous for a career that spans four decades and now Steven Tyler’s (yawn) work on American Idol as a judge. The Last Vegas are a new sleaze rock band that put a unique spin on their videos (and songs) by incorporating horror and humor when possible. SPOILER ALERT: No losers here today! More...
Every week we catch up with band members and metal fans to get their best stories from live shows. While the pit is usually where most of the action is, heading outside for a break can come with many dangers all on its own, as Kevin George from Martriden and At Home In Hell recently learned. Kevin shared the following tale of unexpectedly entering a fight while seeing a show with his girlfriend:
Katelynn and I were out at the Odyssey show, decided to go outside because Hooves (the opening band) were actually too loud, even for me. Next door, In This Moment were playing, so there were a lot of confused-with-life individuals hanging around outside.
We were standing there for the time being, trying to decide whether to go get earplugs or not, when we realized that 8 ft away from us was not just some overly excited girls...but one was just thoroughly giving the other a verbal lashing like no other. Some shit about "how dare you tell everyone I work on Sprague" came up...for the uninformed, she got called a hooker.
After about a minute of this belligerent retardfest, the angry one hits the other girl in the face pretty good-like. She then grumbles some other incomprehensible bullshit and cocks her fist back again. The other girl...the receiver, if you will...runs between Katelynn and I, tucks he head between us and cries the most feebly pussified "help me" that a little emo girl who couldn't get in to see In This Moment ever could. It was pretty pitiful, actually.More...
The overall realm of metal is an incredibly expansive and diverse place, with many different styles and sub-genres all vying for your attention. To help our readers navigate the metallic landscape we unearth three underground or unsigned metal bands every Monday that deserve to be heard.
Awhile back we covered bands that combine different genres or simply ignore genre trends, and on a similar note this week we’re uncovering three bands that drastically changed either sound or lyrical theme from the early works to their modern releases. There are plenty of more well-known (in the extreme metal community anyway) acts that have gone through such a transformation: Samael’s change from black metal to electronica, Katatonia’s move from harsh growls to a cleaner rock sound, Amorphis switching gears with “Am Universum,” Ulver changing things up on pretty much every album, and so on. Instead of rehashing those bigger names that everyone knows about, instead we’ll cover three lesser known acts that have essentially become different bands over time.
Ereb Altor’s underground days are very quickly waning, with the band now releasing new album “Gastrike” through Napalm Records, but there was a time not long ago when nobody knew about Ereb Altor, and it is a side project of an already unknown band, so we’re going to slip this one in here.
The Swedish duo’s debut album “By Honour” (reviewed here) definitely wanted its audience to take the scenic route and enjoy the ride, with slow moving, Viking-style doom metal that took some clear cues from Bathory. Things started to change a bit and the songs become shorter on the follow-up release “The End,” which as the title suggests, was intended to be the demise of the project. Ereb Altor just wouldn’t die however, and now with third album “Gastrike” (review coming soon) the band has radically shifted gears into mid-paced black metal, with only a few underlying doom and Viking metal moments.
To hear the change, check the title track “By Honour” below, and then listen to either of the two songs from “Gastrike.” With the exception of the atmospheric intros, we’re dealing with two completely different genres between these songs.
Back in the mid-eighties, I first stumbled upon New Jersey trio Whiplash when I worked at Roadrunner Records. The Passaic thrash band had just unleashed its 1985 debut "Power and Pain" and was doing the interview circuit. I called the band, asking if they could do a 15 second radio ID for my station. A week later, I received a tape from the band to convert to audio cart, which went like this: "This is Tony from Whiplash....and this is Tony from Whiplash...and this is Tony from Whiplash...and you're tuned to 88.7 FM."
That's right, all three of them were named Tony. This tale of three Tonys began in the early eighties in the tri-state area. Tony Bono, Tony Portaro and Tony J. Scaglione got together and released a series of four demos, channeling that New York sound into thrash. While the three were fans of Bay area thrash from the left-coast, they were also a product of their roots and went for that immediate, pulverizing sound that was so prevalent in their surroundings. The scene was in its zenith, and these guys put that metropolitan sound front and center - along with such bands as Ludichri$t, Crumbsuckers, Rest In Pieces and others. More...
This week we have new videos from two bands that take the best from the past and inject youth into their sound. First up are Black Tora and then its New York City underground favorites, Sex Slaves. More...
Every week we catch up with metal bands from around the globe to share their best mosh pit stories. While the pit is frequently home to drunken antics and bone breaking action, if you ask enough metal bands for bizarre pit stories, most of them will eventually have a memory or two of overly-amorous show goers.
After last week's lengthy story of a Meshuggah show enhanced by brain-altering fungus, today we've got a much shorter and sweeter tale of a metal fan who just couldn't quite wait to get home to express his affections with his lady. Shaun Glass, guitarist for Dirge Within, had this story to share:
One time - I believe in Houston - we were on stage, midway through our set I look up to see the whole pit stop and stare. What were they looking at? A guy was giving some girl oral sex against the wall of the speakers of the PA! They obviously did not care that 500 metal heads were also watching ha!
In other Dirge Within news, the band recently dropped off the Shockwave Festival, and also shot a music video for "Memories," which will be released soon.
Check back in again next Tuesday for more pit stories shared by metal fans and bands. If you've got a story of pit love, feel free to share below!
From the completely mainstream outfits with a horde of fans to basement one-man acts, heavy metal is composed of a vast multitude of bands – and the number of metal groups continues to constantly grow. Every week we unearth three bands to help expand your metallic horizons and introduce you to styles and sounds you might not have heard otherwise.
Last week we covered groups that blend together a variety of genre styles and break trends within metal, including Germ and Vintage Flesh, two bands that utilize very odd vocal styles. While it can be argued that any extreme metal band uses vocals that most would consider bizarre, there are vocalists within the world of heavy music who go much further and produce sounds that even hardened underground metal lovers may find shocking.
From avant-garde groups like Peccatum with purposefully off-key singing, to the gut-busting and throat-shredding growls of black metal bands like Marduk, there are plenty of new vocal varieties to discover while journeying through the many sub-genres of metal. This week we’ll take a look at three lesser known bands that use vocals you are almost guaranteed to never hear anywhere else.
Taking the concept of evil atmosphere to an entirely new level, Abruptum was a group primarily active in the ‘90s that puts most black metal acts to shame and released its early material through the infamous Deathlike Silence Productions. Rather than evil guitar sounds and high pitched screams, Abruptum uses bizarrely distorted vocals and shrieks of agonized pain – and rumors persist that the screams are authentic due to self-inflicted wounds in the studio.
Listening to Abruptum albums all the way the through really requires a specific mood, as song structures and melody are pretty much thrown out the window in favor of highly chaotic musical expressions. If you’ve got the candles lit and the razors handy, dip into the madness of Abruptum through the clips below.
Given the recent headlines about Bellevue, Washington natives, Queensryche, along with Sunday Old School’s promise last month to cover more progressive bands, it seemed inevitable that the band in question would soon be appearing in our Sunday column. Queensryche began life in 1981, originally using the moniker, The Mob, formed by two members of a heavy metal covers band named Cross + Fire. The duo (guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield) soon added to their ranks by recruiting bassist Eddie Jackson, and a second guitarist, Chris DeGarmo. Initially they had trouble finding a vocalist, but the group was able to convince singer Geoff Tate, who fronted another band named Babylon, to perform with them at a local rock festival. Tate refused to commit to the band at first, citing a lack of interest in performing heavy metal, though he was soon coaxed back to The Mob to record vocals for their demo tape, but returned to his current band at the time, Myth, soon after. The Mob soon changed their name at the urging of their manager, taking the tag, Queensryche from a song on their demo tape, which by now had been circulating worldwide and received massively positive feedback from such publications as Kerrang!, which proved to be enough to finally convince Tate to join the group on a full time basis.
The reception to their demo led to Queensryche signing a major label deal with EMI Records, immediately finding chart success when their self-titled debut EP (a re-release of their demo) entered the Billboard Charts at number 81. After performing their first tour together, the band flew to London to begin work on their first full length album, which hit the shelves in September 1984 under the mysterious title, "The Warning." The album climbed twenty places higher than their EP and found success overseas, particularly the song, "Take Hold Of The Flame" which was a hit in Japan. In addition to this commercial success, Queensryche were hired to support Kiss on their Animalize tour and soon released their second album, "Rage For Order," a more glam orientated affair than their previous work and laden with keyboards, but continued their commercial success, hitting the charts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as reaching number 47 on the Billboard Charts. More...
This week a look at up and comers The Treatment and Wildside Riot with new videos that beg the question: Is this badass? More...
The mosh pit is home to some of the craziest events known to the musical world, from flying body parts to bizarre sexual encounters, and each week we find metal bands to share their most interesting mosh pit stories. Today we've got the following tale of Kasey from Ninth Moon Black experiencing technical metal live in a whole new way, courtesy of a few psychedelic fungi:
I once took mushrooms right before going into a Meshuggah concert. For a very brief moment, I contemplated the ramifications then shrugged them away. I quickly popped the magical fungi into my mouth thinking I’d have plenty of time to adjust once I got through the doors but the mushrooms had other plans. While I stood in line for what seemed an eternity, the psilocybin took over my senses. My stomach churned, my mind turned sideways and the antennae of heightened awareness tuned into the world with that bizarre psychedelic slant. As I entered the venue I felt like a ship navigating some alien terrain.
The Faceless were in full swing and never before had I experienced music so terrifying, yet so awesome. The venue was already near capacity and the floor a sea of movement. I hugged the walls trying desperately to avoid any contact with the people moshing as well as the extraterrestrial spirits hovering above the crowd. They watched me with their sinister gaze that was most likely only visible to my eyes. I managed to make my way to the back of the room, anchoring myself to the wall until Cynic took the stage. Their entrance was serene and they lured me away from the walls as they calmed the crowd with their meditative musings. I closed my eyes throughout the duration of their set, allowing myself to journey through their progressive zen. As they finished off their set with "Evolutionary Sleeper," I opened my eyes only to realize I was damn close to the front row.
It was time to make a quick decision; take the plunge and enter the dark waters of Meshuggah or steer my inebriated vessel back to where I had watched The Faceless, and witness Meshuggah from the safety of the “outside.” Since the very reason I was there that evening was to see Meshuggah, I decided I needed to brace myself and grabbed tightly to the barrier between myself and the stage. A moment later, Fredrik Thordendal positioned himself right in front of me with Jens Kidman just off to my right. They began to play, their music taking hold of sanity and commanding bodies into rhythmic collisions. Song after song, I fought the wave of bodies crashing into my own when suddenly I had an epiphany, the madness of the mosh pit becoming a metaphor for my life. Rather than fight the aggression, why not ride it?More...
The big name metal bands may get most of the spotlight, but Metallica and Black Sabbath are just the tip of the heavy iceberg. Every week we search out and share lesser known or unsigned acts that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. For today’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground you’ll get a dose of metal that bucks specific trends and expresses a heavy sound in unexpected ways.
For all the focus on rebellion and the disdain for conformity, heavy metal is undeniably a style of music that breaks down into very regimented genres – black metal, thrash, grindcore, etc. There tends to be a rigid confinement that bands are expected stay within when creating music, and stepping outside those boundaries either leads to derision by hordes of anonymous Internet posters, or the formation of yet another sub-genre.
While there’s a whole division of metal devoted to ignoring those boundaries (prog and avant-garde), some bands simply blur the lines between styles naturally and don’t easily fit in one recognizable category. Breaking the strictures set down by the worldwide conclave of elitist metalheads , these three bands start with a standardized form of metal and then head in unexpected directions that set them apart and make them unique.
The solo band from Tim Yatras of Austere and Woods of Desolation, Germ is a project that exudes a pure love of music, no matter where the sonic inspiration originally comes from. Starting out with a highly atmospheric form of black metal using totally indecipherable vocals, the act then blends in shades of rock and other mainstream elements, including the use of clean singing. Going even a step further, the new album “Wish” mixes in trance and electronic elements, at times sounding almost like an ‘80s movie soundtrack. In a nod to the black metal roots, there is a bit of a lo-fi aura filtering everything, and the harsh vocals screech out from the background, just barely breaking out of the surrounding noise.
What’s interesting about Germ is that its particular blend of these styles rarely sounds like anything else out there. The collision of trance and black metal sounds essentially nothing like Nachtmystium’s forays into similar territory, and it also never falls into any resembling the dance metal or dubstep collaborations that have become par for the course lately.
For a condensed look at this intriguing mixup, check out the four minute track “Asteroid of Sorrow” below, or for a longer float down the cosmic highway that is Germ, instead dive headfirst into the 10 minute sublime ride “An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy.” To check out more from Germ, head over to the band’s Facebook profile.
“An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy”
Can a “trashy Victorian glam” look and one big video hit lead the way to sell more than one million copies of an album? If it’s the late eighties, the name of the band is Britny Fox, and that hit is “Girlschool”, the answer is YES.
Britny Fox formed in 1985 in Philadelphia. The band was originally fronted by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist "Dizzy" Dean Davidson. The band also featured Billy Childs on bass, former Cinderella guitarist Michael Kelly Smith on lead guitar and former Cinderella drummer Tony Destra on drums. Soon after securing a major recording contract (via their Cinderella connections) Tony Destra was killed in a car accident. Facing a tour, the band recruited drummer, John Diteodoro.
The band released a demo in 1986 titled “In America”, which drummer Tony Destra played on, and a demo in 1987 titled “Rock Is Gonna Fight”, which drummer Adam West played on. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 1988, was one of the most successful premieres, selling more than one million copies. They also won Metal Edge Magazine's 1988 Reader's Choice Award for Best New Band. Much of the success was due to the track titled “Girlschool” and the all-important video that received much air time on MTV. The loyal followers of this band are quick to point out the album as a whole made Britny Fox successful, and that may be true. But there is no denying what kick started their success. More...
This week a look at three new videos, first, Beggars & Thieves teaches us gun safety, and then Hart celebrates the eighties with an ultimate tribute. Finally, it’s the Killer Klowns sending us on our way with a beat-your-head its Friday tune. More...
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. This week I take on the ever emerging Italian power metal scene.
When one thinks Italian power metal, likely the first band to come to mind is Rhapsody, or as time and subsequent “amicable splits” would have it: Rhapsody of Fire and/or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Italy has been spawning off power metal far back into the 1980’s with bands like Domine, Wotan, Wyvern and White Skull, but few have ever reached such worldwide stardom as Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire/LT Rhapsody.
As the 90’s commenced, one of the other well-known pioneering Italian power/progressive exports, Labyrinth, was just starting out under the moniker Visions. It wasn’t until 1994 that the name Labyrinth was born. Within that same year or shortly after, Rhapsody would just start out along with bands like Drakkar, Arthemis, Derdian, Heimdall and Power Symphony. The late ’90’s would see a greater emergence of the scene with another well-known export Elvenking, along with Vision Divine (with Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione) Spellblast, The Dogma and Rapid Fire.
By the time the new century started, the Italian scene was bursting with talented power metal acts. Power metal bands seem to pop up on a more frequent basis that new gellato flavors, however, trying to locate the best of the emerging talent isn’t as easy as consulting the Yelp application on your smart phone. To provide some guidance, this week we introduce three of the lessor known Italian power metal bands: From the Depth, Aeternal Seprium and Nightland. More...
Believe it or else, there was a time when death metal didn’t consist of bands who looked and sounded exactly the same, when it was an exciting new genre, spurred on by the likes of Possessed and Kreator. Like all genres, it had some bands that stood out more than others, and one group who stood out due to their undeniable quality and fresh approach, was Obituary. Obituary were originally formed by brothers John and Donald Tardy under the name Executioner in 1984, before altering their moniker to Xecutioner, prior to finally (and wisely) changing their name once again in 1988 to Obituary. Soon after the final name change, they entered Morrisound Studios to record with Scott Burns, who within the studio, also produced several other extreme metal classics such as "Effigy of the Forgotten" by Suffocation and a number of albums by Cannibal Corpse. The result was their first album, "Slowly We Rot," which was released in the summer of 1989 through Roadracer Records. The album was very well received, and many Obituary fans still regard it as their heaviest record to date. They were soon faced with the task of finding new members however, as guitarist Allen West and bass player Daniel Tucker parted company with the group, leaving their shoes to be filled by former Death guitarist James Murphy and hardcore loving bassist Frank Watkins respectively. This new lineup soon recorded a second album, "Cause Of Death," released the next year to similar praise. The album featured artwork by Michael Whelan which was originally going to be used by Sepultura for their "Beneath The Remains" album, but Obituary were allowed to use it first. It also contained a cover of the classic Celtic Frost song, "Circle of the Tyrants" and is today regarded as a true classic in the death metal genre.
This would prove to be their only record with Murphy, as the band welcomed Allen West back into the fold soon afterwards. They got to work on their third album, "The End Complete," which remains the biggest selling record to date, shifting well over half a million copies worldwide and gaining the band their first entry into the Billboard charts, peaking at number 16 on the Top Heatseekers chart. Although were not able to replicate this commercial success with the follow up, "World Demise," they made much of a profound statement, particularly with the music video for the album opener, "Don’t Care," which was seen as an environmental protest song, and featured shocking images of pollution. The album featured a number of other bleak sounding songs too, "Final Thoughts," "Lost" and the title track in particular. It would be three years before they released another record, which finally came in 1997 under the title, "Back From the Dead," the first Obituary album not to be produced by Scott Burns. The record received mixed reviews and, owing mostly to a lack of desire for touring, the band decided to call it a day soon after its release, marking their breakup with a live album suitably entitled, "Dead." More...
Okay, so he never really left, that was just a dream. Poison front man Bret Michaels (Poison) has released a brand new video for his new single “Get Your Rock On”, featuring Phil Collen (Def Leppard) and Sal Coz (My Darkest Days). The video was filmed during Michaels' 2011/2012 solo tour. "Get Your Rock On" is the title track from Bret's upcoming solo album of the same name. The single is available on iTunes along with a cover of Poison’s “Nothing But A Good Time”, featuring former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and Chickenfoot bassist Michael Anthony. So, is it just me or is Bret Michaels trying to become the “Kevin Bacon Six Degrees” of eighties rockers? More...
That familiar old school and brutal sound is the foundation on which much of extreme metal is based, but death metal has come a long way since its origins, and plenty of bands have taken it closer the extremes of human ability.
Technical death metal pushes the boundaries of the style, making the music faster, more intricate, and sometimes absurdly complex. Tech-death also generally puts the bass more up toward the front than in either the brutal or melodic varieties, which often leads to some crossover into “progressive” territory and adds a grounding in melody for a point of reference in the storm of metal.
While acts like Obscura and The Faceless get plenty of press and are fairly well known in the metal world, this week we’re going to unearth three lesser-known acts that should be in your technical death metal rotation.
This newly formed Icelandic group is getting ready to release a debut album later on during the summer, dropping an apocalyptic death metal bomb filled with blistering solos and plenty of brutality. The tracks that have been released so far will definitely appeal to fans of Necrophagist or similar acts. Check out tech-death insanity below by listening to the title track off the new album “Solvet Saeclum” or the earlier demo track “Zone of Alienation.”
Looking at how big and branched out the doom metal scene has become in recent years, one can't help but look back to the pioneers of the first wave of Black Sabbath/Coven worship. Besides Witchfinder General, Candlemass, St. Vitus and Pentagram, there is the almighty Trouble. I respect the hell out of this band for its sheer heaviness and iconic style, making them a true American treasure. I've had the pleasure of seeing this great band live three times in my life, each time a complete and total assault of my auditory senses.
Back in the late seventies, guitarist Bruce Franklin and vocalist Eric Wagner were in a high school band in Chicago by the name of Wisecrack and eventually joined guitarist Rick Wartell to form Trouble. The line-up was rounded out with Tim Brown on bass and Jeff 'Oly' Olson on drums. By 1983 the bass was taken over by Sean McAllister, who had ironically borrowed a bass guitar from the man who would become Trouble's bassist for sixteen years - Ron Holzner, who had went to school with Trouble's number one roadie. Jeff Olson was from Maine, but his family had relocated to Chicago where he attended high school. The rest is history. More...
Earlier this week American Dog gave fans a taste of their new album, and now they have released a Rob Kern directed video for the debut single "Just Like Charlie Sheen." The track appears on American Dog's sixth studio album, "Poison Smile," due for release on June 8th via Colonial Canine in North America and Bad Reputation in Europe.
It was just over a year ago when Charlie Sheen took over the news claiming "tiger blood and Adonis DNA." Sheen ranted to anyone who would listen while sitting in smoked filled rooms figuring out how to get the movie Major League 3 made. Along with his two porn star girlfriends (Charlie has since been inducted into The Wilt Chamberlin Hall of Fame – Gene Simmons is the only other member) Sheen went on tour and somehow got a new television deal. Should Sheen be looking for a soundtrack to his life (or Major League 3) he may want to give American Dog a ring.
The video shows the band members dressed as Charlie’s characters from Platoon, Major League, and Two and Half Men. There is also a "girl" in heavy red lipstick that is both disturbing and VERY HIGH on the comedy scale. The song is typical American Dog, very course and very high energy blues. This band is big with the biker crowd which makes sense given Charlie Sheen seems like he may be appreciated in this group as well. It would have been nice to see a "Bud Fox" character and maybe a reference to Blue Star airlines would have been nice. Still, this video is entertaining and the song will play well at the Hamburg Harley Days Event in Germany and the Rock and Blues Custom Show in England.