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 am delving into the ferocious metal offered up to the music gods via the Salt Lake City underground metal scene.
In the past, Utah has been known for many things, such as the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Mormon (LDS) culture (really Utahn’s don’t have horns) and of course… polygamy (which 99% of our population does not practice, even if many them would like to). But unbeknownst to the world, it also contains an amazing array of music. From rock, to alternative, to death metal, local bands are showing the world that Utah/Salt Lake City has far more to offer to the Gods of Metal than terrain, religion or quirky lifestyles.
A Balance of Power
A Balance Of Power is one of the first metal bands I came across upon delving into the local scene. They have a very distinct sound combined of progressive and thrash, whcih culminates into pure metal mayhem. Their sound has take them to great heights in Utah and beyond as well as procuring them the honor of being Utah’s first offical Jagermiester sponsored band. From small intimate stages in clubs to opening Rockstar Mayhem festival in Idaho, A Balance Of Power bring out the metal fans in hordes.
Their music is charged with an intense energy that is catapulted to amazing heights at live shows. They recently released their newest CD in April of 2011, "Pride Preceded the Fall." With fierce vocals, guitar and bass riffs that burn into your soul and powerful drum beats, A Balance Of Power is a band to gratify your metal loving soul. A Balance Of Power is Chuck Stone (vocals), Chris Margetts (guitar), Shane Garner (guitar), Adam Fowler (bass), Marvin Dixon (drums). Check them out at ReverbNation.
Nowadays, the idea of crossing heavy music with rap conjures up visions of the nu metal fad in the late 90s/early 2000s, with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park springing to mind, bands which are less than popular amongst many fans of heavy music. However, in the late 80s and early 90s, the idea was fresh and many bands were able to fuse the love of both genres, including Anthrax, Faith No More and Body Count. One of the first bands to incorporate rap music permanently into their brand of sonic assault, was Brooklyn’s own, Biohazard.
Biohazard was formed in 1987 by bassist/vocalist Evan Seinfeld, drummer Anthony Meo and guitarist Bobby Hambel, with Billy Graziadei joining as a second guitarist and vocalist soon afterwards. The band released their first demo the next year and were immediately met with criticism and accusations of promoting fascist and white supremacist messages (a contradiction in terms since Seinfeld is Jewish.) The lyrics in question were later revealed to an attempt to impress fellow Brooklyn group, Carnivore (led by future Type O Negative frontman, Peter Steele) and their fan base and the band soon distanced themselves from these early songs, eventually adopting an anti-racist message. Before they had even released a full length, the Biohazard found themselves on the receiving end of many bans in New York, with promoters worried their shows would lead to violence. Despite, or perhaps because of, this reputation, the four piece were offered a deal by Maze Records and released their self-titled, debut album in 1990.
The release of the album allowed them to tour in Europe, an experience which would open their eyes to the fact that the urban decay they had experienced at home was not a unique thing. With this knowledge in mind, the band set to work on their next album, "Urban Discipline," which was released in 1992, this time through Roadrunner Records (with whom long time friends Mucky Pup had helped to arrange a deal.) The album was a hit, helped largely by the single, "Punishment" receiving regular airplay on the MTV show, Headbanger’s Ball. The success also led to the band performing with a variation of bands from Sick of It All to Kyuss to rap stars House of Pain. Supporting House Of Pain was not to be their only contact with rappers either, as the band twice teamed up with the hardcore rap group, Onyx, recording the songs, "Slam" and "Judgement Night," the latter of which was the title track for a 1993 movie, though the soundtrack proved to be far more popular and successful. More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. This week, Robert Triches, bassist of Swedish metal band The Quill shares a different perspective with our readers:
We've got a few very hardcore fans that follow us wherever we go when we're on tour. It's truly amazing to see familiar faces in the pit (yes, they're always up in front) night after night after night, no matter what. And you realise that if you yourself hauled your ass 500 miles since last night, so did they, and that really warms a roadworn heart. Well, maybe it's because we go on tour so seldom that people travel across Europe just to catch a show, I don't know. Or maybe it's just the show... I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. The love we guys in the band feel for our fans are borderline unhealthy. Thanks so much for your support... You know who you are.
The Quill is set to release their first new album in five years with "Full Circle," which is due out on July 26th, 2011 via via Metalville Records.
Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
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 am exploring the Michigan metal scene. With this column, I am not only discussing a brief history of each band and the sounds they create, I will also show links between the three bands. Just like the death metal that emerged from Stockholm, Sweden, the thrash from California’s northern bay area and the hardcore from New York City, Michigan’s death and black metal scene is one of interchangeable members.
On an international level, Michigan’s largest city has a reputation as “Detroit Rock City” or “Motown.” The city has produced a large number of Rock And Rock Hall of Fame members. In reference to the more extreme rock styles of black and death metal, though, the mid-southern region near the capital of Lansing has better soil for producing the Devil’s music.
Lansing’s Summon is one of the earliest black metal bands in the U.S. Although the group formed in 1991, it didn’t take off until 1995. From 1992-1994 former Lucifer’s Hammer guitarist Sean “Xaphan” Peters (guitar, vocals) joined with Chas “Necromodeus” Schoals (bass, vocals), Mark Hague (drummer) and Jeff “Tchort” Elrod (R.I.P.) in the black-doom band Masochist (another important underground USBM act). In ’95, Peters, Schoals and Hague left Masochist for Summon, while Elrod formed another black metal group, Wind of the Black Mountains.
Summon made its first recording, “Fire Turns Everything…Black” demo, as the three piece. This demo served as a blue print for the next couple of recordings. Released originally as a cassette tape, the group re-released it in CD format. Later Summon recordings featured revisions of tracks featured on the demo. The hellish screaming chorus of Schoals and Peters, catchy tremolo picking, chugging thrash breaks and whammy bar solos make hitting the stop button difficult on this recording. More...
Nowadays in the world of metal music, death metal is probably one of the most popular genres, with bands all around the world copying the innovators and sometimes putting their own spin on the style. Neither take would be possible if it weren’t for the early bands who made the genre worth respecting, and one of the clearest cases for this is Florida’s own Morbid Angel. The band was formed in 1984 in the city of Tampa by guitarist Trey Azgagthoth (born George Emmanuel III,) it would be some time before the band were able to release their first official album. Although numerous demos were recorded as well as an album, "Abominations Of Desolation," it wouldn’t be until 1988 that the band released their first record, in the form of the 7" single, "Thy Kingdom Come." The band then finally released an album entitled, "Altars Of Madness" in 1989 through Combat Records (and via Earache Records in Europe.) The album was a success in the metal underground, with many now claiming that the record is the best in the band’s catalogue, including such contemporaries as Cannibal Corpse bassist, Alex Webster.
The next album, "Blessed Are The Sick" followed in 1991 and also received overwhelming praise, including great reviews from music journalists. The album was also very much influenced by classical music, with Azgagthoth going as far as to dedicate the album to Mozart. It was after the band released, "Covenant" in 1993, that they began to receive more mainstream attention, becoming one of the first death metal bands to do so. Their video for the song, "God Of Emptiness" was featured on the popular cartoon, Beavis And Butthead and the record entered the American Heatseekers chart at number 24. Perhaps even better than these achievements of the time, "Covenant" has since gone on to be the best selling death metal album in history according to Nielson Soundscan. More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. This week, LoNero shares a great mosh pit story with us:
I went to see Iron Maiden with a friend of mine. It was an outdoor venue. The pit was crazy! There was one girl that was brutal. She was shoving people all over the place. My friend said “she’s just a chick.” So he walks to the pit, proceeds to push his way in and then he disappears. About 45 seconds later he comes out holding his hand over his right eye. I asked him what happened and he said “that bitch hit me in the eye and knocked me down.” I couldn’t stop laughing all night. Before the show was over his eye looked like it went a few rounds with Mike Tyson. I think that taught him a lesson.
LoNero's new album, "J.F.L.", was just released on Nightmare Records. You can read our review of "J.F.L." here.
Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
It was 1982 when the lineup of Stephen Pearcy (vocals), Robbin Crosby (guitar), Warren DeMartini (guitar), Juan Croucier (bass), and Bobby Blotzer (drums) came together. Their first recording was an EP, then released as the self titled Ratt LP. The first album contained songs “You Think You’re Tough” and “Back for More” which immediately connected to a rising number of eighties heavy metal fans. The cover featured the leg of Tawny Kitaen who would help establish this band with a connection to models, hookers, and sex that would carry them through their next several albums.
After their debut, Ratt was quickly hailed as heroes on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles; it wasn’t until the release of their 1984 album, “Out of the Cellar,” when Ratt blew up across the country and world. Ratt’s “Out of the Cellar” kicks off with Stephen Pearcy telling us about “A Lone Dealer, with Snake Eyes” in “Wanted Man.” Track three provided us with one of the biggest hits of the decade in “Round and Round,” a song that will stick in your head for days, also a glimpse into Ratt’s musical inspiration (fast women and hookers), which would be continuously detailed during their next three albums. Side 2 begins with the guitar heavy “Lack of Communication,” and continues strong through an updated version of “Back for More.”
For the video “Round and Round,” Ratt stepped it up, using Milton Berle in drag and an over the top dinner party where guitar solos fell through the ceiling and (predictably) rat was served as the main course. Think average night at Charlie Sheen’s house. Given their radio friendly hits, Ratt set themselves apart from some of the other acts (see: Motley Crue) and were enjoying a large piece of the glam metal pie. The album again featured Tawny Kitaen, this time crawling out of a sewer. Where was she crawling to?
In 1985, the boys from Ratt released “Invasion of Your Privacy,” an approved follow-up from their last album; again the focus of the songs was pretty much about getting laid. 1986 brought the album “Dancing Undercover,” a non-stop rock opera of lust, models, and yes, hookers. If this truly is meant to be a rock opera, I’m assuming the story is about a girl. The girl is a whore. This was essentially the third consecutive album that although resonated well with the fans, was now beginning to lose their MTV appeal compared to Motley Crue, a band that had found ways to change their image and also create a sweet ballad named “Home Sweet Home.” Was it possible Pearcy had the choice of writing a ballad or appearing in an issue of Playgirl (May 1986)? I say yes. “Dancing Undercover” contained the song “Body Talk,” which was featured in Eddie Murphy’s movie The Golden Child. This was Eddie’s first movie since the pantheon trifecta of 48 Hours-Trading Places-Beverly Hills Cop where Murphy failed to make people laugh. Is this related to the soundtrack? Probably more to do with the PG-13 rating, but its worth noting.
Finally, Ratt’s 1988 album, “Reach for the Sky” attempted a ballad named “Way Cool Jr.”, but instead created a great blues song vs. a wet the panties ballad. Ironically, this song holds up quite well today. The video followed a mystery man whose life revolves around champagne and bathroom blow jobs. Who is this mystery man? We will never know. My guess is John Stamos. This was during the time he was killing it as a mullet wearing Uncle Jesse on Full House. He seems like a champagne, bathroom blow job kind of guy.
In 1990, “Detonator” was released and never got a chance. It was a new decade where the glam metal scene was saturated and Robbin Crosby was falling into drug addiction. After this, the band released the song “Nobody Rides For Free” for the Point Break soundtrack. There is an accompanying video that accentuates the powerful acting of Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey in this classic surfing thriller.
As with most glam metal bands from the eighties, the next five years (92-96) were not good for Ratt. The band went on hiatus. During this time, Pearcy sang with several bands including Arcade, VD, and Vertex. Crosby played in Secret Service and then was diagnosed with HIV turning quickly into AIDS. DeMartini played with Whitesnake and then some solo projects.
At the end of the decade the band reunited for the album “Ratt.” With Robbie Crane on bass, the band went for a new type of music, turning out a more blues rock feel. For a band known for strip club anthems, this was a disaster; the band again broke up shortly after. In 2002 Robbin Crosby died from a heroin overdose. DeMartini , Blotzer, Keri Kelli on guitar (to soon be replaced by John Corabi), and singer Jizzy Pearl toured as Ratt, while Stephen Pearcy toured as both Ratt featuring Stephen Pearcy and then Rat Bastards.
In 2009, Stephen Pearcy, Robbie Crane, Bobby Blotzer, and Warren DeMartini reunited and began working on a new album, “Infestation.” The album was a critical success, bringing back the sound and nostalgia from Ratt’s earlier work. The album was released in 2010 and followed by a tour. Reports have stated Carlos Cavozo is now the guitarist and that the band is again, on hiatus.
Looking back on the eighties, you would be hard pressed to find three consecutive albums (“Out of the Cellar,” “Invasion of your Privacy,” “Dancing Undercover”) that deliver as well as Ratt did during the height of the glam metal rise. Today it’s hard to say what is next, or if there is a next for this band. Will there be another album? Solo projects? Or, will the band continue on, searching for that elusive ballad?
“Round and Round”
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories, and this week we found a Pit Story from the most unlikely of places, showing that heavy metal doesn't have a monopoly on crazy pit antics. A special thanks goes out to Metalunderground.com reader Hellyeah for bringing to this to our attention.
Show-goer Alex White was taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries at a brutal Katy Perry show in Welington, New Zealand on May 10th. Somehow the hundreds of school age children who attended the show managed to escape unscathed. According to a report from Stuff.co.nz, White and several others were injured during a mosh pit scuffle, with some of the attackers wearing stilleto heels and using them as weapons. An excerpt from the story follows:
Alex White, 24, of Porirua, left the event bloodied and battered after a group of women began to assault her and sister Tori, 17, moments into Perry's second song. At home nursing a black eye, scratches and bruises yesterday, the sales representative and mother-of-one said that, when Perry began to sing, she and Tori were three rows from the front. The crowd was surging forward – "normal for a concert." A woman next to her told her to stop pushing, and Ms White replied that she could not help it.
Then she felt a blow to her head, and said a group of about seven women began to punch her. Tori was also being assaulted, while others in the crowd were screaming and trying to push the attackers away.
While Tori was dragged out by security staff, a terrified Ms White was yanked by her hair down to the floor. "Fists were flying, and you've just got so many fists to the head ... I got all dizzy, and blacked out for a few seconds.
"I thought I was going to end up at A&E in a coma, and not wake up." She managed to get up and wave her arms in the air, screaming, "Get me out, get me out" to security. After they pulled her out, she was attended by St John staff, but was so shaken that she did not stay for the rest of the concert. "Who wants to stay after that?"
Footage of the massively heavy show, which clearly had an insane pit going that could rival anything from Slayer or Lamb of God, can also be viewed below. 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 am exploring various talented bands in the New York scene.
First up is Staten Island thrash metal band Sanitarius. At first listen it may sound like a some Metallica/Testament clone, but Sanitarius takes influences from melodic death metal and progressive metal, this band surely isn’t a run of the mill band. The singer Robb Quartararo’s rasp is very similar to that of James Hetfield, but he’ll add in screams ala Slayer. Musically they explore more progressive arrangements and the drummer Dave Cordero adds in interesting fills. Both guitarists are extremely talented and are very tasteful. Check out their songs on MySpace and Reverb Nation pages.
“Slaves of Liberty” Live @ The Delancey, New York City, NY on March 23rd, 2011:
Self-parody has been something of a tradition in heavy metal since the early 1980s when such television shows as "The Comic Strip Presents… Bad News" and films like, "This Is Spinal Tap" made fun of the lyrical content and fashion in heavy metal. Subsequently, some bands were formed to solely mock the genre, even if they were metal fans themselves. One of the best examples of such a group is Lawnmower Deth, a thrash metal outfit from Ravenshead in Nottinghamshire, England. The band was formed in 1987 by Chris Flint and Joseph Whitaker along with School mates Pete Lee, Steve Nesfield and Chris Parkes, who all took up bizarre and comedic stage names such as Concorde Faceripper (Nesfield,) Qualcast "Koffee Perkulator" Mutilator (Lee) and Explodin' Dr Jaggers Flymo (Flint,) amongst others. They made their debut recording as part of a split album with Metal Duck and named their side of the record, "Mower Liberation Front."
The band’s side of the album was surprisingly well received and the positive responses allowed them to record a full length studio album, which came in the form of 1990’s. "Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth." As well as their own songs, the band became known for their satirical take on other artist’s hits such as "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds and perhaps most famously, the Kim Wylde smash, "Kids In America," which Wylde later claimed to enjoy. The album was well received by fans with a sense of humour and a second album, "Return Of The Fabulous Metal Bozo Clowns" followed in 1992. It was around this time that they began to produce music videos, which like the music, were tongue in cheek in nature and humourous. More...
We've been chatting with bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite or most infamous mosh pit stories from metal shows. For this week's edition, Josh Middleton of Sylosis talks about the crazy antics at Sonisphere and how a festival goer decided to add insult to injury with a fallen metal fan.
There are usually so many crazy things that when you're put on the spot you can't think of any! We've had some really brutal walls of death and circle pits at the festivals we did last year and have some cool footage on our youtube. This is pretty gross but at last years Sonisphere we were playing and some of our friends in another band saw these jocks all off their faces on drugs. One of the dudes fell over and one of his friends just decided to piss all over him...pretty weird. You get all kinds of weirdos at festivals.
Sylosis is fresh off the release of sophomore album "Edge of the Earth," recently dropped a music video for the song "Empyreal," and will be headed to the Brutal Assault festival later this summer. To hear what the band had to say about the album and the video clip, you can check out our recent interview with Josh here.
Feel free to share your favorite mosh pit story below, and check back next Tuesday to get even more Pit Stories from metal shows.
In this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that all defy one of the most basic and recognizable traits of extreme metal – a strong vocal presence. These bands feature musicians who have ditched the front man to let their instruments do all the screaming, crooning, whispering, chanting, and shouting.
Whether as a conscious decision, or simply due to the lack of a talented vocalist who can match the music, these three lesser known bands all show that metal doesn’t need grunts or shrieks to tear off faces and shatter ear drums. Without a vocal element, the musicians have the opportunity to bring many different sounds to the forefront that are easily lost by other bands, creating a completely different experience than the standard thrash or death metal track.
Spokane based three piece Odyssey is an instrumental act by choice, having no use for vocals getting in the way of the instrumentation. Don’t let that fact make you think the music doesn’t sing, however, as the long tracks are filled to the brim with technical showcases and progressive transitions that paint a picture in the head just as well as a vocalist could conjure with either clean singing or growling.
Odyssey has very clear influences from the technical metal giants, as well as some of the more well known progressive acts, but the music is more about the journey than the label found at the destination. Any given song can have any number of stylistic shifts, and even throws in a sound reminiscent of metalcore or deathcore from time to time, while keeping everything together into a unified whole.
To hear what Odyssey has to offer, you can check out the entire “Schematics” EP (reviewed here), which is available for streaming through the group’s Bandcamp page, or read our interview with the trio at this location. The songs “Iconoclast” and “Ascendance,” from the debut “Objects in Space” album, can also be heard in the clips below.
By now, more or less every heavy metal fan knows the story of Anvil, thanks largely to the hit documentary movie, "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil." Whether it was the film or the music that made you a fan though, it's undeniable that Anvil are one of the most influential North American bands in the history of heavy metal. The seeds of the group were sewn back in 1973 when guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudrow and drummer Rob Reiner began jamming together, being influenced by the seventies heavy metal of Cactus and Black Sabbath. By 1978 the duo had formed a complete lineup which also featured guitarist Dave Allison and bassist Ian Dickson and Anvil was born.
The group released their debut album, "Hard 'n' Heavy" in 1981, initially under the moniker, "Lips," though it would later be released under the Anvil name. After the record's release, Motorhead mainman Lemmy invited Kudrow to become the band's new guitarist, filling in for the recently departed "Fast" Eddie Clarke, but the invitation was declined. Although it might not have been the wisest move financially, the next Anvil album would prove to be an underground classic in eighties metal, emerging in the form of "Metal On Metal" in 1982. The album included the superb title track as well as the Anvil live staples, "Mothra" and "666." The album was also a commercial success in the neighboring United States, where it reached number 91 on the Billboard album charts. Despite the success of the record, the band found follow up fame elusive, due in part to their restrictive record deal, which denied them the opportunity to sign with larger companies.
Although Anvil eventually broke free to sign with Metal Blade Records, they were still unable to regain the popularity which "Metal On Metal" seemed to promise. A slew of albums, including live records, were released throughout the eighties, nineties and 2000's but all with practically no success, and in some cases, almost no response, leaving the band to sometimes play to virtually empty venues. It was during the preparation for their thirteenth album that their biggest adventure would begin, as an old fan from the United Kingdom, who had since gone on to become a screenwriter, decided to make a documentary on the group. The documentary saw the band embark on a European tour with poor to mixed results, struggle to finance their new album, "This Is Thirteen" and eventually take to the stage in Japan to an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The film breathed a new life into the band, as audiences worldwide witnessed the struggles that come with the dedication to heavy metal, from mortgage problems to homelessness. Ever since then, the band has been performing regularly, appearing at such prestigious events as the Download Festival in England and filming a cameo for the movie, "The Green Hornet." Last week however, the band finally unleashed their highly anticipated new studio album, "Juggernaut Of Justice," which was released through The End Records on May 10th More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week Jeff of Hull goes all the way back to his teens to tell a story from a Meshuggah and Slayer show:
Back in my mid-teens I was lucky enough, or unlucky enough, depending on how you look at it to live in the Philly area. In the decrepit streets of this city you will find ye ole' Electric Factory. It just so happened that on one particular day Meshuggah was opening up for Slayer so all around a fucking TITs show. The show began with the standard philly practice of heavy drinking and passing out on nitris in the parking lot. One van had about 12 tanks in it but that's another story. After chugging a handful of beers and numerous blabbering conversations in a super low toned nitris voice I walked into the venue.
Meshuggah eventually went on. It was awesome! But that is not where the story is... While waiting for Slayer to go on I found myself way in the back of the club because, well, that's where the beers are. I don't know about you but if you are going to see Slayer you need to get as close as humanly possible and go bat-shit crazy. So how does one get through a packed house of muscle bound freaks, biker dudes, and general Philly shit-heads, especially all of whom are just waiting for the moment when Slayer hits the stage. Here's how, crowd mother fucking surfing.
I realize this is normally an act done properly while a band is actually playing or if you are into getting touched on every inch of your body by strangers, mostly dude strangers. I was not into any of that but Slayer I was. So FUCK IT. I patted the guy in front of me on the shoulder. He turned his head, I pointed up with as sincere a face as I could make. Without hesitation his hands folded below his waist, I jump on and here goes my god damn ride. Most people would turn around and show signs of absolute confusion. Again, one van, 12 tanks. There were a few moments I felt violated but I guess that's the price you pay. I was almost dropped about 8 times due to unsuspecting dudes high as fuck or tripping on that weeks colored gel tap. Luckily for me I am a lanky twig of a man (that's what she said) so I was easily caught by some random person who some how cared about someone besides themselves, weird, doesn't fit in at a Slayer show I know. But in the end I MADE IT! Front row! Right in the face of it all. Within landing there no more than 30 seconds went by and BOOM! Slayer hits the stage, I hit the closest person I see and thus the mosh-pit is born.
Hull has been putting the finishing touches on their upcoming new album since tearing it up at SXSW as part of a tour with Batillus. Check out their tour diary here. The band's sophomore full-length will be co-produced by Brett Romnes (who played drums on the "Viking Funeral" EP) and mixed by Billy Anderson (Sleep, High On Fire, Neurosis, EHG, Melvins et al). The record is slated for release this summer with another bout of live dates to follow.
Check back next Tuesday as we share more Pit Stories.
What more defines a culture than its customs and the influences of the indigenous people that combine to form a sense of nationality? That's the majestic quality of pagan folk metal, that it brings out those qualities of a nation and heritage steeped in tradition. The countries of South America are rich in overtones from the pre-colombian civilizations that existed up until the 16th century. Largely vanquished by Pizarro, other tribes and pandemics such as small pox, the descendents of these native empires remain to this day - continuing their traditions. Pre-hispanic folk metal permeates nearly every country from Mexico to Chile, especially gaining momentum in the upper Andes region nowadays.
Half of the 13 countries in South America are straddled by the immense cordillera of the Andes mountains, an imposing natural fortification that thwarted the Spaniards looking to pillage. While eventually nine countries were colonized by Spain and adopted Spanish as the official language and culture, the ancient ways remained firmly entrenched. South America's burgeoning pre-hispanic folk metal scene can be attributed to a people yearning for self-discovery of their origins and also as a means of superceding the oppression. Rock/metal has always been a viaduct of freedom of expression, something not always possible in that part of the world. Take Peru, for example. Their country was very permissive of cultural and musical liberties in the sixties. Rock bands and surf music were all the rage. Then the coup'd'etat of 1968 ended all that for the better part of two decades. Their neighbors Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia got just as raw of a deal in the political realm. Rock had been viewed as an alienating factor by various governments and it has taken a while for the memories of the supression by right-wing dictatorships and left-wing juntas to subside in the psyche of the masses.
Building back up since the nineties, the scene has been truly vibrant in many of these South American nations. The lands are awash with dozens of thrash, progressive, death and other variations of metal bands - and many rival some of the best American and European bands in terms of sound and originality. Latinos are quite spirited and put a lot of heart into what they do. They don't take things for granted like some of the more jaded listeners of larger nations. Recently in Paraguay, thousands of people protested and picketed on the streets to get Iron Maiden to add a tour date in Asuncion. Would we do that here? No, because we don't have to fight to have a scene.
South American bands have been fine-tuning themselves for years to intricate and professional stylings of the sub-genres. With that, it should come as no surprise that the pagan metal scene has been thriving in the Andean countries. Dubbed "Ancestral Metal," the traditional folkloric take of black (and other) metal is infused with richly synchronized instrumentation from the Incan and other pre-colombian cultures. There are many bands delving into this style, and you can check out a good cross-section of them in these two nice anthologies Metal Nativo Americano Pts. 1-2. Bands take various different approaches to this infusion of native influences with metal. Some are doom, like Kranium of Peru, or progressive symphonic metal like their countrymen Yawarhiem, while others take a folk-rock approach that has metamorphosized during the years like Ecuador's legendary Aztra or an industrial sound like Bolivia's Alcoholika Lo Christo.
What unifies most of these bands is using themes that date back to cultures that have their inceptions over 10,000 (according to many anthropologists) years ago. They integrate the sounds of instruments from their ancestors, such as the traditional "quena" flute, the "zampoña" - a flute with five or six pan-pipe sound holes, or the "charango" - a guitar made either from wood or the back of an armadillo. Even the "quejada" is utilized, which is a percussion instrument made from the jawbone of a horse or donkey. Combine these pre-hispanic notes of the Andes with traditional or death metal, and a sound is derived that is quintessential South American folkloric metal. The native appeal interwoven with metal creates a sound that is as stark and lush as the majestic mountains and rugged valleys that form the backdrop of the countries. The best known song based upon Incan music will probably always be "El Condor Pasa" by the Peruvian Daniel Alomia Robles (covered by Simon and Garfunkel), but now metal bands are doing their own adaptations. Today we will transpose you into that setting by looking at a few bands from the South American highlands and their outlying regions. More...
Death metal is a sub-genre that has widely expanded its definition since first receiving this stylistic tag. From the severely distorted guitar tones to unrecognizable low growls and blast beats, death metal has always been a style of extremes. Arguably, death metal’s extremeness is untouchable, especially in the area of paces.
During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, bands were competing for the title of fastest band on the planet. Some death metal groups took a 90-degree turn. Instead of playing 500-notes per song, these groups fleshed out just a few, monstrous chords. By combining the harsh sounds of death metal with the slovenly tempos of doom a new category surfaced, death/doom. In turn, an even slower and more distorted form grew out of this style, funeral doom. Winter was one of the bands that spawned this metal hybrid.
Winter’s unique apocalyptic vision first appeared in 1988. The NYC-area band released its first and only full-length “Into Darkness” in 1990 via Future Shock Records. Nuclear Blast picked up the record in 1992 and released their “Servants of the Warsmen” video on the “Death is Just the Beginning” VHS compilation. This track seemed out of place. It’s languid tempos were like listening to the other bands (Hypocrisy, Master, Brutality, Macabre, etc.) in slow motion. Being the oddball in a crowd is not always anathema, though, because whether viewers liked it or not, this track made an impression.
Winter definitely made an impact on doom metal’s deathly offspring. Their down-tempo compositions influenced funeral doom and drone styles. In order to confirm this statement, I contacted two musicians who feel “Into Darkness” is a classic recording.
Patrick Bruss plays in several death metal bands including Ribspreader, Crypticus and Tombstones. Also, he has mixed and mastered numerous artists such as Acid Witch, Cianide, Cardiac Arrest and Impetigo.
Greg Anderson is a figurehead in the area of extremely slow metal. Anderson has played in numerous groups including Sunn O(((, Goatsnake, Thorr’s Hammer and Burning Witch. He is co-owner of Southern Lord Records.
Both artists agree that “Into Darkness” is a classic album. “Winter,” states Bruss, “was way ahead of the times. The album is especially great for being so un-trendy. In a time when everyone wanted to play fast and technical, these guys were all about mood and a sense of dread…I think bands like this don't set-out to make statements, they just make the music that comes naturally to them while ignoring what's popular. That, in itself, is a great statement… It definitely helped to create a new style of Doom.”
Greg Anderson saw something different in “Into Darkness,” too. Winter’s style was untypical from everything Anderson had heard at the time of discovery. The record influenced him as a musician.
“When I heard that record in the mid ‘90s there weren’t a lot of bands playing in that style. There are only a handful of bands that contributed to my musical perversion (laughs) and playing at the time—Eyehategod, St. Vitus, Trouble and bands like that. Winter was different because they had a punk and hardcore edge, but they had low, growling vocals, which was something the bands I mentioned didn’t really have. They were like a more punk version of Celtic Frost with some death metal vocals. It was really a unique sound at that time. I thought they were amazing!
Anderson continues, “This record was definitely an influence when I played with Thorr’s Hammer (mid ‘90s). We were into anything slow and heavy that we could get our hands on. Back then, there weren’t a lot of releases like that. Those bands were very underground and obscure. Any of that stuff was definitely an influence.”
“Into Darkness” not only inspired Anderson to up the ante on his down-tempo arrangements, he believes it may have also inspired some of his artists on Southern Lord. “Sure, they definitely influenced some of the bands I worked with, but at that time, they were very unique. Nowadays, there are a million bands doing that style. At that time, there were only a handful of bands doing that.”
“Into Darkness” did have its faster moments. These came as punky, Celtic Frost dirges. As Anderson notes above, these elements were part of what made the record so unique. Bruss concurs, “The up-tempo parts sound almost exactly like Napalm Death on syrup. How can you not love that? The slowest D-Beats ever!”
Hanging notes and lethargic-moving kick drums create a mood in its own, but “Into Darkness” contained layers of instrumentation, some working together, some apart. Guitar effects and organs bring trippy elements to the mix. Greg Anderson informed me that the group used a Hammond B3 organ, which a session jazz organist played. Using any type of keys, piano, synth or organ was a novel concept at that time. “It’s really cool because a lot of bands at that time weren’t doing that kind of thing, either,” states Anderson.
From the production to the album’s noisy aspects, Bruss likes the album’s over all vibe. “The noises add a great Sludge element to it while still being ambient.” He hails from the Studio Sunlight death metal side of engineering, so he could not say the production influenced him as a professional. However, he likes the album’s production. “I think it's spot-on. It's grimy, sludgy, & heavy, but also clear. A great production is one you don't notice over the music and this definitely fits the bill.”
With the exception of sludge masters Eyehategod, at the time he discovered Winter, Greg Anderson’s taste were more towards the traditional side of doom—St. Vitus, The Obsessed and Trouble. Bruss mentioned a couple of funeral doom bands from that era that he saw, along with Winter, as pioneering doom/death acts. “They [Winter], along with Thergothon and Disembowelment formed the Unholy Trinity of early death/doom and all three are essential albums that helped define a genre.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Greg Anderson received a call from Winter. He said he was “flattered” and “blown away” by the fact that they called him to do the reissue because he’s a big fan of the record. As this article establishes, he felt “Into Darkness” is a “pretty important record.” He wanted to take a different approach with this release, though, because it felt it did not receive the treatment it deserved.
“The thing about that record is every time someone put it out it had shoddy packaging. Labels didn’t seem to put a lot of care into it, so we decided to give it a nice packaging. It comes with an 18-page booklet, flyers and liner notes. They were really hands-on in creating the packaging for this, which is something that we really tried to do. To me, this is the definitive version of this release, especially the vinyl. It was originally released on very limited vinyl. This time it comes with a gatefold jacket and a fanzine-style booklet. I wanted to create a nice, archival piece for this album.”
Winter reunited in 2010, apparently just to play shows such as Roadburn Festival 2011 and a recent Roadburn warm-up gig. Southern Lord will release the album April 12, 2011. Read the review of “Into Darkness.”
Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) is admitting that not only did he fall off the wagon in 2008, but fellow toxic twin, Joe Perry also joined him while they attempted to record a new album. The way Tyler tells it is that Joe was snorting so many prescription drugs he was unable to play guitar. Note that contrary to rumors, snorting non-prescription drugs does not enhance playing guitar…
With eight out of thirteen tracks completed, Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row) is expected to have a new album released in the Summer of 2011. Bach is promising rock and roll with clean vocals and lots of screaming. All signs are pointing to Sebastian putting his “country music” years behind him. It appears everyone has agreed to just ignore this and make believe it never happened and that’s fine with me...
After attending classes and making a donation to M.A.D.D., Vince Neil (Motley Crue) is fully clear of his DUI charge. Neil will have the weekend to rest and then appear back in court on Monday for battery and disorderly conduct charges. For those keeping track it’s: Vince Neil 2, Lindsay Lohan 2 for number of court appearances in 2011. The good news is both are below their annual average, the bad news is we are only one-third through the year… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories from metal shows. This week new The Accused frontman Kevin Cochneuer tells us about not just one broken nose sustained in the mosh pit, but two:
I was at The Showbox Market venues here in Seattle catching a Motorhead/C.O.C show, this had to of been like 5-6 yrs ago. I'm rock'n out and going totally crazy in the pit, anyone who has been to a Motorhead show knows that the pit can get pretty crazy! So I'm bebopping around and decide that I'm going to run the other way only to slam face first into the top of some guys head! Instantly knowing I broke my nose! I made my way out of the pit, which seemed to be a mile long at this point, and headed to the restroom to see the damage. Sure enough it was broken. My nose was totaled and hanging out on the right side of my face. As I'm standing there assessing the damage' a passer buy walks in and asks " Hay man are you okay!" To his reply I grabbed my nose and with a quick tug forced it back in to a seemingly normal position. With a gush of blood I said " No problems here buddy!" Then like a true soldier or a total idiot I went back into the pit!
But wait, there's more! Just last year I was at another show with a friend of mine. I want to say it was Overkill at the El Corazon in Seattle and we were both in the pit. Word to the wise just because you have a friend in the pit does not mean its any safer! Okay so I'm rock'n out like usual and my "friend" comes up from behind and pins my arms to my side. Now I'm helpless to any oncoming battery from the nearest caveman. Sure enough, BANG! We get slammed and hit the ground. With my face smashed against the floor and my buddy flailing on top of me like a turtle on his back once again my nose was broken! I know now that if I want to go in to a pit that I stay clear of my friends and keep my head down because you never know who or what is going to come around a brake your face!
I was actually caught on video in a pit at the American Carnage tour that happened last year! You can view it here!!! [-ed: or below] I'm the big guy with the shaved head clearly dominating the center of the pit and yes the long haired guy that is standing next to me is the "friend" from the Overkill show!
That is my pit stories! I hope you enjoy the and I hope you learn something from them!
The Accused recently posted a new music video for the track "Hemline," which appears on the band's 2009 album "The Curse Of Martha Splatterhead."
In addition to new frontman Kevin Cochneuer (previously unannounced), the band added drummer Warren A. Pease earlier this year.
Check back next Tuesday as we share more Pit Stories.
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality underground artists that haven’t gotten the exposure they deserve. This week I am exploring the shred scene in the tri-state area.
Now I wouldn't exactly call it much of a scene here, but there are quite a few talented guitarists in New Jersey and New York. From people posting their own solos/songs on youtube out of a bedroom studio to veteran musicians who book at high class studios to record their album. Today I'll be discussing three acts from across the spectrum. More...
Last month we took a look at Wolfsbane and saw what singer Blaze Bayley was up to before (and eventually after) he joined Iron Maiden. This week we take a look at what another of Iron Maiden’s singers did before he joined the band, this time it’s world renowned and current vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the band, Samson. Samson was formed in 1977, a time when punk had exploded in the United Kingdom and for a brief time, long haired, hard rock and heavy metal bands became rather unpopular. Nevertheless, the band continued to hone their craft and in 1979, they released their debut album, "Survivors," which featured guitarist and bane namesake, Paul Samson handling the vocal duties in a lineup which also included bassist Chris Aylmer and iconic drummer, Thunderstick. However, shortly after the release of the record, Samson stepped away from the microphone to make way for the band’s new vocalist "Bruce Bruce," better known today as Bruce Dickinson.
With Dickinson now in tow, the band re-released "Survivors" to feature their new vocalist and soon released their second album, “Head On.” The album proved to be a successful one for Samson, reaching number 34 in the UK album charts and earning rave reviews from critics. The record is also notable for the song, "Thunderburst," which was co-written with Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris and would appear the next year on the Iron Maiden album, "Killers," in the guise of, "The Ides Of March." Despite the success of the record however, the group soon found themselves being booked on mismatched tours as a result of poor management and after one more album, "Shock Tactics," which featured the charting single, "Riding With The Angels," Bruce Dickinson left the band to join Iron Maiden, after Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood got talking to Dickinson following Samson’s performance at the Reading festival in 1981 (which was later released as a live album in 1990.)
The band then soldiered on, recruiting new vocalist Nicky Moore. The change in singer was not without it’s rewards, as the subsequent album, "Before the Storm," yielded two singles, "Losing My Grip" and "Red Skies," which were able to hit the British singles charts. Unfortunately this was to be the last taste of chart success Samson would receive, as their later releases were overshadowed by other heavy metal stars of the time, not least Iron Maiden, and the New Wave Of British Heavy movement had begun to grind to a halt. Although the band hadn’t released an album since 1993, they never officially disbanded, but were effectively forced to do so in 2002, when guitarist Paul Samson tragically passed away after a battle with cancer. Five years later, bass player Aylmer would also pass away, effectively ending any speculation there may have been regarding a Samson reunion of any kind. Nowadays, the band are often looked upon favourably by NWOBHM fans as one of the best of it’s day. They released some truly spectacular music and stood out amongst many of the other groups, not least for locking their drummer in a cage at any given opportunity. More...