For a band associated with the hair and glam movement of the eighties, Skid Row has spent most of their time post the "Decade of ME." Formed in 1986, it wasn't until 1989 that their debut album, the self-titled Skid Row record that mixed glam with arena rock and ballads, was released. It was that initial album that put the band on the map, but it was the subsequent albums that made this band one of the top acts of their genre.
The original Skid Row lineup was Rachel Bolan (bass) and Dave "the Snake" Sabo (guitar), Scotti Hill (guitar), drummer Rob Affuso, and Matt Fallon -- the vocalist who was quickly replaced by Sebastian Bach in early 1987. Is there any nickname better than "the Snake"? No. Do you think Dave Sabo and wrestler Jake "the Snake" Roberts ever get together? Is there a "the Snake" nickname convention? I like to think there is.
The self-titled album separated Skid Row from a group of bands that were getting more difficult to separate from. They had a little more of an edge compared to some of the other bands. If you were a male and were carrying Poison, Def Leppard, and Skid Row CDs, you would put the Skid Row CD on the top, covering the others. They were somewhere between Poison and Guns N' Roses. A little dirtier than Poison, but not quite the GN'R mess; you could sense Sebastian Bach didn't wash his hair every day.
The initial band was formed to be the next Bon Jovi. With Bach's good looks, shrieking voice and heavy band playing alongside, Skid Row was to continue making glam rock with a smile. However, during the recording of the first album something happened. Their band developed their own sound, still heavy metal pop, but with more street credentials. Despite most of the first album considered "heavy," it was the ballads, "18 And Life" and "I Remember You" that would receive air play and be known by the denim jacket crowds. Obviously Bach and company owe a thank you to all of the bands before them that made the power ballad what it was at that time. More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. Over the dozens of stories, we've share quite a few tales of stage dives gone wrong, from humorous to painful to weird, and everything in between. This week, Sal Abruscato of A Pale Horse Named Death (ex-Life Of Agony) shares a more serious stage dive story:
Yeah I got a story, it was 1994 and Life Of Agony was playing at L'Amours in Brooklyn. It was a sold out show and was intense. This poor kid under the influence of drugs decided to stage dive head first, he smashed his head on the floor hemorrhaging by the time the ambulance came. Sadly he died later that evening at a very young age. Point of my story is you should not stage dive because it can be your last time.
A Pale Horse Named Death just released their new album, "And Hell Will Follow Me" on June 14th via SPV/Steamhammer.
Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
For this week’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground we’ll take a look at a style that is generally less heavy than our normal offerings, but still of interest to the average metal fan.
Satanic or occult rock bands such as Ghost and Blood Ceremony have been landing recording deals and making it toward the forefront of the metal scene lately, even though their music falls less on the extreme side of the spectrum. Something about the themes and the arrangement of the music calls out to metal lovers though, whether it’s the invocations to Satan to bring about the end or just simply the catchy tunes.
This week we’ll be unearthing three bands who may go about it in slightly different ways, but all of these groups evoke the mood and tone of a different time, not to mention of something supernatural and slightly sinister.
The Devil’s Blood
Dutch female-fronted act The Devil’s Blood has been gaining momentum over the last year since the release of the full-length album “The Time of No Time Evermore” (reviewed here). Clearly drawing on the pioneers and rock acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s, The Devil’s Blood infuses its sound with more of a modern aesthetic and clearer production, which can be heard on the band’s MySpace page.
You can also check out an interview Metalunderground.com conducted with the Devil’s Blood here, or listen to several songs in the players below.
“Christ or Cocaine”
Bristol is a city which has unquestionably produced some of the best bands in their field. Thrash metal fans will know that Onslaught, perhaps Britain’s premier thrash band, hail from Bristol, as do trip-hop legends Massive Attack, but digging a little deeper, we find that the city also gave birth to one of the finest bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Jaguar. The band was formed in 1979 by guitarist Garry Peppard, bass player Jeff Cox and drummer Chris Lovell, with vocalist Rob Reiss joining the group a few months later. The band set about building up a local following, an endeavour which proved to be successful, and followed up this accomplishment by recording two demos, the latter of which led to a short record deal with Heavy Metal Records, (the label which would release the bulk of Witchfinder General albums.) Through the label, Jaguar released the single, "Back Street Woman," which was able to sell over 4,000 copies, despite modest promotion.
The band’s big break came after they performed at a Dutch rock and metal festival in 1982, which was able to catch the attention of English record label Neat, which was known for releasing many singles and albums from fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal artists including Raven, Venom and Tygers Of Pan Tang amongst many others. The deal resulted in the single, "Axe Crazy" being released, a single which is now considered to be amongst the best from the era, which resulted in extensive touring. The success of the single and tour allowed the band to record a full length studio album, which was released in 1983 under the title, "Power Games." Although it didn’t sell well enough to enter the British album charts like a host of their NWOBHM contemporaries, it was well received in the metal underground, and allowed the band to begin making appearances on television shows. A second album, "This Time" was released the next year, but owing to it’s change of direction, resulted in a critical backlash from a number of fans, so much so that the band decided to call it a day by the end of 1984.
Like many other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, the group experienced a revival of interest in the late 1990s and a reunion soon followed. After performing at a number of festivals and small concerts, the band recorded a brand new studio album, "Wake Me," which was released in the year 2000, with another album, "Run Ragged" following in 2003. Since the reunion, the band has gone through a number of lineup changes, with guitarist Garry Peppard now the sole original member remaining. The band has also been able to keep their name alive by continuing to perform live shows and releasing live and compilation albums, with a brand new studio album planned for the near future. More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. This week, Zac of Strong Intention shares a story about a house show in Texas that took a turn for the worse:
STRONG INTENTION was playing a house show in Texas once with this killer local band called Sbitch. We were playing in the living room, packed with like 60-70 kids. During our set one kid was thrashing around and ended up completely destroying our drummer and his kit along with it. After we got set back up and starting raging again, a kid decided to create his own version of stage diving, and literally just dove straight out the living room window...the unopened living room window!
While news of Strong Intention has been quiet around here, the band is still playing shows and has a few lined up:
July 5th Baltimore, MD Sonar w/ JUCIFER
July 7th Danbury, CT @ Heirloom Arts w/ JUCIFER
July 8th Brooklyn, NY @ St Vitus w/ SOURVEIN
July 9th Frederick, MD Krug's Place w/ JUCIFER
July 10th Baltimore, MD Ottobar Baltimore w/ SUFFOCATION and REVOCATION
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 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...