Mexico is an enormous country just like our own, composed of 31 states and the Federal District. And like us, their music scene is exploding with bands and talent. Besides some of the bigger acts that have made a name for themselves over the years like Shub Niggurath, Cenotaph and Transmetal (a band once produced by Eric Greif) - not enough is heard with the requisite frequency about this active scene in Mexico. There are dozens of metropolitan areas all throughout this country that have metal bands, and there are several record labels that have been spawned to release this vast amount of groups. The interest in Mexican metal was no doubt piqued in American listeners years ago when such acts as LA's Brujeria showed what a winning combo death metal in Spanish could be. In focusing on one scene from our neighbors in Mexico, we will look at some of the interesting bands that have been coming out of the northern metropolis of Monterrey.
Living in the desert southwest where all of my Mexican neighbors come from Michoaca, Tamaulipas or Guanajuato, it is only natural I have wanted to discover more about this country and it's music. While I've travelled to my share of border towns, which have their own energy and club scene and bars that have pools where you can play volleyball, the only way to truly experience this country is to go deeper south and start seeing all the pueblos and cities that start to have a purer Mexican identity amidst the colorful landscape. I've been to Tijuana, Nogales and Mexicali countless times, been hustled off the street by guys paid to get you into their bar, and enjoyed plenty of drinks while listening to loud thrash metal. But in order to get a truer picture of what the country has to offer, it is vital to go further in and start seeing the true essence of it all. You pass through countless towns as you go deeper into Mexico - almost all having a cathedral, soccer field and a bar within the same block while the locals are listening to their ranchera music. But you know somewhere down the street are a bunch of guys with metal t-shirts on rocking out to heavy tunes on their home stereo. Metal is big down there.
A couple hours southwest of McAllen, Texas is the picturesque city of Monterrey. It is hard to believe that Mexico's third largest metropolitan area (ninth largest city) is this close to the U.S. Driving the desolate chaparral outback to get there is half the fun. Mexico has a system of free roads and toll roads - "carreteras de cuota" - throughout most of this northern area. If you can pay the toll you get to drive on the 4-lane highway. If not, you drive on the free road alongside a produce truck that's falling apart and emitting black smoke. As I watched a man trying to sell his hand tools so he could pay the toll, I couldn't help but be reminded of that song "Caseta de Cobro" by El Tri (about a toll booth operator who steals half the money he collects, buying pot and taking vacations.) I've been stopped by cops on roads like this, and a ten dollar bill usually gets me out of a ticket. Too bad it's not like this in the U.S. In Mexico, the laws of the frontier still prevail, which is sometimes a pleasant departure from regimentation and bureaucracy. You've got to love the rugged outback and a sense of adventure, and that's one of the reasons to head down to cities like Monterrey.
Digression aside, Monterrey is far enough inland to be uniquely Mexican but close enough to the U.S. to hear faded radio station signals. What strikes you about it is how incredibly big it is. As it's located in the border state of Nuevo Leon, this city of 4.5 million people often gets overlooked as being "too gringo" and not having enough true Mexican culture. It has twice the per capita income as other cities in Mexico, an educated workforce - but a lot of strife like many of the northern areas due to the Gulf and Zeta cartels fighting for control despite President Felipe Calderon's drug war. Politics aside, the people of Monterrey pass their day by listening to either tejano/nortena music or different forms of rock and roll - but usually not both. The city has, to me, a rugged beauty in that high desert plains way with it's statuesque palm trees and the jutting outcropping known as the Cerro de la Silla mountain. It's a large commercial and industrial hub with plenty of businesses that export a variety of products (several multinational companies have headquarters down there, such as Nokia, GE and Toyota among the many) and contains several colleges like La Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon within it's permiter. Universities mean youth, ideology and music - hence helping create the musical renaissance over a decade ago. Metal bands have been thrashing here since the 80's, mind you, but in the past ten years the scene has really taken on a whole new life of it's own. More...
Before Rob Zombie was known for his movies, his Woolite commercial or "Dragula," he was known as the frontman of New York's White Zombie, one of the most popular heavy metal bands of the 1990's. The band was formed in 1985 by design student Robert Cummings (Rob Zombie) and his girlfriend Sean Yseult, who would prove to be the sole constant members of the group. They formed their own record label, Silent Explosion, through which they released three EPs "Gods On Voodoo Moon," "Pig Heaven" and "Psycho-Head Blowout" before self-releasing their first full length album, "Soul-Crusher." The album helped them to attract the attention of Caroline Records, with whom they released their next record, "Make Them Die Slowly." The album marked a significant departure in sound for the band, heading in a much more heavy metal orientated direction than their previous punk rock style.
Following guitar player John Ricci's carpel tunnel syndrome preventing him from playing guitar anymore, Jay Yeunger was brought in to replace him, making his recording debut with White Zombie's next EP release, "God Of Thunder," which featured a cover of the KISS song of the same name as well as two previously unused songs. After the release, the band searched for a new label, attempting to grab the attention of major labels. While RCA showed interest, but the band eventually decided to sign with Geffen. Thanks in part to the backing they received from a major label, as well as creating catchier songs, they were able to break into the mainstream with their next record, "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1." The album featured the song, "Thunder Kiss '65," which received heavy rotation on MTV (which played music back then) and became something of a hit single. The song's popularity, coupled with the band's hard working approach to touring helped the album go Gold by the end of 1993, before going Platinum the next year.
The band were now faced with the task of following up a successful album and recruited new drummer John Tempesta (formerly of Exodus and Testament) to help out. They proved they weren't a flash in the pan with their next record, "Astro Creep 2000," which was able to reach number six on the Billboard 200 albums chart, not least due to the popularity of the songs, "More Human Than Human," "Electric Head Part. 2" and "Super-Charger Heaven." The album has since been certified double Platinum since it's release, selling over two and a half million copies. It was also around this time that Zombie began working on solo material, performing a duet with the legendary Alice Cooper for a tie in CD for the hit show, "X-Files," which received a Grammy nomination, as well as penning the song, "The Great American Nightmare" for Howard Stern, which has been used as the theme song of his radio show since 1999. While it's unclear if these solo endeavours factored into the demise, White Zombie decided to call it a day in 1998. Since then, Rob Zombie has achieved considerable success as a solo artist and is now known for his film directing too. Yseult joined a surf rock band called The Famous Monsters, in addition to other musical pursuits, before releasing a book, "I'm With The Band" last year. The other members have also continued a career in music, particularly Tempesta, who has gone on to perform with other well known artists such as Helmet and The Cult. Despite a White Zombie box set, "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" being released in 2008, the members have been adamant that a future reunion is very unlikely. More...
Back from rehab and ready to go…
Motley Crue lead singer, Vince Neil, is set to receive an entertainment lifetime achievement award in Las Vegas. Rumor has it that there will be a special guest presenting the award to Neil. Given it is Las Vegas, fingers crossed that we may be very close to seeing Carrot Top’s defining moment in show business… More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. This week, metal guitarist turned solo artist Jake Dreyer reaffirms that Slayer's pits are, in fact, the most brutal (not Katy Perry's):
The bands I have played/toured with have all been under the prog-metal category. Most of the time there is not a lot of pit action going on during our set. Majority of the people in attendance are musicians who stand with their arms crossed while their girlfriends appear bored out of their minds and have the "when is this song going to end?" look on their faces. So Unfortunately, I don't posses any good stories aside from what would be found at a usual gig. However, I do have some moments from shows where I have been in the crowd.
The craziest pit I have ever been in was at a Slayer show in Los Angeles. People were getting carried off in stretchers, bones were getting broken. I still have this mental image of seeing a massive shirtless bald guy being escorted out of the pit by two equally as big security guards. While the guy's ankle looked like it was twisted 90 degrees to the left. I was also made a witness to the infamous dude that head bangs and pukes at that same time...There is nothing like seeing a guy windmill and simultaneous throw up cheap beer all over the place while "Spirit in Black" plays on in the background. A visual moment I can now honestly say I crossed off my bucket list...
Metal guitarist Jake Dreyer released his debut solo EP, “In the Shadows of Madness,” in April of 2011, currently available through Amazon.com and iTunes. The instrumental EP showcases his many years of study under such masters as David “The Shred Demon” Shankle (DSG, Ex-Manowar), Chris Broderick (Megadeth, Ex-Jag Panzer, Nevermore) and Rusty Cooley (Outworld). Jake cites his main musical influences as Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Jeff Loomis.
“In the Shadows of Madness” also features Adam Sagan (Echoterra, Ex-Into Eternity) on drums and Noah Martin (Arsis) handling the bass guitar duties.
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. For this article I’m going to be looking at three very distinct styles, but all are committed to their style and fan base.
The Maritimes, with its small population and many rural areas, might not be considered the hotbed of metal, but when you look into the underground you see a very different story. With all styles of metal being accepted and embraced, the underground is growing each and every late night. In the name of the Maritimes, sit back with an Alexander Keith’s and enjoy this ride through our underground.
Bass + Guitar + Drums = A Band. Bass + Guitar + Drums + Deep Growls + High Shrieks = A Metal Band. Bass + Guitar + Drums + Deep Growls + High Shrieks + African Djembe = CICADA. Cicada consists of Chester Long (bass/vocals), Anson May (guitar/vocals), Joe Pottie (drums), and Nathan Collupy (Djembe). The obvious white elephant in the room is the Djembe. The Djembe creates an instant groove to their whole performance. The groove sound it creates is something that all bands work hard at achieving with some very complicated bass work, but with Cicada the Djembe frees up Chester to work in tandem with the drums and create a very heavy rhythm that Anson can play in an out of.
It’s not very often that you hear something and think (a) “that’s different” and (b) “that’s really good,” but that’s the simplest expression I can use when describing a band of great guys that has created something really good and really different. You can hear this amazing sound at their ReverbNation page.
Thrash metal has more or less always been about speed, aggression and ferocity, but like all good things, sometimes it’s the technical side that makes it so good. Some of the best bands in the genre focused their musicianship and song writing on being phenomenally gifted technical players, and one of these bands was Toxik. Toxik was formed in 1985 in Peekskill, New York by bass player Lee Erwin and guitarist Josh Christian, initially under the banner, Tokyo. However, shortly after deciding on this name, the group was threatened with legal action by another band who had already trademarked the name and thus, Toxik was born. The band started off by struggling to maintain a stable lineup, with founding member Erwin being amongst those to leave, and drummer Sal Dadabo being asked to join heavy metal heroes Twisted Sister. Eventually however, the band found stability when Christian was joined by vocalist Mike Sanders, drummer Tad Leger and bass player Brian Bonini.
The four members now a sturdy unit, the band found themselves being offered a contract from Roadrunner Records, a proposition which they accepted and finally released their debut album, "World Circus" in 1987. The album was acclaimed by thrash metal fans and the metal press alike, with some considering it one of the best thrash releases of the year, a statement backed by being awarded College Music Journal’s "Best New Metal Album Of The Year" accolade. The album also won them respect amongst their peers and Toxik were offered a spot on the next Metal Massacre compilation, which they contributed to with the song, "Wastelands." More...
We've been talking with bands and fans everywhere to get their mosh pit stories. This week, Anders Johansson, drummer of Fullforce, shares the making of an interesting tradition at the band's shows:
Well, we are a new band with just a few gigs under our belt but one thing that has happened a few times now is that when we play our song "Wall of secrets" it seems the crowd think they should pour beer onto the guitar player Stefan Elmgren. Someone somewhere started it and and it has spread. We first got a bit annoyed, but the crowd seems to show their appreciation this way in that specific song. We don't have a clue why but as long as they are happy...so are we.
The Swedish five-piece consists of members Mike Andersson (Cloudscape, Vocals), Stefan Elmgren (ex-Hammerfall, Guitars), Anders Johansson (Hammerfall, ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Drums), CJ Grimmark (ex-Narnia, Guitars) and Tommy Larsson (ex-Heed, Bass). Fullforce will release its debut album, "One," via SPV/Steamhammer on July 26th in North America. The band released the first music video for the song "Walls of Secrets" earlier this year.
Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
How far down have you dug into the Nashville metal scene? NOT FAR ENOUGH. They don’t call Nashville “Music City” for nothing, after all. For this week’s Unearthing the Metal Underground, we dig a little deeper than Part 1 and Part 2 to really get into the muddy fun area of cover bands.
Five-time chart-topping Country singer Rodney Atkins has a guitarist in his crew named Phil Shouse who, alongside being a monstrous guitar player, moonlights as Shredward Dan Halen in "The Mighty Dan Halen." Shouse, alongside Taylor Swift’s bassist, Kelly Clarkson’s drummer, and a guitarist formerly with Shooter Jennings all gave a stellar performance covering Metallica and Megadeth at the first of a series of explosive Nashville cover band shows known as, “Metal At The Mercy”. The drummer for The Reverend Horton Heat also played in other acts on the bill. These people could have (and actually have) all played on the legendary stage of the Grand Ole Opry the very night before donning metal gear and melting faces at a metal cover show.
What do you do with your down time if you’re a Nashville big shot? Play metal, apparently. This week, we take a look at one Nashville cover band and one Nashville festival of sorts for metal cover bands. More...
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.
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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”