Each week with "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we’ll be spotlighting a few quality lesser known bands in an attempt to spread the word and expose acts that make the underground great. This week we head into a genre that combines two seemingly irreconcilable styles – traditional folk music and heavy metal. Despite what might appear like water and oil, folk music mixes exceedingly well with both traditional metal and extreme styles such as death or black metal. Folk metal is currently dominated by big names like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, and Eluveitie. Anyone who digs a little deeper will find a host of unknowns bands just as capable of making metal heads want to raise a tankard or march off to Mordor.
There’s a joke in the metal world about all bands being inspired by Satan, Lovecraft, or Tolkien. It turns out it’s not just the Europeans who can’t get enough of the epic “The Lord of the Rings” series, though. You can now throw Argentina on that list, with Tengwar drawing their name from the language created by Tolkien.
Tengwar starts with a base of traditional instruments, and then adds the guitars in to augment the music, showing off a huge Celtic influence that is more “folk” than “metal.” The range of instruments found in Tengwar’s music is staggering, covering the gamut of what folk can provide. Galician bagpipes, recorders, flutes, mandolins, tin whistles, and fiddles all make appearances throughout the music.
The clean vocals are done in an epic rock and roll style, keeping up the sweeping and grand ideals of the source material. In some parts the music speeds up and almost approaches a Korpiklaani-esque happy drinking atmosphere. Tengwar is currently working on a full-length album titled “The Halfling’s Rise,” and songs from the “Tengwesta Quendion” EP are available for streaming via the band’s MySpace page.
Footage of the band performing a self-titled track and the song “Bear Skin” (poor sound on this clip) can be seen below.
Very few bands are able to amass a cult following having never released a proper album. Fewer still can be credited with being a key influence in not one, but two genres. No ordinary metal band could achieve such praise, but then Hellhammer were not an ordinary band. The band formed under the name Hammerhead in the Swiss capital of Zurich by guitarist and vocalist Tom G. Fischer (aka Tom Warrior) and bassist Urs Sprenger (aka Steve Warrior,) along with drummer Pete Stratton and took influence from many British bands such as Black Sabbath, Venom, Angel Witch and Raven. Before long, Stratton had left the band, to be replaced by drummer Jörg Neubart (a.k.a. "Bruce Day") and the group changed their name to Hellhammer. This lineup of the band recorded two demos, "Death Fiend" and "Triumph Of Death," but only released the latter initially, sending it to record labels and magazines, finding little to no positive feedback at first.
After the recording of the first two demos, bassist Urs Sprenger left the group to be replaced by former Schizo bass player Martin Eric Ain. Ain and Fischer began working together to break away from the confines that they felt Hellhammer imposed on them, taking the band in a more radical direction and recording one more demo entitled, "Satanic Rites," before their first commercial release, the "Apocalyptic Raids" EP. The release was not very successful initially, but ultimately proved to be a huge influence on many metal bands, especially in the black and death metal genres. The band decided to call it a day three months after this release, with Fischer and Ain resurfacing in Celtic Frost, another hugely influential band.
Although Hellhammer was widely slated in their time, they have since been regarded as one of the most important bands in the history of extreme metal. Many bands have covered Hellhammer in the past, including such big names as Sepultura and Napalm Death, as well as Tom Fischer himself during his time with Apollyon Sun, the band he formed after the first Celtic Frost breakup and in 2008, a compilation album was released entitled, "Demon Entrails" which featured all three demos. More...
This week I give you my top albums from the eighties hair bands. Essentially a top twenty-five list, with a twist; imagine all of the albums from the eighties disappeared and you could no longer listen to this genre ever again, similar to 1992, but permanent. Unable to own the music, hear the music on the radio, or even listen to a song at a bar…what would you do to change this? Allow me to present the razor blade test. How many times will you cut yourself to bring a particular album back to your life? More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Gazelle Amber Valentine of sludge metal duo Jucifer shares a few stories, mostly about what happens when the first guitar note blasts out:
Every pit has some joy, some blood... and usually a fight or two. But when you're playing guitar through upwards of a dozen cabs, some of the most entertaining pit incidents happen before the pit has even had time to get started.
Most of my favorite crowd reaction stories happened when I hit the very first chord. Because except for those occasions when something goes wrong or there's a noise ordinance, the first chord is always waaay louder than people think it's gonna be. And this leads to great moments. Like when our touring sound man watched this guy with a full pint glass trying to chat up a lady beside the sound board. And when I started to play, the dude jumped and dropped his beer. Which bounced, shattered, and splashed all over the girl. Who was not impressed with dude's game.
A house sound man from a club we've played since the mid nineties told me that he always watches to see what happens. And his favorite reaction to recount was this: a guy flat out fell over when I struck the first chord. Fell on the floor. Epic.
But if you want blood, the best Jucifer pit was probably the one which was throwing pint glasses around. Some of which ended up on the front of the stage, where they were crushed into a perfect carpet of glass shards for the most enthusiastic moshers to roll around in. I can still picture one guy perfectly. He was so covered in blood, he looked like an extra from a slasher movie. Shit did not even look real. And he kept coming back for more. Best part: we talked to him after the show, and he was sober. Now that's commitment!
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories!
The relationship between punk rock and heavy metal has been one containing as much respect as it does rivalry. While many fans of both genres have criticised the other for varying reasons, there's no doubt that without punk, the variation that we enjoy in today's metal music wouldn't exist. After the first wave of punk in the seventies, a harsher, angrier form of the music would begin in both the United States, and the United Kingdom. Of all the bands in the U.K., Scotland's The Exploited were regarded as one of the best and their influence can be heard as much today in metal, as it can in punk.
The band was formed in 1979 in the Scotish capital of Edinburgh and began gaining more of a following when vocalist Terry Buchan was removed from the band, being replaced by his older brother Walter aka Wattie, who had just returned home after serving in the British army. The band quickly formed their own label and released their debut EP, "Army Life" soon after, which spent more than 18 months in the top 20 of the British independent charts. They gained more independent success afterwards with such singles as "Barmy Army" and "Dogs Of War," which have since gone on to become staples of the band's live shows. The Exploited then proved that they were not just a singles band in 1981, when they released their first album, "Punk's Not Dead." With it's iconic title and vicious attitude, The Exploited captured the minds of frustrated British youths and spat in the face of journalists who had dismissed punk as a flash in the pan. Another outstanding album followed the next year in the form of "Troops Of Tomorrow," which featured the song, "UK82." The song was featured in the Tim Roth movie "Made In Britain," as well as being so important, that the British hardcore punk scene of the time, featuring such other bands as Discharge and G.B.H. was named after it.
After two more albums, "Let's Start A War (Said Maggie One Day)" and "Horror Epics," the band changed musical styles somewhat with their fifth album, "Death Before Dishonour," which featured a sound much more in the vein of crossover thrash. The album cover itself seemed to capture the band's crossover appeal brilliantly, as it featured British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher holding hands with the Grim Reaper, blending the 80s heavy metal imagery with their continued punk beliefs. Ever since then, the group has carried on this musical style, reaching the ears of both punks and metal fans with their aggressive message of anarchy and anti-authoritarianism that's as true today as it was thirty years ago. The Exploited are currently writing material for a brand new album, which will be their first since 2003's, "Fuck The System." More...
Ever since Led Zeppelin released Stairway To Heaven, hard rock bands have showcased their sensitive spot through the power ballad. No genre exploited this format more than the eighties hair bands. A formula that started early: Release a heavy song, maybe two, and then release a ballad was a staple for the glam and spandex bands. This week we pay tribute to these songs. Despite a self imposed limit of one song per band, whittling down the list was a challenging. Let’s face it, no two top ten lists of this nature are ever the same. To assist, a sealed scorecard using lyrics, video presence, and longevity was used to determine the top ten power ballads. More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Rod Usher of German metallic horrorpunk band The Other shares a story of a fan that was a little too out of control and gets what he deserves:
Some years ago we played a festival in the Netherlands. We played the second stage as the last band of the night and a lot of people in attendance had already spent the whole day drinking and doing all kinds of substances, since Holland is a very liberal country. One guy in the audience was clearly under the influence of something else besides alcohol and grass, because he was very aggressive, hitting people while slamdancing and generally causing trouble. Of course I told him to calm down, but that only seemed to make things worse. At one point that guy jumped on stage and dragged me down into the audience. While I’m happy to have stagedivers come up and jump in to the crowd, I don’t want to be attacked by some weirdo. Especially since I had no idea what he was on and what his intentions were. So instead of waiting for what was going to happen, I hit the guy right in the face. He lost parts of his front teeth, his buddies didn’t really appreciate my hitting their friend, but the rest of the audience cheered, cause he was a nuisance. We continued the show while the guy and his friends were escorted from the festival-grounds by the security. I’m not proud I hit a guy and I surely didn’t mean to hurt him like that and I actually sent an email to the festival organization and apologized for the whole mess, but in the end I believe that it was the only thing that I could have done… If you go to a show, party, drink, and let loose. But if you become aggressive, it might come right back to you!
The Other is preparing to release their latest album, "New Blood," on August 31st. Rod Usher commented: "We are very proud, that our new album is being released in North America on SPV / E1 Entertainment. Our previous records were only available as imports and now finally all of the US- and Canadian Fiends have a chance to get 'New Blood' without any problems."
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories!
There are a plethora of high-quality metal bands emerging from the state of Texas, and those who only know the state for Pantera will be shocked to learn about the high number of extreme metal bands who call Texas home. In addition to classic extreme metal bands like Absu, Averse Sefira, Thornspawn, and Imprecation, there are also a number of newer bands who are waving the flag of Texas extreme metal high. Today, we'll take a look at a few newer bands who hail from central Texas (basically, the areas in and around Austin and San Antonio), starting with Hexlust. More...
Since today marks the first time the Netherlands have appeared in the FIFA World Cup final since 1978, it seemed a good idea to revisit the country's contributions to the realm of metal, and probably one of the best contributions they made, was Pestilence. The band formed in 1986, originally adopted a thrash metal sound and was able to gain the attention of Roadrunner Records after releasing two demos, "Dysentry" and "The Penance." The signing with Roadrunner allowed them to release their first full length album in 1988, "Malleus Maleficarum." Guitarist Randy Meinhard quit the band soon after the album's release, and was replaced by Patrick Uterwijk, with whom the band recorded their next studio album, "Consuming Impulse," which followed a much more death metal orientated sound. The album was well received in the extreme metal crowd and helped the band to achieve an international fanbase.
Although they found some success with "Consuming Impulses," vocalist/bassist Martin Van Drunen left the band to become the frontman of Asphyx, leaving the rest of the group to find new members. They filled the gaps in the band by enlisting Cynic bassist Tony Choy and vocalist Patrick Mameli, and recorded a new album of original material named, "Testimony Of The Ancients" in 1991. Although the album wasn't considered as harsh as previous records, the band demonstrated an obvious growth in musical ability and skill, as well as much better production. They would record one more album in the 1990's, this time with Jeroen Paul Thesseling on bass and incorporating jazz fusion into their sound. The resulting album, "Spheres" was released in 1993 and earned the band an even bigger fanbase, but unfortunately, tensions within Pestilence also grew, and the band decided to call it a day in 1994.
However, after fourteen years of inactivity, vocalist Patrick Marmeli decided to resurrect the band as a three piece, with him performing vocal and guitar duties, bass player Tony Choy and Darkane drummer Peter Wildoer. The new lineup of the band recorded a brand new album entitled, "Resurrection Macabre," which saw a release in 2009 through Mascot Records. That same year, bassist Tony Choy once again left the band, to be replaced by Jeroen Paul Thesseling, who is also the current bass player for Obscura. The reformed band are currently working on their next album, tentatively entitled, "Doctrine" and plan to release it in 2011. More...
Bret Michaels (Poison) is currently in discussions with Executives of American Idol over potentially being a judge for next year’s season. Even for FOX this is a little obvious, why not mix it up and throw Steven Adler (Adler’s Appetite, ex-Guns N Roses) in the mix, sitting next to Ellen (every five minutes whispering in her ear “I like lesbians”). Actually, why not really go for broke and have Adler, soft-spoken Slash (Velvet Revolver, ex-Guns N Roses), and Ozzy Osbourne as the judges, no one will understand a word which would be a welcomed change. Of course, we keep on Ellen because, well, we do like lesbians… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Scott Hedrick and Chance Garnette from thrash metal band Skeletonwitch talk about the crazy partyers at a pizza shop show.
Skeletonwitch will start July by doing some of their own shows en route to Vancouver, BC, where they'll meet up with High On Fire for a cross Canadian trek. The tour will culminate with the band appearing at the Heavy MTL festival in Montreal, along with Slayer, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Mastodon, and more. The band will then head out with Ozzfest where they'll be appearing on the second stage along with former tour partners Goatwhore and Saviious, and other acts.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories!
Last December we took a look at Napalm Death, the British band who is credited with the invention of grindcore, and saw how they were related to a number of other highly recognized names in extreme metal. This week we examine one of those bands, who may very well be just as acclaimed as Napalm Death, Carcass. Carcass was formed by guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Ken Owen under the name of Disattack. The band recorded one demo entitled, "The Bomb Drops..." before deciding to hire new members in the form of vocalist Sanjiv and former Electro Hippies frontman Jeff Walker on bass. Not long after these two joined the band, Steer was recruited as the new guitarist of Napalm Death and recorded the second side of their debut album, "Scum" in March 1987, with Jeff Walker designed the album's front cover. Shortly after recording "Scum," Disattack changed their name to Carcass and the group recorded their first demo under the new moniker, entitled "Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment." This would prove to be the only recording the band made with Sanjiv, who left the band soon after, leaving Walker and Steer to share vocal duties, with some help from drummer Ken Owen.
This lineup of the band released their first album, "Reek Of Putrefaction" in 1988 and despite being very unhappy with the end result, received a positive fedback from many crtics and fans of extreme music, with legendary British DJ John Peel claiming it was his favourite album of the year and inviting the band to perform a coveted "Peel Session" on his show. Carcass would expand on this success with a second album in 1990 named, "Symphonies Of Sickness," which moved away from their previous grindcore sound somewhat, into a more death metal orientated territory. While touring in support of the album, the band decided to recruit a second guitarist in the form of Michael Ammott, who would later go on to form the popular band, Arch Enemy. After recording another Peel Session, the band recorded their first full length album as a four piece, "Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious." With it's better production and catchy title, Carcass would expand their fan base some more with this album, along with a mandatory schedule of heavy touring, including the Gods Of Grind tour with Cathedral (which includes former Napalm Death singer Lee Dorrian), Entombed and Confessor. Carcass also released an EP to coincide with the tour called, "Tools Of The Trade" which featured a new song, as well as re-recorded versions of other songs and the track "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" from the previous album. More...
With the onslaught of eighties rock autobiographies and even more biographies set to be released over the next several months; a look at some of the books that didn’t make the cut.
“Mark F’n Slaughter”
The Mark Slaughter story. An entire chapter focuses on (with proof) that he was in fact born with the name: Mark Slaughter. Even at page ten it begins to feel like a long read.
“Growing Old Gracefully, The Sebastian Bach Story”
Bach walks us through a child hood not full of rock star dreams, but dreams of reality television, specifically weight loss television shows. “I remember when I was five, I remember thinking, man I can’t weight to put on a few extra pounds and then show the world I can lose half the extra weight I gained.” If I had to describe the book in one word, it would have to be DEEP… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week The Red Chord drummer Mike Justian shares one from their recent tour of Japan:
March 24, 2010. Tokyo, Japan. The Red Chord was performing the last show of a mini tour with Between The Buried And Me. Anticipation was high as the curtains opened to reveal an excited TRC for a zealous Japanese crowd. The heat was hot and my biorhythm wasn't cooperating with my under-nourished appendages, but the show was nevertheless happening and the crowd's enthusiasm was undeniable. During our third song, a large Caucasian mook of a man appears on the stage, meandering around as though he was looking for his beer. When, from out of nowhere, he runs from behind Greg (Weeks), pushes his bass into his head and dives off of the stage. I thought nothing of it until I saw that Greg was stumbling and bleeding profusely from his eye.
Obviously I was concerned so I gave him my towel and shortly after he exited the stage for a number of minutes. Unsure about whether he would be able to continue, Mike and I jammed for a bit, hoping for his return. Eventually he did come back but had to play most of the set lying down and half blind. It was at this point that my respect for Greg reached an even higher plateau than I thought possible, for his willingness to recognize that the show must go on even if your eye explodes.
The Red Chord hits the road in July with The Summer Slaughter Tour 2010 with Decapitated, The Faceless, All Shall Perish, and more.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we shine a light on promising bands coming out of the darkness of the underground. Nashville TN is the music business center of the United States, and isn’t without its fair share of shadows where bands outside of the mainstream get their start.
Nashville is home to top-charting hit-makers like Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Ke$ha, and others, but has a dark underside where metal bands thrive. Psychedelic doom metal act Clorange, progressive metal act Invicta, and symphonic black metal band Cernunnos! are the subjects of this Unearthing.
The Nashville scene revolves around several known venues – The End, The Muse, Rocketown, and Exit/In – with nightly local shows. A fair share of bands that have become national touring acts have gotten their start here in Nashville and the surrounding towns of Murfreesboro and Knoxville, such as Whitechapel, Enfold Darkness and Destroy Destroy Destroy. Nashville is also home to the music studio of famed Soilwork guitarist/producer Peter Wichers. With no shortage of studios and talent in this town, bands are able to find each other, play lots of shows, and record very easily, releasing albums just the way they want. More...
Rap metal is a genre that has long been the subject of much criticism within the heavy metal community. Most fans when thinking of the term, tend to be reminded of the late '90s/early Century nu-metal genre and bands like Limp Bizkit. However, before the nu metal phase came into effect, there were a handful of bands that dared to mix heavy metal music with hip-hop frontmen, following the example set by Anthrax and Public Enemy.
One of the earliest of these bands was the Atlanta based Stuck Mojo, who could shred with the best and featured influences as wide as Black Sabbath to Run D.M.C. The group was formed in 1989 by guitarist Rich Ward and continued for a further six years before they were able to release their first full length album, "Snappin' Necks" in 1995 through Century Media Records. The band wasn't well received at first, with some critics labelling the band as Rage Against The Machine clones and even facing prejudice as a result of their African-American frontman Bonz. However, they were better received in Europe, where they won the MTV Europe Award for Best Live Act. The band released a second album the next year entitled, "Pigwalk" which, while not receiving many more favourable reviews, helped to expand their fan base across the globe. More...
Slash (ex-Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver) will be getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A compliment to his body of work, but backhanded at best given he is part of a list that includes Ed O’Neil (Al Bundy) and Neil Patrick-Harris (Doogie Howser)… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod talks about the lengths an enthusiastic female fan went to to capture their attention. 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. The first time I featured cello and violin metal, I put the genre in context with an introduction about Apocalyptica's influence, and featured three fantastic cello and violin metal bands, Judgement Day, Heavin, and Grayceon. Those bands tend to use both violins and cellos, but today I'm going to focus on some more bands that have followed more closely in Apocalyptica's footsteps and are largely classical cello ensembles who cover or play heavy metal.
Primitivity is a cello and percussion ensemble from the Washington, DC area that blends elements of classical and heavy metal music. Cellist Loren Westbrook-Fritts composes the music and provides the leads, while cellists David Teie of the National Symphony, Kristin Ostling of the Baltimore Symphony, and Mauricio Betanzo of the Maryland Symphony all shred out intense riffs and harmonies. Percussionist Robby Burns from the University of Maryland completes the band with rumbling drum hits. Specializing in the music of Megadeth, Apocalyptica, and Metallica, Primitivity has also written some of their own original compositions. The band released "Plays Megadeth For Cello" earlier this year.
Check out one of the band's original compositions, "Convergence" below.
When one thinks of thrash metal, the two countries that come to mine are the United States and Germany. However thrash had it's scenes all over the world. From Canada to Australia to Brazil and beyond, there was no country that thrash didn't touch and of course, Great Britain was no exception. Although the British thrash scene is largely overlooked, those who bother to explore it will find some of the best thrash of it's time and most were in agreement, that the best of these was Onslaught. Onslaught was founded as a punk band in the vein of Discharge and The Exploited by Nige Rockett in Bristol, England in 1983, being quickly joined by drummer Steve Grice. The band released a demo later that year before releasing an EP entitled, "What Lies Ahead" in the same year, which featured new members Jase Pope and Paul Hill.
Hill was soon to be replaced by Jase Stallard and the group took on a more metal orientated approach to songwriting and signed to Children Of The Revolution Records, under whom they released their debut album, "Power From Hell" in 1985. The album contained lyrics which were satanic in nature and also featured a song entitled, "Death Metal," leading to some metal fans crediting the band with coining the term, along with Possessed. That same year, vocalist Paul Mahoney moved to the position of second guitarist, when the band hired vocalist Sy Keeler. This lineup travelled to London to record their second album, "The Force" in 1986, which is now regarded as one of the genre's true classic albums, containing such thrash anthems as "Let There Be Death" and "Flame Of The Antichrist." After the release of "The Force," the band signed to major label London Records for their next album, though things did not go as well as they had hoped. Under pressure from the label, the band let Keeler go and hired Grim Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmett, in an attempt to help the band reach a more mainstream fan base. The subsequent album, "In Search Of Sanity" was released in 1989 but proved to be a disappointment for hardcore fans, oweing to the change in vocals and more polished production. Grimmett left the band soon after and the band was dropped from their label, before deciding to call it a day in 1991.
Key members Steve Grice and Nige Rockett remained good friends throughout the inactivity of Onslaught, and upon finding out that a record label had been selling Onslaught albums without permission, the two decided to reform the band. They contacted Sy Keeler who soon agreed to rejoin the band, along with bassist Jim Hinder, who had performed with the group during the "In Search Of Sanity" era. The band performed some low key gigs, along with supporting slots to the likes of Venom, before releasing a new studio album entitled, "Killing Peace" in 2007. The album was regarded as a natural follow up to "The Force" and was extremely well received from fans and critics alike. Since the release of the album, Onslaught have been touring relentlessly to take their rightful place as one thrash metal's true greats, performing all over the world and releasing a live album entitled, "Live Damnation" in the process. The band are currently working on their fifth studio album, which is expected to be released later this year. More...