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 Los Angeles metal scene.
If you live in Los Angeles, or have been to a metal show, whether it be death metal, thrash metal, or just metal, you may have become accustomed to watching several unsigned bands perform before an advertised lineup start their sets. As soon as you're inside the venue, the bands set up, and they finally play. Sometimes, these bands make your want to run into a brick wall, head first, because they are an awful, yet convoluted noise somehow crushed on top of fingernails scratching across a chalk board. But, on rare occasions, you finally notice a band that would be, in your eyes, considered an artist in the making. Here are three unsigned metal bands from Los Angeles and surrounding areas that definitely need to be heard and given a chance in the world of heavy metal. More...
The relationship between rap music and the world of hard rock and heavy metal has long been an interesting one. In many ways, both genres are very different and many members of each community look at the other with contempt. Whether it it be that metal fans think that rap is all about "bitches and money" or that rap fans think metal fans look stupid and every band is just screaming. However there are many others in both genres who at least respect the other, at times colloborating such as Public Enemy and Anthrax. One such member of the rap world who had a respect, admiration and love for hard rock and metal music was the legendary Ice-T. Ice-T decided to form his own rock band, Body Count with musicians he knew from school to help expand his musical palette in 1990 and debuted the band at the 1991 Lollapalooza tour, which many stated was the highlight of the tour. From there the band appeared on Ice-T's acclaimed album, "O.G. Original Gangster" and opened for Guns N' Roses before releasing their self-titled debut album in March 1992.
The band was highly controversial, not least due to the song, "Cop Killer," a song inspired by the Talking Heads track "Psycho Killer" and intended to criticise corrupt police officers in the United States. The band was boycotted by police groups as well as parents and the religious right and were even denounced by then U.S. President George H. W. Bush. "Cop Killer" wasn't the only song on the album to receive a negative reaction either. "KKK Bitch"and "Evil Dick" also gained the band notoriety for what people saw as obscene lyrics, to the point where noted actor Charlton Heston entered a Time Warner shareholders meeting and read the lyrics out, confident with a sense of unwarranted self-importance that by doing this the band would be fired from the label. Ice-T himself decided to remove the song "Cop Killer" from the album because he felt that the band should be more known for their music than controversy. The band does, however, continue to perform the song live.
Since then the band has released three more albums, 1994's "Born Dead," 1997's "Violent Demise: The Last Days" and 2006's "Murder 4 Hire." Sadly, of the original lineup, only Ice-T and lead guitarist Ernie C are still alive, with drummer Beastmaster V passing away in 1996 after a battle with leukemia, bass player Mooseman being killed in a shooting while working for Iggy Pop in 2001 and guitarist D-Roc succumbing to lymphoma in 2004. The band has been inactive for a while but recently made an apperance at the Vans Warped Tour anniversary party in Los Angeles. No word has been given on whether they will record a new album again at some point, but Body Count still holds a large cult following across the globe, particularly in Europe, and the very thought of a new tour or album is something that generates a lot of excitement... and probably some controversy for good measure. More...
In week four of Celebrity Fit Club we finally get to see Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) in true form, that is to say, the anger finally appears. The best comparison I see is looking at Skid Row’s self titled debut album versus the follow-up, Slave to The Grind, going from “I Remember You” to “The Threat,” a sweet ballad to destruction. In this episode Bach goes from 0 to 100 in a matter of minutes, hitting cameras, getting in the face of female teammates, and dropping fifty F-bombs in less than five minutes. Nice to have you back Sebastian… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Devildriver frontman Dez Fafara points us to one of the largest pits witnessed:
"The Tale I have can be viewed online! DevilDriver in the tent at Download, almost 15,000 people and a huge pit takes place. Everyone is cool, taking care of each other and suddenly, from the stage, I see some dude scrambling up a pole in the middle of the pit to get up and away from the mayhem! He stayed till the song was finished and we caught it all on tape. Other stories include random broken legs, arms, noses, teeth knocked out, pitters passing out and the always fun ‘I’ve fallen and can't get back up!'"
We'll see if we can get Dez to elaborate on some of his other stories, but check out the video of this massive pit at Download 2007 that he's talking about:
Devildriver recently wrapped up a tour with Suffocation and Goatwhore where they were doing a little work on some new material as well. The band will be heading overseas to take part in Hammerfest from March 11th - 13th, 2010 in North Wales.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the mosh pit.
In 1996, Apocalyptica released their debut studio album, "Plays Metallica by Four Cellos," and the metal world would never again view cellos the same way. Apocalptica was no one-trick pony, however. They upped the ante and quality massively on "Inquisition Symphony" and branched out to cover other metal bands plus three original compositions. By their third album, the band was producing primarily original material, still heavy and still on four cellos.
While Apocalyptica has since broken out of the underground, it took them years to do so even while piggybacking on the success of metal gods like Metallica, finally securing a decent North American record deal and touring the U.S. after they had four albums under their belt. Yet, their success has opened doors to more classically trained musicians to explore the heavier side of their instruments and contribute to the heavy metal community in their own ways. If Apocalyptica did not start by covering Metallica, one might wonder how heavy a band of celloists could possibly sound. Not only do they pull it off in the studio, but they put on a live performance that rivals that of their idols.
Today I will introduce you to three underground bands that employ extensive use of bowed instruments, primarily the cello and violin. Not only does the inclusion of these instruments give the music a unique feel, but the musicians themselves being more classically trained has its own impact on the compositions as well. Let's get started: More...
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was responsible for some of the most popular metal bands the world has ever known. Making household names out of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard and granting Saxon the position of legends. However, for many bands in the movement, success was to be very short lived, if even found at all. Many N.W.O.B.H.M. bands were able to enter the British album charts with their debut, only to lose their popularity and fame shortly afterwards. Tank is one of these bands.
The group was formed in 1980 by bass player and vocalist Algy Ward, who had just left British punk rock legends The Damned. Tank gained favourable comparisons to Motorhead for their high energy heavy metal played with a punk edge and their entertaining lyrics. They released their first album, "Filth Hounds Of Hades" in 1982, which entered the British album charts at number 33 and is now regarded as one of the best albums from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. This would be the only taste of chart success Tank received unfortunately, as their next albums sold less than the band's debut. They decided to call it a day in 1989.
However, much like a number of other bands from the scene, Tank reunited in the late 1990s and performed a number of concerts in Japan and Europe before releasing a comeback album in 2002 entitled, "Still At War." The group has struggled since then however, with an album named "Sturmpanzer" sitting on the shelf since 2006. Founder Algy Ward is also no longer a member of the band and vocal duties are now handled by former Rainbow and Praying Mantis frontman Doogie White. The band is expected to finally release a new studio album this year through Soundhouse Records. More...
Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Loaded) has stated that he is developing a memoir of his life. With McKagan’s entry into the world of autobiographies, this makes three members (Duff, Slash, and Steven Adler) from the original GN’R lineup to venture into the memoir business. Given Izzy Stradlin’s need to stick to his independent roots, no one is holding their breath over IZZY, which would have to be the title, right? That leaves us with W. Axl Rose.
The Axl memoir is interesting to many because of three factors. First, at times, Rose has maintained a semi-reclusive life, vanishing from a spotlight he once dominated. Second, few have had as many “what were they thinking?” moments as Axl. This is a perfect output for his side of the story. Finally, there is the good versus evil, love versus insanity, caring versus destructive natures (often in the same breath) through both his music and performances. Would all the answers be revealed in a “tell all” book? Of course not, it would probably confuse fans more, but in good natured fun, let’s look at some potential titles for this book that will never see the light of day. More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week AJ Jacobs of Mutiny Within tells a story that many of us can relate to, either because it happened to you or because you remember it happening to someone at a show.
"I was about 15 years old, went to see Children Of Bodom live, my favorite band at the time. So I was crowd surfing, screaming along with the lyrics, etc. Then I got into the pit, and oh man, I got my ass kicked. Not just that, but my sneaker came loose and I lost it. I had those big VANS sneakers, so it's no wonder it fell off.
"Anyway, so I only have 1 sneaker on at this point and I'm getting pushed further and further back in the venue. Then I saw an object getting thrown all the way to the ceiling several times. And of course, it was my shoe, people were just throwing it around.
"By the end of the show, I made it up to the barricade. When the last song ended and people started clearing out, I saw a bunch of random sneakers near the security guard. I said "Give me a left shoe!", so they did. It wasn't mine, but I wore it for the next week until I bought some new shoes. Needless to say, I steered away from VANS ever since."
Mutiny Within is currently touring North America with Sonata Arctica in support of their self-titled debut album, which was released on February 23rd. The band also had a track featured on the brand new "God of War III" EP. Finally, the band is only a few episodes into a 12-part documentary that can be seen at mutinywithin.com. New webisodes in the series are posted every Wednesday.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the mosh pit.
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. In this edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground I’ll be discussing some random bands I found on MySpace. All acts are unsigned and talented.
Margin of Existence
Margin of Existence is a Greek melodic death metal band that takes the genre to a brutal level. The guitars are straight out of In Flames’ “Whoracle” album, but the vocals, done by George Triantafilou, are something straight out of Immolation. Many bands copy the in flames guitar style, but Margin of Existence adds in other death metal influences into the music. Check out their MySpace page here. More...
Thrash metal has grown to become one of the most popular sub-genres in the history of metal. It has it's stars of course such as Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer and it has the band's with more of a large cult following such as Exodus and Testament. But like any other movement, it also has it's forgotten heroes. When researching the original thrash metal scenes, one will inevitably stumble upon a band named Hirax, one of the most dedicated and unique bands in the field.
Like many other thrash metal bands in the 1980s, they were signed to Metal Blade Records, through which they released two studio albums. "Raging Violence" in 1985 and "Hate, Fear And Power" the following year. The second album was a rushed release thanks to pressure from the label and clocked in at just over sixteen minutes, featuring only eight songs. Frontman Katon De Pena left the band not long after, due to internal tensions and what he saw as bad label management, forming the short-lived band Phantasm with original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney and Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hirax themselves replaced Katon with former Exodus frontman Paul Baloff, though they decided to call it a day not long after.
The band would reunite with the original lineup in 2000 and released the "El Diablo Negro" EP the same year, however the reunion was not to last as by the next year, Katon De Pena was the only original member left in the band. Since then he has kept Hirax going strong, releasing several EPs and two studio albums, "New Age Of Terror" (2004) and "El Rostro de la Muerte" (2009), as well as building up a strong fan base in South America. More...
In episode three of Celebrity Fit club, Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) is disappointed at his weight loss, telling the judges “I even took three days off drinking”. Bach’s quandary is now whether to continue drinking or just stop eating entirely. This may quickly turn into a semi-Survivor show where we watch to see how long Sebastian survives on red wine alone… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Phoenix, Arizona post-hardcore/metalcore band blessthefall's lead singer Beau Bokan shares a "heart-warming" pit story:
"So we're on tour with Silverstein, playing a show in Denver, Co and it's a packed house. Kids are getting rowdy. I could tell there were a couple obvious 'tough guys' in the crowd who were getting a little too excited. So I was keeping an eye on them. Before you know it, two dudes were in each other's faces and one of the guys throws a punch totally knocking the other one down. I made the band stop playing immediately. I told both of the dudes that if they were going to fight they could go outside and finish fighting otherwise they would have to hug each other if they wanted to stay in the show. So they hugged it out and the show went on. It felt awesome to make 2 strangers who were at each other's throats ACTUALLY hug it out just to stay in the show and see them have a good time."
blessthefall recently announced that they will headline The Bangover Tour this March/April with support from Miss May I, Greeley Estates and Before Their Eyes. The U.S. and Canadian run follows up their slot on The Atticus Tour late last year.
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the mosh pit.
In previous Sunday Old School articles, we have looked at three of the bands that really helped to inspire and form the genre of black metal, in the forms of Venom, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate. However there is another band just as important in the formation of black metal that we are yet to examine. Namely, Sweden's Bathory. The band was formed in the city of Stockholm in 1983 by Tomas Forsberg, better known to his fans as Quorthon, and two friends. They went through a number of name changes before settling on Bathory and released their self-titled debut album the following year. This album, along with "The Return" and "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark" are now regarded as huge influences on the infamous Norwegian black metal scene's music in the 1990s.
Bathory not only helped to pioneer black metal, but also viking metal too, when they began incorporating viking themes on their next album, "Blood Fire Death." The group went further with this styling on their record, "Hammerheart," now regarded as a landmark in the field of viking metal. They would continue the "Hammerheart" style on their next two albums, "Twilight Of The Gods" and "Blood On Ice" before changing their sound once again, this time sounding more like thrash metal. This move was criticized by many of the band's fans and they returned to the viking approach on their last albums. Sadly, the band would not be able to continue, as in June of 2004, Quorthon (now the band's sole original member) was found dead in his home from an apparant heart failure. The legacy of Bathory has since been remembered with a box set released in 2006 and several tribute albums. More...
The past weekend Axl and the new Guns N Roses rolled into New York for a couple surprise shows. Going on late, and then partying for, as Axl was quoted, “As long as it takes”, it is clear Rose hasn’t changed much from the Use Your Illusion days. However, I was quite shocked to see Axl rocking the Fedora hat with the bandana, a bold move few can pull off. Add in the trademark oversized aviator shades and Axl becomes a first ballot inductee for the Cranium Accessories Hall of Fame, joining Bret Michaels and Hulk Hogan (first time ballot inductees in the bandana category)… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week guitarist Carl Porcaro of New York hardcore act Killing Time shares a tale of losing limbs:
"I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit but some of the craziest shit I’ve seen has been with our own band. A lot of people don’t remember this but our singer (Anthony Comunale) used to have a trick arm and it would come flying out of the socket. We’d be playing songs and kids from the crowd or our road guys would take his arm and try to put it back in the socket and he’s screaming while this is going on. That happened very close to me at shows and I got a great view of it. There was one time where he came running down the stairs when we were playing this show and he says 'What’s up, this is Killing Time!' But then he goes flying over the monitor and hits the barrier they’ve put up so people don’t stage dive. He busts his arm out of the socket all of 15 seconds into the show."
"Funnily enough one time his arm came out of the socket during the first song and no matter how many people tried to help him he could not get it back in and was rushed to the hospital. We finished the set with all the kids in the audience singing led by our buddy cwolf who became our bass player 10 years later."
Check back every Tuesday for more tales from the pit.
Just one Unearthing for my fair city of New Orleans wouldn’t work. We have so many bands here, they’re breaking the levees! Here’s three more incredible bands to give you a NOLA fix. There is an amendment to the previous Unearthing the Metal Underground: New Orleans; Tire Fire is not crustpunk. “We hate crusties,” vocalist Matt Muscle told me at the Pentagram show. But whatever they are, it’s fierce and Matt is a madman on stage. More...
Close your eyes and think of AC/DC. If you're like most people, the first thing that enters your mind is the image of Angus Young in his schoolboy suit doing his Chuck Berry on speed duckwalk across the stage. The second thing for most is the image of singer Brian Johnson, cap pulled down nearly to his eyes, letting loose with a powerdrill wail.
For 30 years, that's been the case — but it wasn't always so. There was a time when AC/DC's vocalist was every bit as outrageous and unpredictable as its pint-sized guitar god. With a boozy strut, and a wicked glint in his eye that bespoke propensities for violence when provoked and sex whenever (and wherever), Bon Scott commanded the stage in ways that only a few frontmen — Jagger, Plant and (just maybe) David Lee Roth — could match.
Scott is often spoken of as being “AC/DC's first singer,” but that's not the case. The band's first vocalist was Dave Evans, a much more glam-inspired singer. Of course, the band during Evans' tenure behind the microphone was a much more glam-inspired bunch, as the video clip for the first single “Can I Sit Next To You Girl” below shows (and dig Angus and Malcolm Young trading licks in a way you don't normally see in this band). But Angus Young and Evans didn't get along, and the band was looking for a new, rawer singer.
They didn't have to look far. At the time, Bon Scott was working for the band as its driver. Before that, though, Scott had been well-known in Australia as one of two lead vocalists in the bubblegum pop band the Valentines, and as the singer of the hippy-dippy outfit Fraternity (dig that recorder). Several accounts point to Scott being much more interested in singing hard rock in the bars after the gigs than he was in performing either of these types of music.
That, of course, made AC/DC the perfect fit for him. And if you thought Angus Young's schoolboy outfit was outrageous, check out Bon's schoolGIRL outfit in this early television appearance, in which the band plays its cover of “Baby Please Don't Go.”
Scott's first two albums with AC/DC, “High Voltage” and, especially “TNT” still form a big chunk of the modern AC/DC setlist. Tunes like “The Jack” allowed Bon to show off his talent for clever wordplay and his ability to quickly learn new instruments (he was also a fairly adept guitarist and an excellent drummer) came in handy on the bagpipe-enhanced “It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N Roll).”
Next up was 1976's “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which emphasized boogie over blazing guitar work on tracks like “There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'.” The title track is a classic, but for me, the heart of the album is the slower, surprisingly introspective “Ride On,” which hints at the loneliness of life on the road.
“Let There Be Rock,” the band's 1977 classic album is, as Angus Young put it, “a fucking great guitar album.” It's the other Scott album that has taken up big chunks of the band's setlist to the present day, with songs like the title track and Scott's ode to a large Tasmanian woman he had the pleasure of knowing, “Whole Lotta Rosie.” With such blazing fretwork, it's small wonder that Angus' guitar amp once caught fire during the recording sessions.
The next year came “Powerage,” which is arguably the most underrated album of the Scott era, despite having fans that included Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. It's a surprisingly dark affair, with “What's Next to the Moon?” having not-so-veiled threats of murder against the object of the singer's affections. “Riff Raff” and “Sin City” both have gotten a fair amount of play on stage, and, more recently, the band resurrected “Rock 'n' Roll Damnation” on the “Live at the Circus Krone” DVD. The chief criticism of the album was that it seemed to be too much a continuation of “Let There Be Rock.” I say, what's wrong with that?
After 1978's live “If You Want Blood, You've Got It” came the high point, in terms of sales and recognition, of Scott's tenure with the band, 1979's “Highway to Hell.” The title track wasn't — as some would later claim — an ode to Satan, but rather a colorful description of life on the road, which had its origins in a quote from Angus Young to a reporter. “Shot Down in Flames” and “Girls Got Rhythm” have stayed in the AC/DC setlist, off and on, as has “Highway to Hell.”
And then, in 1980, it ended all too soon. Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning in a friend's car 30 years ago this week.
The band soldiered on with Brian Johnson taking his place on “Back In Black,” some of which had been written before Scott's passing. There exist demo recordings of a couple tracks (most notably “Have a Drink on Me”) with Scott on drums, but, to my knowledge, they've never been released even in bootleg form.
The band has paid tribute to Scott several times over the years, releasing the “'74 Jailbreak” EP in 1984 with some previously Australian-only releases, and the expansive “Bonfire” box set in 1997, which included studio rarities, the soundtrack to the “Let There Be Rock” concert film and more.
Last year, the band put out “Backtracks,” a box set that essentially cleared the decks of all the rest of the B-sides and Aussie-only tracks that had built up over the years. It's well worth buying for tracks like “Stick Around” and the itchy ode to body lice, “Crabsody In Blue.” But be prepared to shiver a little when Scott eerily foretells his own death in “Carry Me Home.”
So, let's raise our glass to one of rock's greatest. “Let There Be Rock,” shouted Bon Scott, and there was. And it was much more than good.
AC/DC — "Can I Sit Next To You Girl"
In an interview this week Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) leaked out that the band will play the album "Slippery When Wet" in its entirety during their next tour. He then went on to say that when they don’t play this album they will play "Lost Highway" or "The Circle" from start to finish. For those holding tickets to a Bon Jovi show, this is referred to as Bon Jovi Roulette… 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 spreading the word from the San Francisco Bay Area metal scene.
The Bay Area's metal legacy began with the '80s thrash scene, which gave birth to Metallica, Exodus, Testament, and Death Angel. Neurosis entered the scene with their experimental metal, and Primus and Faith No More turned heads in what could only be referred to as alternative metal. Starting in the '90s, Machine Head evolved the thrash sound into groove metal. Currently, Ludicra, whose black metal has been in the scene since the late '90s, is generating a lot of excitement about their soon to release album, "The Tenant." Today, the Bay Area houses up and coming metal bands who not only reflect the heritage of the region, but filter in influences from a variety of genres. More...
In the mid-1980s, Jimmy P. Brown had a question: Could the style then being perfected by thrashers like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer be made to do the Lord's work? Brown provided a definitive answer of “yes,” forming Deliverance.
Sure, Christian metal had been done before — most notably by the yellow-and-black-bedecked Stryper, but never quite as heavy. Deliverance's sound was righteously angry, as were the song titles and lyrics. Thanks in part to a video that got MTV play, the band was able to cross over and gain fans in the mainstream metal crowd.
The band's great influence on the Christian metal scene will be celebrated this year with “Temporary Insanity: A Salute To Deliverance,” a two-disc tribute album featuring contributions from members of bands including The Crucified, Vengeance Rising and Darkness Falls. The album will also include a new Deliverance recording.
Deliverance first made its appearance on a compilation album called “California Metal.” Their debut album didn't make many waves, but their second, 1990's “Weapons Of Our Warfare” did — even spawning a video that appeared on MTV.
The band's third album, “What A Joke,” was less successful, and the band then underwent a musical overhaul, becoming less of a thrash band and moving more toward a progressive direction. The result was the album “Stay Of Execution.” The band kept the progressive bent on their next disc, “Learn.”
Deliverance released “River Disturbance” in 1994 and “Camelot In Smithereens” in 1995.
“Assimilation” came out in 2001, followed by another long break. Brown, the group's only constant member, reformed Deliverance in 2006, with the result being 2007's “As Above – So Below.”
This year, the band will release “The Annals Of Subterfuge” through Retroactive Records.
Weapons Of Our Warfare