Grind, slam, death, black: metal has its share of extreme bands that revel in pulverizing an audience with unrelenting brutality or smothering out all hope with ceaseless darkness. Today we’ll move away from that side of metal however, to enjoy the more melodic sounds heavy bands have to offer.
Every week we unearth three bands you may not have heard of from the more underground corners of the scene, and this week’s all about the melody! If you dig power, prog, classic metal, or any combination of the three, these are all bands that are well worth your time.
Kicking off our latest look at less extreme bands is Finland’s Cardiant, which leans significantly more towards power metal, but with a dash of traditional and prog metal thrown in for good measure. The band has a lot going on across that spectrum, so don’t be surprised if you hear a variety of piano and keyboard segments, along with some choruses of clean singing that even bring to mind Devin Townsend’s “Epicloud.”
While there are a scattered handful of darker moments, overall Cardiant is melodic and upbeat through and through. The band’s latest album “Verge” is out now through Inverse Records, which follows the previous two full-lengths “Tomorrow’s Daylight” and “Midday Moon.” Get acquainted with the outfit through two tracks off “Verge” below.
Some bands play heavy metal music. Others embody it in every possible way. Perhaps the best example of the latter would be a group who formed in Auburn, New York in 1979. A band by the name of Manowar. Fittingly enough for a group so devoted to heavy metal, the seeds of the band were sewn on the touring cycle for metal godfathers, Black Sabbath, who were supporting their album, “Heaven and Hell” at the time. Their bass tech and fireworks manager, Joey DeMaio got talking to former Dictators guitarist, Ross Friedman (AKA Ross the Boss,) who was then performing with Black Sabbath’s support group, Shakin’ Street. They became friends quickly and decided to form their own band, rounding out the lineup just after the tour by adding drummer Carl Canedy and DeMaio’s former classmate, Eric Adams on vocals. They began by performing covers before moving on to craft their own brand of metal, eventually crafting their first demo, "Demo 1981," their only recording with Canedy, who left soon after and was replaced by Donnie Hamzik, a native of Poland. He joined at a fortunate time, as Manowar soon signed their first record deal with Liberty Records, with whom they released their debut album, "Battle Hymns," in August of 1982. The eight song record was perhaps most notable for the inclusion of acting great, Orson Welles who performed the narration on the song, "Dark Avenger." They promoted the album by joining controversial hard rocker Ted Nugent on tour as his support act, but the partnership wasn’t the most fruitful and the young metal act soon arranged their own North American tour, as well as their first gigs in Europe, where they found particular favour in Germany and Great Britain. These tours proved too much for Hamzik, who decided to leave the group upon returning to America and Manowar soon found their third drummer in Scott Columbus.
Along with a new drummer, the band found themselves a new label after parting ways with Liberty. They signed with Megaforce Records for their North American releases and caused a stir on the other side of the Atlantic when they signed a European deal with Music For Nations in their own blood. They began recording their sophomore effort immediately afterwards, releasing an EP named, "Defender," (it’s title track featuring another collaboration with Orson Welles,) before releasing their second full length, "Into Glory Ride." The album was a big hit with metal fans the world over due to the more adventurous nature of the music and the group planned to tour extensively in support of the album, paying particular attention to the United Kingdom, though they would ultimately be forced to cancel their British shows. To make up for the disappointment they caused their English fans, they titled their third album, "Hail to England," which, as one might expect, gained them an even larger fan base in the title country. The album was recorded and mixed in under a week but was instantly hailed as their best work, going on to be regarded as the pinnacle of their "classic" lineup by many fans. They teamed up with Danish black metal pioneers, Mercyful Fate for a number of shows, where they were initially serving as support, before audience reaction bumped them up to the headline position. More...
This week we return to video clichés; also a new twist on the ‘Rocky Balboa’ training regiment. More...
Despite misconceptions, how could the huge country of China not have a big metal scene? It most certainly does. Even though social media, ISPs, chat rooms, forums and much of the internet is highly state regulated in China, there are enough ways for Chinese metal bands and fans to communicate out there. Like Deng Xiaoping once famously said - "If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in." More...
With over 100 million worldwide albums sold, Guns N' Roses gave heavy metal a much needed kick in the ass when they burst upon the scene. Sex, drugs, riots, racism, fights...the band has been involved in anything you can think of, earning Guns N’ Roses the label of “world’s most dangerous band.” Watch the video for “Welcome to The Jungle” and you begin to understand the initial stigma of Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses. Rose and company let fans and critics into their lives through music and videos (this changed over the years as communication came more via rants, letters to the media, and court issued documents). A Midwest boy exploring Hollywood for all of its worth: part-relishing, part-horrified. Axl Rose was later rumored to be diagnosed as bi-polar. Watch the video; it was always right in front of our eyes. More...
The Illinois rock band, Slam Bang, have released a video for "Naked And Stoned", the first single from their new album, 'Everyday Is A Party.’ The song was written about the hot summer nights in Chicago. For those that have experienced those hot summer nights in Chicago you know that includes high humidity. This has nothing to do with the video, but it is awful and equally as bad as those long winter nights that bring thirty below wind chills. More...
Each week we check in with fans and bands from around the world to get their mosh pit stories from live shows. This week our Pit Story comes courtesy of Metalunderground.com reader Gorecunt about experiencing a hipster mosh:
The show I went to was primarily for fans of post-metal, which is the first scene where hipsters and metalheads have a common interest. Both subcultures go together like water and oil (sometimes a match - Cynic said this in his article "Black Metal: The Shoegaze Wave"). And so me and a small handful of metalheads were in a crowd of hipsters. Deafheaven was playing and they were the only ones with music heavy enough to mosh to. Not expecting hipsters to *try* starting a pit, we remained reserved. Then the pit started. Me and the guys initially laughed at them as they were slamming about awkwardly in their skinny jeans outside their natural habitat and trying to hold on to their thick-rimmed glasses.
Then one of Deafheaven's heavier songs came on ("Unrequited"). Three of us took places where the pit would be as we waited for the soft intro to give way to the heavy riff. I took center position, two metalheads were at my left and right. The heavy tremolo chords blasted and I pushed the two off, starting the pit. We showed the hipsters how its done. Some got hurt but they brushed it off and resumed moshing. They learned well. The next decent song played and they got the hang of it. It was a proud moment, kind of like old school teaching the new school. It was a surprisingly awesome bonding moment.
Now here's what makes hipster pits fun for me: They're so small and frail by comparison so starting a pit is so easy. I easily pushed 3-5 of them at once and next thing you know half the room is a pit. Its so lulzy.
Providing you don’t have to be up early for church, one of the best things about Sundays is sleep. This week, the last word in that previous sentence will have a double meaning, as we take a look at the band Sleep, one of the pioneers of the stoner metal genre. The band’s origins go back to the sludge metal group, Asbestosdeath, which featured singing bassist, Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, along with guitarist Tom Choi, with a second guitarist named Matt Pike being added to the lineup soon after. The quartet recorded two singles. One for the label, Profane Existence entitled, "Dejection," and a self-released cut named, "Unclean." These would be the only recordings made with Choi, who left the group shortly afterwards and was replaced by Justin Marler. The change in members brought about a change for the band as a whole, who decided to abandon the Asbestosdeath moniker and go by, Sleep from here on in.
Now marching under a new banner, the four piece recorded their first full length album, "Volume One," which was released in 1991 through the Tupelo Recording Company. It is hailed as the darkest work of their career, more akin to doom metal than the stoner sound they would become known for. It would be their only release with Marler, who took the somewhat unexpected decision to quit the band to become an orthodox monk quickly after the record hit the shelves, leaving them as a trio for their EP, "Volume Two," which consisted of a live cover of Black Sabbath’s, "Lord of This World" and early versions of the songs, "Nain's Baptism" and "The Druid." More...
This week it's a return by everyone's favorite Internet search phrase: Vietcong Pornsurfers. The Vietcong Pornsurfers are Tom K (vocals), Teddy (guitar), Affe (bass), and Rackarn (drums). They play what they refer to as “dangerous punk rock” and exist to make up for the lack of true cool punk rock bands. They are from Falcun, Sweden. This is where they recorded multiple demo discs and their latest album, “We Spread Diseases.” The single “Diseases” will kick off a two-month long tour through Europe, in their tour bus armed with deadly shark teeth. (True story.)
The band applies their musically “stripped down” approach to the “Diseases” video; in fact, the band is literally down to their skivvies. Also, note that the song is only 2:30 in length. I appreciate songs that are quick to the punch, make their point, and leave you wanting more. Sorry “Free Bird” fans, I just don’t have the time. Warning: Crotch shot at 0:49.
So the band is under observation in this video. Any ideas why? My first assumption is to find the methodology behind the name of the band. I mean, if there was ever a band name to not Google at work... (Note Rackarn’s cross necklace, you don’t see this as often on rock stars. It’s a nice touch.) My second assumption is that the results of the study are inconclusive, because most tests are inconclusive...
Now that Tuesday has rolled around again its time for another Pit Story shared by metal bands from all genres and locations.
The pit can be the center of the live show experience, where metal heads can get their aggression out, but injuries are an unfortunate byproduct - and a badge of honor for many show veterans. This week Wyoming metal/hardcore outfit Righteous Vendetta shares the following story of a fan getting trampled in the chaotic sea of the mosh pit:
Being a smaller band at this point we have seen a good amount of mosh pits but nothing as massive as say an As I Lay Dying pit. That said, we have seen some pretty crazy injuries in the pits. As a kid I always went to As I Lay Dying shows and got in the pits which consistently would extend 50 feet in diameter around the sound board. I remember running, breathing in all the dirt as I struggled to keep up with the people in front.
Something similar to this scenario happened at one of our shows in Wyoming. A circle pit broke out in the middle of this venue/skate park. I would say it was about 20-30 feet in diameter. There were huge kids, tiny kids, old kids, and youngsters alike. About fifteen seconds into the pit I saw a kid trip and fall and get trampled, I lost sight of him as the pit continued and forgot about what happened shortly after the incident.
We finish our set and someone comes up to us asking about the kid. Well apparently when he tripped he broke his ankle, not only that, when he was basically run over, his right arm was completely broken in half by someone who stepped on it. Both bones were protruding from his arm. In our compassionate hearts we went to visit him at the hospital where we just missed him as he went into surgery. I believe we drew him a nice picture!
Righteous Vendetta recently completed recording a new album at JTW Recording Studios with producer Joel Wanasek. The album is due out later this year, with more details to follow. Stay up to date with the band's latest activity over at Facebook. You can also start your own pit at a Righteous Vendetta show on these dates:
7/26 - Sheridan, WY @ Sheridan Fairgrounds
8/02 - Kassel, GERMANY @ Freakstock Festival
8/10 - Rybnik, POLAND @ Sonar Days Festival
8/16 - Grossandelfingen, SWITZERLAND @ Heavenstage Festival
Check back in next week as we share more Pit Stories, and let us know about your craziest metal show experience, and whether you've got any pit-induced injuries, in the comments section below.
It’s been a while since Sunday Old School has looked at a truly extreme band, and music doesn’t come much more extreme than grindcore. The grindcore movement was doing well by the late eighties in Europe, but America was yet to produce a proper, standout band in the genre. Perhaps the first band to do just that, was Brutal Truth. Brutal Truth was formed in 1990 by bassist/vocalist, Danny Lilker as a side project while he focused his efforts on the thrash metal outfit, Nuclear Assault. He was joined in the endeavour by guitarist, Brent "Gurn" McCarty and drummer, Scott Lewis and it wasn’t long before the trio recorded their first demo, "The Birth of Ignorance." They soon went from three members to four, when they recruited music journalist, Kevin Sharp to become their new vocalist, allowing Lilker to focus his attention on playing bass. They performed when possible, eventually attracting the attention of grindcore home, Earache Records, who offered the band a record deal, as well as Lilker’s escape route from Nuclear Assault, who he had grown distant from.
Brutal Truth recorded their first album, "Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses," which was hailed immediately as an instant classic in the still burgeoning grindcore genre and in 2009, was voted the best American grindcore album of all time by Terrorizer magazine. The album spawned music videos for the songs, "Ill Neglect" and "Collateral Damage," the latter earning the group a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records for the shortest music video ever, clocking in at only four seconds. They soon hit the road to support the record, perhaps most notably when they teamed up with three of the biggest names in British extreme metal, Carcass, Cathedral and grindcore godfathers, Napalm Death for a North American tour, before heading to Europe with Fear Factory. More...
Diamond Lane have released two new videos from their album, ‘Sapphire’, released in June. This L.A. band has quickly become known for their fist pumping riffs and FOX sports friendly hooks. More...
This week’s edition of Sunday Old School is a very special one because today sees Sunday Old School reach two hundred official articles! So to celebrate this little milestone of ours, I wanted to look back in rock and metal history and find a true landmark moment in the genre. A moment that let the world know that heavy music was here to stay and meant so much to so many. And nothing seemed like a bigger moment in general metal history than when promoter Paul Loasby teamed up with Maurice Jones and formed a festival, which was to be held at Donington Park in Leicestershire, England, and would be known as Monsters of Rock.
The one day event was initially scheduled to be a grand final date for Rainbow’s UK tour, a band whom Loasby had recently been promoting. Rainbow were joined at the inaugural event by established German rockers, the Scorpions, who had just released their seventh album, "Animal Magnetism" and Judas Priest, who were riding high thanks to the wildly successful, "British Steel" album. Also on the bill that day were heavy metal upstarts, Saxon, who were considered the leaders of the exciting young, New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement at the time, Canadian hard rock veterans, April Wine and New York openers Riot and Touch. The festival was a resounding success, drawing in thirty five thousand fans and a live compilation album, which sold well.
Although it was initially conceived only as a vehicle for Rainbow, it was announced on the day of the first edition that the festival would return the next year. AC/DC were to be the headliners in 1981, marking the first of their record holding three headline appearances at the event. It was a somewhat lighter tone in the sophomore year, where AC/DC were joined Whitesnake, American stars, Blue Oyster Cult and quite interestingly, British glam rock veterans, Slade, who had recently found favour with the heavy metal audience after a brief time out of the limelight. Rounding off the bill was Blackfoot, a Southern Rock band from Jacksonville, Florida and More, who were notable for featuring former Iron Maiden vocalist, Paul Day, as well as a DJ set from the BBC’s voice of rock, Tommy Vance. The varied lineups continued, with Status Quo (AKA, your nan’s favourite band) headlining the event in 1982, where they were joined by other established rockers such as Gillan, Uriah Heep and Hawkwind, as well as a young Canadian group named, Anvil and Monsters of Rock veterans, Saxon, who became the first band to appear twice, before Whitesnake closed the event in 1983, which also featured Meat Loaf and ZZ Top, who were placed higher than such heavy metal favourites as Dio, Diamond Head and Twisted Sister. More...
It was Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot) who introduced Robert Sarzo to Tony Cavazo. When DuBrow introduces two guys (who just happen to be kid brothers of members of Quiet Riot), you must start a band, it’s a rule. They named their band Hurricane. More...
THE LAST VEGAS are back with another video, “She’s My Confusion”, off the band’s latest album, ‘Bad Decisions.’ THE LAST VEGAS do not make straight forward videos; this one is no different, incorporating mystery, history, and good ole rock and roll. More...
Each week we check in with metal musicians to get their best stories from live shows.
While these tales usually center on the mayhem of the mosh pit, today guitarist Christian Larson from Venomous Maximus shares a story that takes place backstage during a Q&A with the infamous Glenn Danzig.
Christian had this story to share about an ill-advised question to Danzig regarding the Samhain box set that took years to finally see release:
In the late 90's in San Antonio at a metal fest, SOD headlined and saw some of my 1st Swedish metal bands. I sold my Peavy amp to get a ticket to the show. As we rolled up into the parking lot, a local Houston band asked us if we wanted to buy backstage passes for the whole fest. So we got to roll around back stage and further enticed me to get into playing music more.
We were allowed to sit in on a press conference with an interview with the singer of Morbid Angel and Glenn Danzig. Some magazine was asking Danzig when the Samhain box set was coming out. He was very annoyed by the questions and gave very smart ass answers back, obviously not wanting to talk about it.
So I guess my buddy Willow wasn't paying attention as he was gazing into Danzig's eyes (keep in mind this room is packed wall to wall with press and fans). So my buddy gets the last question and he asked the same question about the box set and all the press and attention is on him. No one could believe he asked it and Glenn didn't respond and just walked out the conference.
The Venomous Maximus album "Beg Upon The Light" is due out in North America on July 2nd via Napalm Records. For more info on the band and upcoming tour dates, head over to the Venomous Maximus Facebook profile here, and be sure to check back in next week for more heavy metal Pit Stories. More...
As a child growing up in the late sixties/early seventies listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Jean Luc Ponty, progressive rock was and is a large part of my musical foundation. The orchestration of prog rock expanded music from anthemic songs with a simplistic chorus-verse structure into compositions that took on a life of their own through arrangements that incorporated elements of jazz, folk and other forms of music in atypical time signatures. These musicians represented a skilled genre, one where a band had to know how to play far beyond 'adequate' and know all types of music. More...
We’ve looked at plenty of thrash metal bands over the nearly 200 Sunday Old School columns written so far, but perhaps one are we’ve neglected would be the sub-genre’s predecessor, speed metal. Today, we’ll rectify this with a look at one of the top dogs in the speed metal field, Agent Steel. Agent Steel were formed in 1984 after vocalist John Camps (AKA, John Cyriis) left the band, Abattoir and teamed up with drummer, Chuck Profus. The original Agent Steel lineup was completed with the addition of bass player, George Robb and guitarists Mark Marshall and Bill Simmons. The quintet soon entered the studio to record their first demo, "144,000 Gone," which was received favourably in the local California metal scene, enough so that it found some radio play and earned the band a supporting slot for Slayer as their very first show and helped them receive a record deal with Combat, who had also recently signed Megadeth. Before they could record their first album however, they experienced problems with their guitarists and a short revolving door situation evolved, before they finally settled on Kurt Colfelt and Cyriis’ former Abattoir bandmate, Juan Garcia and set about recording their first full length, which was released in the summer of 1985 under the title, "Skeptics Apocalypse." The record was very well received and is now considered a true classic in the speed metal genre.
Despite the acclaim, Colfelt quit the band soon afterwards when relations soured between him and Cyriis and formed a new band called, Holy Terror. His position was filled by Bernie Versailles who made his recording debut with the band on the "Mad Locust Rising" EP, which was notable for its cover of the Judas Priest song, "The Ripper." Following the release of the EP, the group had to find another new member when George Robb quit and was replaced by bassist, Michael Zaputil. With a new bassist on board, the band got to work on their sophomore full length, though the album’s recording was interrupted for a while by a European tour with countrymen, Anthrax and Overkill, footage of which was later released as part of the home video, "US Speed Metal Attack." More...
Remember when videos were meant to be fun and bands didn't take themselves too serious? Seems like ages ago... New York City rockers, Sex Slaves, have released a new video for their song "W.T.F.R.U." This new video is a flashback to all that used to be awesome in videos. More...
Record sales may be dropping and labels may be on the verge of extinction, but the underground metal scene is still a thriving and vibrant place where musical innovation continues to occur. Every Monday we dig deep into the underground to unearth three bands you may not have had the chance to check out yet, but which deserve to be heard.
It’s no secret I dig bands that mix it up and don’t stick to one straight style, having previously unearthed avant-garde bands, a handful of genre flip-floppers, metal outfits that experiment with non-traditional sounds, and those bands that just plain ignore musical trends.
Today you’ll get another dose of heavy music that doesn’t play by the normal genre rules. These three bands may all technically be black metal, but they push that definition to its limits and sometimes even well beyond!
This German act is currently with Code666 records, which is a smaller label in the grand scheme of things, but it still has some very solid underground acts known for combining sub-genres and mixing up their sounds.
Todtgelichter has four full-length releases under its belt, having just dropped new album “Apnoe” this year (reviewed here). “Apnoe” is definitely less raucous and battering than previous releases, occasionally dropping out the black metal altogether, just to bring it back in at unexpected times to barrel over an unsuspecting audience. The harsh vocals are present but take a back seat to clean male and female singing, accompanied by atmospheric and calm parts that give off a modern-era Anathema vibe.
Keep up with the latest on Todtgetlichter at Facebook and be sure to check out a track from the current album and its predecessor “Angst” below.