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Unearthing The Latvian Metal Underground

As we’ve shown throughout the years in our never ending quest to the Unearth the Metal Underground, high quality metal bands can come from the most surprising of locations. Europe is known as a hotbed of extreme metal, both originating several styles and still innovating others, and even those tiny, out of the way countries have something appropriately metallic to offer.

Today we’ll take a look at three unknown acts from the Latvian metal scene. Working largely without label support and independently releasing demos, EPs, and albums, which in an earlier era would have been hindrance, now these underground stalwarts have a chance to be heard by a much wider audience thanks to various social networking sites and music platforms like Bandcamp.

Eschatos

Featuring members of Ocularis Infernum, this absolute gem of the Latvian scene takes the black metal sound you think you know and takes it on a twisting journey. While it keeps up the menacing and horrifying vibe black metal is known for, it’s all injected with a surprising amount of melodic hooks. The band’s debut album “Hierophanies” is out now (reviewed here) and can be streamed in full via the player below.

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Sunday Old School: EyeHateGod

With the recent passing of their drummer Joey LaCaze, it seemed an appropriate time to look back on Eyehategod, one of the most esteemed metal bands to ever come from New Orleans, a city which has produced some of the finest music to ever come from the United States of America. Eyehategod were formed in 1988, on April 20th to be precise, by LaCaze and guitarist Jimmy Bower, before being joined shortly afterwards by vocalist, Mike Williams, bassist Steve Dale and second guitarist, Brian Patton. They soon recorded two demos entitled, "Garden Dwarf Woman Driver" and "Lack of Almost Everything" and sent them off to various labels, eventually finding success in their pursuit when they were signed to a French label named Intellectual Convulsion. Through the label, they released their first full length album, "In the Name of Suffering," which was noticeably more hardcore in sound than their later work. Not long after releasing their debut, Intellectual Convulsion Records folded and the band were forced to find a new label, which came in the shape of Century Media, who re-released the album.

The following year, Eyehategod got to work on their sophomore record, "Take as Needed for Pain," which displayed their blues and southern rock influences a lot more prominently than their previous efforts. It also featured the recording debut of their new bass player, Mark Schultz, though this would be his only album with the group. The album was released to a positive response, with Mike Williams claiming that it remains almost all of the band members' favourite material, and allowed them to tour with other established acts such as White Zombie and Corrosion of Conformity amongst others. Despite the positive response, the band was put on hold for a short while whilst the members of the band contributed to other projects, perhaps the most notable being Jimmy Bower who performed drums on the Crowbar album, "Broken Glass" and "NOLA," the debut album by supergroup, Down which also featured the frontmen of Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity and Pantera. Some of the other members' activities included Brian Patton performing guitar duties on the debut Soilent Green album, "Pussysoul" and Mike Williams contributing to Metal Maniacs magazine. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Blondes and Explosions

New videos high on explosives as well as the alluring temptation to walk into a dark forest after you have murdered a hooker. More...

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Pit Stories: Puke And Rally

For today's Pit Story, Boston hardcore punk outfit Gang Green goes way back in time to the mid-80s to tell the following tale of the band's vocalist passing out drunk half an hour before a show:

In Long Beach, California in 1985, the teenagers of Gang Green were on their first national tour. With a just a couple 7” singles released, each show was generally unpredictable for this new up and coming band outside major cities. After the van breaking down 1 hour out of Los Angeles, the band was slightly on edge and out of money when we finally arrived into California, though happy that we had finally made it to our main destination.

We were all pleasantly surprised to see some of our punk rock idols from The Circle Jerks attending the show. I guess Chris, our singer, decided he was going to impress some these guys with some good old excessive drinking! Something he was getting very good at after 20 days on the road with 5 or 6 smelly guys in a van. Actually, he drank so much that night he was vomiting outside the venue and eventually passed out in a grassy area. Holy shit! Here we are in California ready to play in front of kids who are actually looking forward to seeing us play and Chris is passed out with 30 minutes left until set time.

After forcing him to wake up, we were all relieved when he made it to the stage and made it through most of set without falling on his face. This show is documented in the live photograph of Gang Green displayed on the inside panel of the CD, Drop The Needle: Boston Punk Anthology.

The new compilation "Drop the Needle: Boston Punk Anthology" is due out October 1st, 2013 and features tracks by Gang Green, Smegma and the Nunz, Celebrity Death Certificate, Scratch, and Mallet Head. Full details are available at this location. More...

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Unearthing The Metal Underground In Puerto Rico

Today on Metal Underground, we will head over to almost the southeasternmost zip code in the US - the island of Puerto Rico. Not exactly a nation, although many of its citizens would like it to be, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with its own constitution and a rhythm and vibe that rival that of any Central American country.

We have featured several Puerto Rican bands and groups that have ties to that island in our news such as Zafakon, who rose to prominence with their "Fall" EP back in 2010. The all female gothic/black metal trio Matriarch, now disbanded, combined the impossibly high soprano operatic pitch of guitarist Vanessa Urrutia and the evil lower end vocals of Shamara and Isabel. Too bad "Revered Unto the Ages" was their swan song. Countless bands are actively playing, releasing albums and making the news on a regular basis, though. More...

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Sunday Old School: Slash’s Snakepit

In 1993 Guns N’ Roses guitarist, Slash, put together another band. He needed a side project, a distraction. He needed a break from Guns N’ Roses. Slash’s Snakepit would release two albums, with the first selling over one million copies. That is one successful side project. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Three Ring Circus

Crashdiet have released a music video for the song "Circus", the latest single from their recent album 'The Savage Playground.’ More...

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Sunday Old School: Ratos de Porão

For many people, the mere mention of Brazilian metal will instantly, and in some case solely, conjure up memories of Belo Horizonte’s, Sepultura. But if one were to look deeper at the heavy music of this vast and amazing country, a treasure trove of great music will be uncovered. Today, we look at one of the oldest heavy acts from Brazil that are still going, who made a name for themselves in both the punk and metal scenes, led by a larger than life vocalist named João Gordo, whose very name means fat. I'm talking of course, about Ratos de Porão. Ratos de Porão were formed in 1981 in Sao Paolo, the largest city in Brazil and were almost immediately considered one of the most aggressive and fierce sounding bands in the Brazilian punk scene, thanks largely to them being more influenced by the UK82 bands such as Discharge and The Exploited than the previous punk scene that inspired their contemporaries. They focused their lyrical themes on speaking out against the Brazilian government and society, a concept that was somewhat radical for a band from Brazil to do, given how oppressive the government was compared to other countries with flourishing punk scenes, including the United States and Great Britain. The lyrics shone through on their debut album, "Crucificados Pelo Sistema," which was released in 1983 through Ataque Frontal and immediately established itself as one of the most abrasive punk records ever to come from Brazil. Despite the attention their debut received, the group was forced to call it a day soon afterwards, when the punk scene in Sao Paolo was all but dissolved thanks to gang violence.

The group didn’t stay inactive for long, returning to the scene in 1985 with more of a thrash metal take on their sound. Lead singer João Gordo remained, as did original drummer Jão Carlos, who switched to guitar, his place behind the drum kit being taken by a man named Spaguetti. After releasing their second album, "Descanse Em Paz" through Baratos Afins, they began to associate with the heavy metal scene a lot more, perhaps most noticeably with four long time fans who had a band of their own named Sepultura, as well as other soon to be known bands such as Korzus. RxDxPx then released their third album in 1987, entitled "Cada Dia Mais Sujo e Agressivo," which was their first album to be released in English, as well as their native Portuguese, a move they had previously shied away from for fear that their grasp of the English language was so poor that fans outside Brazil would make fun of them. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: XXX

This week a video named “College Gangbang” and another claiming to be rated XXX. WARNING: The following videos may contain…just kidding, on to the videos. More...

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Sunday Old School: Vengeance Rising

For all the controversy heavy metal has generated, one of the biggest and sometimes most divisive talking points within the genre itself is the concept of Christian metal. For a genre which has been accused time and time again of attacking the values of Christianity and portraying Satan in a more positive light than he’s used to, the idea of using the music itself to promote devotion to God may seem like something of a contradiction. However, a number of bands have not only found commercial success with their musically heavy spiritual themes, but also established a large, devoted fan base and respect among secular fans. This week (on a Sunday, appropriately enough,) we’ll be looking at one of the heaviest examples of early Christian metal, albeit one whose story takes a considerable turn, Vengeance Rising. The band was formed in 1987 by vocalist Roger Martinez, initially under the moniker, “Vengeance,” before their name was lengthened to their more familiar tag. Martinez was heavily involved in the Pentecostal Foursquare Church, eventually becoming a pastor in the denomination in Hollywood, California. He was joined in the band by guitarists Larry Farkas and Doug Thieme, along with drummer Glenn Mancaruso and bass player Roger Martin. Merely a year after forming, they released their first album, "Human Sacrifice" through Intense Records, which is considered by many to be one of the most radical albums in the history of Christian metal, adopting a brutally heavy take on thrash. Despite the promotion of their religion, they found that the favour was not returned by Christian stores, who found the sound and front cover to be demonic.

The lyrics were also a heavy topic of conversation. Despite some of the more positive (daresay Stryper-esque) titles such as "Salvation," "He Is God" and "I Love to Hate Evil," it also featured tracks with such names as, "Beheaded" and "Fill This Place with Blood." This was another reason why the record was pulled from many stores, though the same themes can be heard from most borderline insane preachers in the street. The band soon embarked on a tour to promote the album, where they caused more controversy for essentially staging their own Passion Plays on stage, depicting the death of Jesus Christ in a very graphic manner. More...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Wild Thing

This week a new video from Sammy Hagar and Friends and a rock and roll hair flashback that goes way, way back. It’s been 25 years since the classic Sam Kinison version of “Wild Thing.” Putting these two videos together confirms what I’ve suspected: EVERYTHING has changed since 1988! More...

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Unearthing The Melodic Metal Underground

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.

Cardiant

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.

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Sunday Old School: Manowar

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...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Return of the clichés

This week we return to video clichés; also a new twist on the ‘Rocky Balboa’ training regiment. More...

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Unearthing The Chinese Metal Underground Pt. 2

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...

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Sunday Old School: Guns N’ Roses

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...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Naked and Stoned

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...

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Pit Stories: The Hipster Mosh

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.

Check back in again next week as continue to share more heavy metal Pit Stories. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sleep

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...

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The Rockstar Ramblings: Diseased Pornsurfers

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...

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