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Archive: OpEds

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Metal: Sound or Image?

One of the most defining moments in my musical development was back in 2004 when Yahoo Launch saw that I liked listening to Unearth, Fear Factory, and Lamb of God and thought that I might enjoy My Chemical Romance's “I'm Not Okay.” That single moment of revulsion caused me to look for music on my own terms after seeing how some corny and cheesy pop-rock could somehow be marketed towards metalheads. Today, we see a number of bands that try to look and act like they're part of the metal scene through their image (and the bands they tour with), but have a sound rooted more in traditional rock and roll than anything spawned by Sabbath.

First off, I'm not here to debate the merits of bands like Ghost and Ancient VVisdom. The debate over artistic integrity isn't at all relevant here. Instead, this is about is marketing and claiming bands that in no way sound “metal” are still technically considered part of the metal scene. Personally, I do like some occult rock as I've long been a fan of Current 93 and I've done my fair share of listening to Coven. That said, I'd never call Current 93 a metal band nor would I want the group touring with Cannibal Corpse. Variety between acts belongs to big music festivals like Bonaroo and Lollapalooza, and not to small club shows. More...

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored: Part 6

There's a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution, the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Today we'll conclude our coverage of the best metal talent from last year by featuring nominees from three different contributors. You can also find yesterday's post on nominated acts over here.

Metalunderground.com site founder deathbringer nominated:

Earthen Grave

I haven't been following as many new, up-and-coming bands this year as usual, but I couldn't help but notice that Chicago thrash/doom band Earthen Grave released a first full-length album in 2012. The self-titled effort followed (and also contains the songs from) the "Dismal Times" EP from 2009, which has been in heavy rotation in my doom playlists for a long time. The band most notably features Ron Holzner on bass (formerly of Trouble), and Rachel Barton Pine on electric violin. The violin is used to excellent effect to add atmosphere on the doomy songs and even some solos during the faster parts. The band has also done an excellent cover of Witchfinder General's "Burning a Sinner." Check out the epic "Death On The High Seas" below:

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored: Part 5

There's a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution, the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Senior reviewer Progressivity_In_All nominated the following acts for best newcomer of 2012: Beyond The Bridge, Storm Corrosion, The Great Gamble, Aoria, and Lance King. You can also find yesterday's coverage of nominees by clicking here.

Beyond the Bridge

As CROMCarl noted previously, Beyond the Bridge's debut album (reviewed here) masterfully announces their arrival in the metal universe as a prospective heavyweight. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where George Lucas arrives in Hollywood for the first time and immediately directs Star Wars as his very first film. That's about the equivalent of Beyond The Bridge releasing "The Old Man and the Spirit" as their debut. More...

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored: Part 4

There's a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution, the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Writer Rex_84 nominated the following acts for best newcomer of 2012: Pallbearer, Pilgrim, Skrog, Dopelord, and Kill Devil Hill. You can also find yesterday's coverage of nominees at this location.

Pallbearer

Doom metal was the preferred sound of great upstarts in the year 2012. No band was as impactful as Pallbearer. “Sorrow and Extinction,” the debut album by these Arkansas lads, found the top of many journalists’ “best of” list. The slow melodies of Candlemass, the groove of Saint Vitus and distant, Ozzy-like vocals describes the band in familiar terms. The group deals equal amounts of despair and psychedelics. It’s one hell of a bad acid trip, brain fuck!

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored: Part 3

There's a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution, the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Writer/reviewer CROMCarl nominated the following acts for best newcomer of 2012: Huntress, Civil War, Beyond the Bridge, Symbolica, and Monument. You can also find yesterday's coverage of nominees at this location. More...

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored: Part 2

There's a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution, the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Writer OverkillExposure nominated the following acts for best newcomer of 2012: Western Massacre, Nothnegal, The River Neva, WrenchNeck, and Lahmia. You can also find yesterday's coverage of nominees at this location.

Western Massacre

While hardly the first band to which the term “Death Groove” could be applied, this Western Massachusetts five-piece lives it to the hilt. The slamming debut “Freedom Through Violence” injects death metal’s darkness and brutality with Pantera’s irresistible rhythms and riffs, and lead guitarist Kyle Leary is one of the most formidable Dimebag successors you’ve never heard of – yet.

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Best Newcomers Of 2012 Explored

There are a slew of new heavy metal bands popping up across the globe covering just about every imaginable sound, and plenty more appearing on the horizon. Thanks to easy access to digital tools and online methods of music distribution the metal scene as a whole has an exploding population, and every year we try to keep up with the best new talent in our year-end “best of” awards.

To help get you acquainted with the best new metal out there, we’ll be briefly covering the bands nominated by our contributors for the “Best Newcomer” category of Metalunderground.com’s recent 2012 awards.

Content manager xFiruath nominated the following acts for best newcomer of 2012: Nothnegal, Dodecahedron, Ne Obliviscaris, Kuolemanlaakso, and Abiotic.

Nothnegal

Unless we’re talking about a newly created band consisting of already-established members of the scene or some form of supergroup, it isn’t often that a completely new act launches an absolutely stellar debut album. On its first full-length expedition, the Maldives act Nothnegal twisted together melodic death metal, industrial, and symphonic elements into something unique and refreshing. Even when throwing in a few tracks with clean singing the heaviness never lets up, and the story of man vs. machine works very well with the musical style.

Recognizing these rising stars of the metal scene, the members of the band were even given an award by their nation’s president. Luckily Nothnegal isn’t taking any down time and is already working on a new album, which will reportedly include traditional instruments from the Maldives. It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes with that sort of sound, as the “Decadence” album didn’t have even a trace of a folk metal vibe. There’s no doubt about it – this is a group to look out for in the coming year and beyond.

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Cover to Cover: Riot

Last time around I covered Manilla Road’s uber-manly efforts in the world of metal covers. This time we are back and taking a look at the New York heavy metal legends Riot, their “unique” approach to album covers, and honouring the legacy of mastermind Mark Reale who sadly passed away in January this year. Well, we’ll largely just be tearing into Riot’s cover art, but it goes without saying that Riot created some of the best power/speed metal in existence. Seriously, I’m putting a ban on reading this article until you’ve at least heard one track from “Thundersteel” because it’s one of the greatest metal classics ever released. Right? Right, let’s get cracking. More...

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Five-Minute History of Hardcore and Metal Fusion

Beefy funny man, Billy Milano once said “Skinheads and bangers and punks stand as one Crossover to a final scene.” This insight he offered on S.O.D.’s 1985 release “Speak English or Die” would serve as a rallying cry for hardcore punks and metal heads to come together. Not only did this song help create a mindset for bringing together two scenes; it also constructed a formula for the two styles to merge. Known simply as metalcore or crossover, the term came to describe how hardcore bands added metal’s solos and heft to their arrangements, while thrash absorbed the speed, attitude and brevity of hardcore to their compositions.

Milano also claimed “It’s not the way you wear your hair, it’s what’s inside of you.” Even though these words ring true twenty-seven years after publication, and so often we see the two lines blurring together, hair styles have pretty much remained the same (minus poodle hair and mullets). Short hair, often bald or spiky, is still relegated to punks, while long hair is a feature of head bangers. Regardless of attitude and opposition to the mainstream, many punks and metal heads prefer to segregate.

After hearing an inspiring hardcore/crossover album from "The Casualties" and attending festivals such as Fun Fun Fun Fest and Chaos in Tejas that mesh metal and hardcore in the last year, I felt the need to research and write an article on the history of this topic. Through the usual resource of the Internet, Ian Christe’s book “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal” and a first person source, I hope to shed light on this phenomenon. In the following article, we will look at the interchangeable qualities of punk and metal, as well as delving into each style’s social constraints. We will look at the bands that started this movement and analyze how the art form has evolved. Ready yourself for a crash course on punk-thrash crossover movement. More...

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The ProgPower USA Experience From A Newbie

If there was ever an event for a first time festival goer, it would be ProgPower USA. Unfortunately, fans here are spoiled by the incredible privileges, some of which could never be properly duplicated by any of the huge European festivals. In Atlanta, you won’t find camping sites, 80,000 people and huge immense lines for signing sessions. What you will find is a community of about 1200 well-educated and well versed fans that throw an amazing party and represent some of the nicest people from all over the U.S. and the world. However, it is a party which also includes the many members of the best bands you can find in the world (not just those who are playing) all within an incredibly intimate setting of a venue that is as unmatched in sound quality as it is fan friendly. For its first 12 years, ProgPower USA seemed out of my reach for reasons I cannot fully explain or comprehend (stupidity comes to mind). However, lucky #13 consisted of a lineup which I personally felt was the strongest in its history (though called “weak” by progressive fan standards), and was perfect for my very first taste of the ProgPower USA experience. As soon as this lineup was announced last year, I drew up the battle plan to attend. The ability to see Serenity, Mystic Prophecy, Pretty Maids and so many others make their debut U.S. performances was something of a dream for this aging fan boi. Topping it off was a headline performance my current favorite Epica, so finding a way to get there became mandatory. What transpired exceeded all my hopes and expectations, a dream I wish I never woke from. (For complete reviews, check out Metal Underground.com's road reports on Day One, Day Two and the pre-show with Nightwish & Kamelot by colleague Progressivity_In_All.) More...

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Cover to Cover: Manilla Road

Manilla Road is an amazing band. Few 80s metal acts successfully ran the gauntlet of time to still be with us producing great material, and even less manage to keep anywhere near the level of consistency Manilla Road has in terms of producing bona-fide classics. But I'm not here to regale you about psychedelic solos, masterful riffs, or Mark "The Shark" Shelton's soaring vocals. No, I'm just briefly going to make fun of the album covers, covers which span from epically terrible to over-the-top awesome. More...

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American Heavy Metal Tradition: ProgPower USA

The ProgPower USA festival is approaching its thirteenth year, but if you were to look at the number of international bands who have made the Atlanta-based festival the site of their US debut, you would find that number even more impressive – a solid eighty-two. That number includes bands such as Nightwish, Blind Guardian, Edguy, Gamma Ray, Pagan’s Mind, Circus Maximus, Stratovarius, Riverside, and more. The US is not known for heavy metal festivals – at least not of the level that Europe is known for, with Wacken, Hellfest, and all sorts of other open-airs. In the US, ProgPower is the longest-running and most well-known of the handful of festivals we do have. Moreover, as evidenced by the title, this is a pointedly progressive- and power- metal themed festival, with performances by an average of 14-16 bands over several days.

Last year, I had the privilege of attending the festival and contributed a series of write-ups about each of the days afterwards. The experience was much like a Comic-Con or anime convention, only geared around highly amplified sound aimed at rattling my brain and rocking my soul. It was like another world altogether, given that everyone I interacted with on that three-day stretch could talk for hours on end about the juxtaposition of synthesizer and guitar solos with no reservations. It felt like a family reunion. More...

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The Reale Story Of Struggle & Greatness

Pain…the pain affects your lower abdomen. When you sit, you do so very gingerly and even walking is uncomfortable. The ceaselessness pain is so intense it assaults your stomach to the point where your ribs start to separate and nausea forces you to succumb to even more painful, but ironically relieving, evacuation from both ends. Imagine experiencing this in varying degrees for a period of forty plus years while also creating honest, brilliant and universally underrated music for thirty six of those years. Through fourteen albums with Riot and three albums with Westworld, this was the life of Mark Reale. The endless struggle he had with such underwhelming media/fan reaction to his brilliant music only paralleled his near lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease. Ironically, his epitaph was the eerily prophetic “Immortal Soul.” It was his finest moment and just as he reached that pinnacle of his career it was over. Now the world is left with a largely unappreciated legacy, one which I hold to be even more relevant than the tragic loss of Dimebag Darrell. As long as I am alive, the mastery of Reale will always be remembered. More...

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Optimizing A Band's Profile: A Journalist's View

As we've entered the cyber age and immediate access to information, the amount of bands with a DIY ethos has exploded. In these times, it is no longer necessary to have the agonizing wait of being discovered by a record label to start a band's fanbase and get known. But, with that ease of being able to post one's material comes other self-apparent facts. A band is now part of a much larger macrocosm of over a hundred thousand metal acts, and must do what is necessary to publicize itself and put it's offerings at the forefront of others' minds. A band must now be in charge of its destiny, at least in the beginning. More...

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Stop Stealing Music: A Musicians Perspective

It's a strong misconception that musicians in the limelight are financially stable, and have more money than they know what to do with. Granted this may be true for your GaGa's and Green Day's of the world, but not with independent artists such as myself. Independent musicians actually strive to be successful financially, and use their talents to make a paycheck just like anyone else in the working world. There's only one problem, well actually several problems. I'm speaking of course about all the greedy selfish bums who pirate and steal music.

I used to be one of them, and I'm ashamed to admit it. I downloaded hordes of music in the past, and never thought twice about doing so. It wasn't until I began selling my own music when I realized what a shameful display of greed this epidemic has become.

When I started recording music under the name Autumns Eyes, I had no intentions of promoting or selling my creations. Several years passed by with only a small group of friends hearing what I'd recorded. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I got into promoting what I do in hopes of sharing it with the masses. More...

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Opeth Remains Dark and Somber on "Heritage"

Update: For the opposing view of this Op/Ed, head over to this location.

“Heritage” is the slowest album in Opeth’s discography, but that doesn’t make it a bad album. Opeth has never made a bad album, and every Opeth album contains slow parts. This time the group just decided to make that the focus of the recording. I’m not turned off by a band playing slowly. In fact, some of my favorite artists are known for playing slowly. These bands carry the “doom metal” modifier. While nobody with the knowledge of descriptive metal tags would categorize Opeth as a doom artist, they take a similar approach, especially mood-wise, to their music. More...

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Opeth Loses Its True "Heritage"

Our “Sunday Old School” column covering the legendary Swedish progressive death metal act Opeth is just on the horizon, and we’ve decided to take this opportunity to look more in-depth at the band’s latest album “Heritage,” which has divided the fanbase.

While I personally find the album disappointing, other members of the MetalUnderground.com staff hold differing opinions. If you don’t fancy my take on the album, Rex_84’s opposing look at “Heritage” may be more to your tastes.

Before the album was released I made of point to avoid listening to any advance tracks, wanting to hear the upcoming masterpiece in its entirety with no preconceived notions of what I was going to be experiencing. Although I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 in the final review, I have to confess my opinion of the album lessens every time I listen to it. With the exception of “The Devil’s Orchard,” I’m at a point where I almost hate this album.

I should reveal up front that I’m one of those people that would easily get labeled an Opeth fanboy on any given Internet discussion. If you’ve ever complained about how fans of the Swedish outfit are “pretentious” or “snobby,” you were probably talking about me. My CD case isn’t arranged alphabetically or even by genre – it’s arranged in order of bands I listen to most frequently to bands I listen to least often. “Orchid” through “Watershed” occupy the first nine spots in that case.

The first time I ever heard Opeth was on my 14th birthday, and it’s a tale I enjoy sharing whenever metal stories come up in conversation. Being raised in a very Christian home, under no circumstances was I ever to be listening to something with loud guitars and indiscernible vocals. Jars of Clay and Rebecca St. James were the order of the day, and Audio Adrenaline was the heaviest thing going on. With my family gathered around for the birthday bash, my older brother passed me a computer game as a gift, and this was back when PC software came in those ridiculously oversized boxes. Peaking inside the box, I see a copy of “My Arms, Your Hearse” had been covertly placed underneath the game manual, safely out of parental view.

My exposure to so-called “real” metal was actually fairly limited at that point. Sure, I’d heard Metallica and whatnot on MTV, but as far as actual honest-to-Lucifer extreme metal, my experiences were essentially limited to a Destiny’s End album and one Samael EP, so I had no idea what to expect when popping that CD into the player. I certainly didn’t think the album would be starting with the sounds of rain and piano notes before the metal hit, and then suddenly my world exploded. That shit on the radio everyone was listening to? That wasn’t music anymore. THIS was music.

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Jim Marshall: The Legend Who Shaped Heavy Music

When light hits the stage even before the band does, theres only one thing that signifies you are about to have your face ripped off by a literal wall of sound. You see it in almost every huge rock and metal arena show. Its a vision pursued by any musician who dreams of playing live, and playing loud. As a kid I gazed at the stage in wonder, mesmerized at these giant black boxes stacked on top of one another. As soon as the band started playing, you could swear everything you heard was coming from these giant stacks of sound. They stood out almost as a member of the band themselves. All thats is left after the show ends, is a snapshot taken by your memory. The image of the band on stage, and the image of a giant stack of amplifiers with one name draped across the front, Marshall. More...

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Full Metal Jackasses

Last August, I penned an OpEd titled “Metal Versus Society: A Vicious Cycle?” It built on the controversy of the fabled “West Memphis Three” to include a broader observation of the often-ugly dynamic between diehard metal fans – primarily those who look, dress, and talk the part – and the scruples of “normal” society that find convenient scapegoats in such black-clad, devil-music-listening hooligans.

I concluded that “we” are equally to blame in this cycle of demonization, whereby we often culturally segregate ourselves and point burning fingers at imaginary forces of oppression, all but inviting others to cast us in the role of pariah once more – and so it goes. What makes this cycle so enduring and vital is its very inconsistency; the controversy du jour is followed by a quiet period, which is shattered by yet another media event that implicates heavy metal music, its demonic fans, and its corruptive powers as agents of societal breakdown. We all know the drill. Sometimes, however, we can’t help ourselves, and falsely perpetuate the cycle by blowing a complete non-event so far out of proportion that it becomes – to some – our latest cause célèbre. In so doing, we sometimes risk tarnishing our own reputations. More...

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Lowest of the Low

On Saturday, my band was playing a show at the “big” venue for local underground bands in Taipei, Taiwan. Playing a show there means your band has “made it,” at least in a purely local sense. It has the best sound system in town, professional lighting, a small but serviceable backstage area—everything you need and a few things you don’t, including a disco ball. It’s where the “big” international extreme bands play—Exodus, Ensiferum, Misery Index, Into Eternity, Destruction, and many more have played there. It has a much maligned crowd barrier in front of an elevated stage, capacity for about 700 people—those things that make a band that might never have played outside their hometown think they can take things to the next level. It also has a common policy that most bands at the next level encounter on a semi-nightly basis: This venue takes a percentage of the bands’ merchandise sales. More...

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