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ProgPower USA XIV: At A Glance

In its 14th year for 2013, the ProgPower USA Festival is one of the longest-running US festivals, and the longest-running US multi-day festival to feature bands from outside the US.

This year, it has the special distinction of being the US debut show for five bands. Totaling more than a hundred and twenty band performances in its time, it has developed a reputation as a tastemakers’ festival, heightening awareness within the US of foreign bands.

It can be a daunting festival, price- and endurance-wise, but it’s one that should be considered if the genres it derives its name from at all turn your head. Here’s what you can expect from this year’s celebration of the fast and the nerdy down at Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia, starting on September 4th. More...

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Varg Vikernes Was Always a Ticking Time Bomb

This is an opinion article, not a news story, and it doesn't necessarily represent the views of the other contributors at Metalunderground.com.

My reaction to yesterday's arrest of Burzum's sole member Varg Vikernes wasn't shock, it was laughter. The guy was convicted of manslaughter and arson and the French were dumb enough to not only let him into their country on a farm far away from prying eyes but also purchase a number of firearms that he even photographed himself with. What exactly did the Gendarmerie Nationale think he was going to do? The only part of this that's shocking is that it took this long for the French to actually arrest him.

To expand on why exactly this scenario was inevitable, it's that Varg believes in the innate supremacy of all Germanic people while living in a country of Southern Europeans that also has a large Arab minority. This along with his self-imposed isolation was probably going to bring him to his breaking point.

After the British were involved in a scandal where it took them years to finally deport two radical clerics with ties to Al Queda, why would the French bother with somebody who's even more obviously a security risk? Even if the authorities were jumping the gun and there was no terror plot, Varg has to take some responsibility for his reputation. I mean, really, does this photograph look innocent to you? More...

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Bands That You Never Gave a Chance

My personal confessions are less about what I enjoy that would shred my credibility through a wood chipper and more about which bands I used to despise that I'd never talk shit about today. Namely, I used to really hate System of a Down, Iron Maiden, Behemoth and Chimaira. After only hearing a handful of songs from each, I decided that all were overrated before actually giving their discography a real chance.

Holy shit did I regret that later on after listening to Chimaira's self-titled album, Iron Maiden's “Powerslave”, “Zos Kia Cultus,” and the entirety of “Toxicity” (although I still maintain that “Chop Suey” has always been overrated and overplayed and I'm not a fan of the title track on “Resurrection”).

It's hard to look at yourself after talking shit about music that you were completely ignorant about. Eventually, I moved on to "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,” “Resurrection,” and “Steal This Album” and realized that I was talking out my ass and sounded like one of those guys who calls eurodance “techno” but has never listened to speedcore or confuses hip-hop with R&B. More...

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Typical Reactions When Mainstream And Metal Clash

It’s the age old argument, right? Mainstream ignores and/or shuns metal (unless Metallica is present) and at the same time many in the metal community would rather keep it that way. If metal is accepted by the mainstream with open arms we would all suddenly need to find another form of music to listen to, I guess.

I do not believe that metal accepted by the mainstream is entirely horrendous, since greater acceptance would recognize so many bands/musicians that deserve just as much as pop counterparts and open the doors for more releases and more tours, especially here in the U.S. It would also further validate those of us who spend our lifetimes promoting the scene. “Mainstreaming of metal” does not necessarily have to mean that the music turns commercial.

However, I live under no delusions that broad sweeping acceptance as a form of relevant musical art will ever come true, and I’ve accepted the situation for what it is. With that said, it still pisses me off when the two clash with the obvious tired and repetitious reactions. Case in point: the video of little six year old Aaralyn, who appeared on the NBC talent show “America’s Got Talent,” with her brother Izzy to perform the original song “Zombie Skin.” Check it out here:

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Separating Art From the Artist

I personally find the idea of putting people on a pedestal to be incredibly naive and childish. At some point, whoever you idolize as being perfect will turn out to have some sort of horrible character flaws that you'll never be able to forgive. People are human, and with that comes not being perfect. Hence why I'm able to say that I don't mind somebody's offstage behavior as much as I do the actual music. In the same way, I don't care about lyrical themes that embrace politics that I disagree with. More...

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Spirit In Metal: A Tribute To Jeff Hanneman

Yesterday, the news broke that the world of heavy metal had lost a true giant. The death of Slayer guitarist, Jeff Hanneman was a shock to many followers of metal, and especially for fans of the band, who are known to be amongst the most manically devoted in the history of music.

Almost immediately after people learned of the news, fans of Jeff and Slayer celebrated in a fashion befitting of the man: By getting drunk and blasting "Reign In Blood" as loud as they could. Hanneman's death is arguably the hardest hitting news since Ronnie James Dio passed away three years ago, and perhaps the biggest shock to thrash fans since Metallica bass player Cliff Burton was killed in an automobile accident in 1986, and at only 49 years of age, he will be considered by many to have been taken from us too soon.

Jeff Hanneman's journey began on January 31st 1964, when he was born in Oakland, California to a German father who fought for the Allies in the Second World War. This, along with the participation of his brothers in the Vietnam war, forged a lifelong interest in all things military for Jeff, a subject he would regularly cover in his lyrical contributions to Slayer. In 1981, Hanneman went to audition for a local band where he met another young guitarist named Kerry King. The two got on well and began jamming covers of songs by the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, before deciding to form their own band, the lineup of which was completed by the addition of King's former Quits bandmate Tom Araya, and pizza delivery guy, Dave Lombardo. Hanneman stated that one of his favourite memories of the early days was whenever people booed them, assured by his confidence to actually get on stage and perform. Of the four members, he was the one who enjoyed punk music the most, a genre he claimed he "forced" onto Dave Lombardo to the point where in 1984, the two of them, along with future Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George, formed a punk band named, Pap Smear, which folded a year later on the advice of producer, Rick Rubin. More...

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Metal Lyrics: A Race to the Bottom?

I love art that shocks just for the simple shock value and the awkward looks I get from people when I mention enjoying things like "Fanta Claus" and "Postal 2." So it goes without saying that I've done my fair share of listening to bands with lyrical themes glorifying every single perversion and depravity imaginable. But once you've pushed things to the crudest and most vulgar level possible, you hit a wall and say to yourself, “Wow, this is completely fucking pointless.”

Yes, I've been there. I've listened to Aryan Terrorism's xenophobic calls for violence. I've sung along to the homophobic hate hymns of Impaled Nazarene and The Meat Shits. I've even praised the lyrics of Rupture Christ and Woods of Infinity with the term, “Pedo to the metal!” Looking back on all that now, it just seems beyond juvenile since intentionally upsetting people and violating taboos doesn't do anything productive. Getting knee-jerk reactions out of people doesn’t make you more enlightened just because you aren’t bothered by the things that other people would prefer not to think about. At some point, you need to move past The Death of God and onto the Reevaluation of All Values. Yes, reality is filled with all sorts of horrible things but that hardly means that the most horrific are the most real and the most terrifying are the most true. More...

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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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