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Archive: OpEds

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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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The Ultimate Sacrifice

To the diehard music fan, there is hardly an act more inconceivable than parting with The Collection. Most metal heads, those of us who still buy CDs, records, and even tapes, anyway, will pawn everything of value when times get tough, move back in with our parents, beg, borrow, steal, and take just about any form of mind numbing and depraved work imaginable to keep The Collection in our grubby, greasy little hands. Sadly, even this isn’t always enough, and in these economically turbulent and uncertain times, the hour inevitably comes when hard decisions must be made, and priorities must be put in order. More...

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Re-recording Metal - For Better or for Worse?

Back in 2005, Dimmu Borgir was a band still basking in the unholy success of its latest outing “Death Cult Armageddon.” And yet instead of launching into a new opus for fans to consume the band members decided on a new approach; they would re-release an early and often praised album (“Stormblåst”) by completely re-recording it, updating the sound with modern production and slap “MMV” on the end. There had of course been prior examples of bands making this choice, but it was perhaps here that best truly crystallized the new era of metal re-recordings. No doubt you have heard of similar re-recordings in the same vein, perhaps most recently Gorgoroth’s “Under the Sign of Hell 2011” or Burzum’s “From the Depths of Darkness”? Perhaps not, but that’s what I aim to uncover for you here. More...

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Remembering David Gold

Fourteen. That is the staggering number of metal and hard rock musicians who left us this calendar year. Fourteen. It is without question that the year 2011 was a cruel one for the metal community, taking from the world some exceptionally talented people whom many had long lives left to live. Most, if not all, of us never knew the likes of Cory Smoot, Gary Moore or Seth Putnam in person but we lived through them vicariously through the legacies left by their music. When you are a fan of a band for an extended period of time you come to feel as if you know the people behind the drum kits and holding the guitars, they become your friend who's always there to comfort you regardless if you've never spoken to them, shaken their hand or have met face-to-face. When one of them is tragically taken from this earth we can't help but feel sorrow and pain, as if one of our own family members has passed away. Unfortunately, the pain is ever more intense when you have had the pleasure to come to know one of these truly gifted individuals. More...

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Heavy Metal Done Holiday Style

There are easily hundreds of heavy videos that fit the Halloween mood, but the Christmas holiday doesn’t get nearly as much love from the metal world. But never fear, metal doesn’t disappoint, and there are a few bands that have gone the extra mile and released videos to help get you through the uncomfortable family gatherings, drunk quarreling siblings, and even the off-key caroling. So whether you’re a die-hard celebrant who can’t sleep all night until Christmas morning or a scrooge with a “bah humbug!” on your lips, check out these video clips to keep your holiday fully metal.

Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Twisted Sister is notorious for awesomely cheesy videos with ridiculous opening segments, and covering a Christmas classic certainly wasn’t going to change that. Enjoy it for the amazingly goofy guy happily spreading Twisted Sister cheer, the rocking rendition of an old holiday standby, or even just enjoy it for the dancing MILF!


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When Life in Metal Meets an Insidious Demise

“Respect in the scene-priceless
Money in my wallet-$0
Fame in the death metal scene-years of hard work mastering programming and guitar playing
Money in my wallet-$0
Car-doesn't exist
Bank account-yea right
Owe everyone under the sun-OF COURSE


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Remembering Chuck Schuldiner

If one were to ask the average person who Chuck Schuldiner is, there's a fair chance that the response would be little more than a blank stare. However, if one asked a dedicated metal fan who he was, they would instantly retort in detail that he was one of the most innovative musicians in the history of metal, whose passing ten years ago today affected them on a massive scale and whose band, Death, changed the face of extreme music forever.

Born in Long Island, New York on May 13th 1967 as Charles Michael Schuldiner, both of his parents were teachers, which perhaps influenced his strong performance in school before he decided to drop out (though he later regretted doing so.) Chuck Schuldiner the musician was born at the age of nine, in circumstances just as harsh as the music he would become known for, when his parents bought him a guitar, in an effort to appease the sadness he felt of his brothers death, who was only sixteen years old when he passed away. Though starting with a classical guitar, he expressed distaste for the type of music he was being taught and was on the verge of putting the instrument down alltogether, when his parents bought him an electric guitar, something he greeted with a much greater sense of enthusiasm, practicing every day of the week (though he was reportedly limited to three hours a day on school nights.)

When he was sixteen himself, he formed Death, initially under the name Mantas, along with guitarist Rick Rozz and drummer/vocalist Kam Lee. He briefly abandoned the band, in favour of moving to Toronto to join Slaughter, though soon recanted and returned to Florida to continue Death. The group went through a number of lineup changes before signing with Combat Records, at which time Death merely consisted of Schuldiner and drummer Chris Reifert. Despite only consisting of two members, Death released their first album, "Scream Bloody Gore" in 1987, which was immediately hailed as one of the finest extreme metal albums of the time, and seen by many today to be one of the first "true" death metal albums, clearly defining the sound for the first time. While many acclaimed debut albums cast a shadow over their respective artists, this was not to be the case with Death as practically every album they released was hailed as a masterpiece, or at least as excellent. Through his work with the band, Schuldiner garnered the tag, "The Father of Death Metal," although he himself played down his role in the genre and praised other musicians in the death metal scene. More...

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Danzig Versus Slayer: Who's the Bigger Name?

Glenn Danzig’s recent comments and alleged behavior at Fun Fun Fun Fest provoked much talk among the heavy metal community. Mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone brought this conversation to a much larger audience. Besides trying to instigate a riot, Danzig bemoaned playing the Black Stage. He said he is as big as Slayer, so he should be on the larger Orange stage. The Slayer comment sparked a debate among Metal Underground’s readers. Who is bigger and more popular—Slayer or Danzig? Now that the question has been asked, I’ve done some searching to determine who has a larger fan base.

In addition to providing album sales numbers, I will look at some of the factors that contribute to the popularity of both bands. On one side, we have the blues-laden doom metal of Danzig. Often characterized as the Satanic Elvis, Danzig possesses unmistakable, deep vocal tones and lupine howls. Short but muscular, his mic-whipping, air-grabbing stage antics convey a barbaric image. On the other side, we have thrash metal legends, Slayer. In addition to being part of the Big 4 thrash acts of the 80s, they pushed the boundaries of speed, and broke ground for thrash, death and black metal. Kerry King's whammy bar solos perfectly relate the wicked vibe of each song. The battle cry of “SLAYEEEER” is as common at a metal concert as a Marshall half-stack.

Danzig showcased material as Danzig Legacy at Fun Fun Fun Fest, so Slayer is butting heads against not one band but three. The Misfits and Samhain portions of his set added a crossover appeal, which proved perfect for a fest that catered to punk and metal. Still, I’m going to assume that many of the Fiend Club members also listen to Danzig.

Besides Dave Lombardo, Slayer has boasted a stable lineup, without bringing over fans from previous bands. Kerry King spent time in Megadeth, but he doesn’t appear on any Megadeth albums, so he obviously didn’t pull fans from Megadeth. Fans will always recognize Dave Lombardo as Slayer’s drummer, even though he has commanded the beat for other bands such as Philm, Grip Inc. and Fantomas. More...

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Metal Videos To Get You In The Halloween Mood 4

All Hallow’s Eve has finally arrived and it’s just about time to get the debauchery going full swing. Whether you’re getting the altar set up for a black mass or you just plan on drinking until werewolves and vampires seem like legitimate concerns, there’s a host of metal videos to help get the evening started right.

Earlier this month we showcased horror themed videos that went way over the top, focused on the devil and his minions, and then dipped into the atmopsheric and creepy videos. Now that Halloween is here we’ll finish off with monsters, serial killers, and even a few bonus clips.

Bleeding Through – “Kill To Believe”

The “Kill To Believe” video is like its own little mini redneck hillbilly horror movie. If you’ve seen all the “Wrong Turn” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies a couple dozen times, this one’s for you.


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Music Videos To Get You In The Halloween Mood 3

That most metal of holidays is almost upon us again, but you may want something more than candy corn and blood colored cocktails to get you in the Halloween spirit this weekend. Earlier this month we covered the most over the top horror themed clips as well as videos that focus on the demonic and the diabolic, but that still leaves a good deal of ground to cover. For today’s edition of metal videos to get you in the Halloween mood we’ll take a look at the creepy, the atmospheric, and the disturbing.

Marilyn Manson – “This is Halloween”

While his metal cred is definitely questionable, Marilyn Manson does have the Halloween image down pat. Check out the quintessential “This is Halloween” clip below, set to scenes from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”


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Metal Videos To Get You In The Halloween Mood 2

Somehow humanity managed to avoid the apocalypse yet again yesterday, but just because a zombie Armageddon or nuclear holocaust didn’t occur doesn’t mean anybody has to get out of the proper Halloween mood. We already took a tour through some of the most over-the-top and bombastic horror themed videos last week, so this time around we’ll head into a bit darker territory. Today let’s give the devil and all his children their proper due…

Opeth – “The Devil’s Orchard”

One of the best cuts off Opeth’s latest album “Heritage” and among the best clips in a history of less-than-stellar music videos from the Swedish titans, “The Devil’s Orchard” may be a tale of the devil ascending to rule the world while bringing madness and terror in his wake. Or it might be about a dude in bell bottoms who only listens to vinyl going on a crazy acid trip. But whatever, it’s got the vibe of an old school devil flick, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.


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Metal Videos To Get You In The Halloween Mood

Last year Dan from Autumns Eyes wrote up an article on the Top Ten Halloween songs in honor of that most metal of holidays. This year we’re taking a look at those metal songs with music videos to get you into the proper Halloween mood, and to start off we’ll head into the most crazy, over-the-top, and outright ridiculous videos to be found in metaldom.

Gwar – “Immortal Corruptor”

Anything involving both Halloween and metal pretty much automatically is connected with Gwar. The “Immortal Corrupter” video has got pretty much everything a good horror flick should have – monsters, skeletons, torture, disembowelments, and a flaming drum kit that shoots gouts of blood. If you already hate Gwar there’s no way this clip will change your mind, but nobody can claim it isn’t monstrously entertaining.


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Exploring The European Festival Circuit

Europeans love their metal, that's for sure. Over the Northern Hemisphere summer months, there are over sixty metal festivals staged - most of them open air, multi-day and multi-stage. That's a lot of bands, beer, dodgy kebabs, and horns in the air! Forget "this band is better than that band" or "that genre sucks" or "those people are posers" - at a metal festival, everyone is your metal brother (or sister) and as long as the music is loud, pretty much anything goes.

Increasing numbers of metalheads from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the globe are making the trek to the old continent every year to be part of the experience. But with so many festivals to choose from, which ones should you go to?

Obviously everyone has different tastes, but here's some pointers from a four-year veteran that might help you plan the metal trip of a lifetime. More...

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When Social Media Overshadows the Music

Underground metal bands in these modern Net-centric times of ours are utterly awash in the offal of social networking-cum-marketing options. With Facebook increasingly rising to the forefront as the anchor site of choice for both established and up and coming acts, there is also Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, ReverbNation, StereoKiller, BandCamp, SoundCloud, PureVolume, Last.FM and the smoldering wreckage of the once dominant empire that is Myspace, just to name a few of the major players. Put all of them together, and that’s eleven separate websites, some of which can by synced together, mind you, that a single band potentially needs to constantly maintain and update—an even dozen if they actually have their own domain. More...

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Black Metal: The Shoegaze Wave

Back in 2005, Alcest released a two song EP called “Le Secret,” a gem that eventually would cause a stir in the hornet nest that is the black metal community. If you didn't gather by the title, Alcest is a French band, and one masterminded by front-man Neige. With a strong pedigree in the French black metal scene, Neige was a musician who not only came forward in the 00s with multiple acts in Alcest and Amesoeurs, but also made contributions to essential French albums from the likes of Mortifera and Peste Noire. While Norway and the adjacent Scandinavian realms are often thought of as the wintery fortress of black metal, the French have long held their own with a melancholic and melodic take on the genre including the infamous Les Légions Noires whom you can read about in a previous Metal Underground Sunday Old School article.

So, what was so special about Neige’s little two song EP? Well for one it wasn’t little at all. It was nearly 30 minutes long and an infusion of 90s shoegaze, post-rock, and perfectly distilled black metal. More...

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Insane Or Indifferent

If you are reading this, you are most likely a devoted fan of metal. I wouldn’t be writing this if I weren’t part of this crowd. This being the case, it’s safe to say we’ve had a conversation with somebody of totally different musical values. If this conversation took place at a concert, we might look down upon these people. Their insouciance is like a slap in the face. The term “poser” might even come up. This attitude definitely comes in the realm of elitism, but it doesn’t mean our experiences with music are better. Everybody has their own ways of interacting with music. Let’s look at a few of these ways. More...

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Metal Versus Society: A Vicious Cycle?

One August afternoon when I was 19, I returned home sweating and exhausted from my summer job, hopped in the shower, and found a white cardboard box waiting for me on my bedspread. I opened it to discover a stack of crisp, preppy, neatly folded, diversely colored… polo shirts. I think one of them was Nantucket Red. Or, if you’re not a vacationing male WASP, “pink.”

Torn between feelings of awkward gratitude and slithering revulsion, I tracked down my Dad to inquire about the unsolicited gift. He replied with a knowing grin, “So you’ll stop wearing those black T-shirts.”

Sensing another opportunity for angst-ridden teenage martyrdom, I promptly engaged my Dad and stepmother in a fierce battle of wills that pitted the goofy attire of golf courses against the monochromatic uniform of heavy metal… and wound up kicked out of the house.

Silly as it all seems from the matured age of 27, this story is part of my own brush with that ongoing battle in our society, a battle whose lines have been drawn between the mainstream and the misfits, the orthodox and the outcasts – with presumptions and stereotypes aplenty on all sides. Occasionally, those stereotypes become scapegoats, and the results are sometimes uglier than an afternoon detention or a shouting match at the dinner table.

Consider the case of the fabled “West Memphis Three,” the trio of Arkansas teenagers convicted in 1994 of a brutal triple homicide. A topic already of considerable relevance and interest in these circles, I won’t bother to rehash the forensic details, but let’s break down the basics. Three young boys tortured and murdered in an alleged “Satanic ritual.” Disorganized police and politically motivated prosecutors in need of a suspect, and a grieving, culturally conservative community in need of a villain. Three teens whose attire, attitudes, and music tastes placed them outside the norm. Dubious rumors. Flimsy physical evidence. Guilt by association. All the reasonable doubt in the world couldn’t have stopped this runaway train once the brakes blew. More...

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Displaying records 61 - 80 of 103 1 2 3 4 5 6 Last