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Roundtrip To Hel, Part I

THURSDAY, 6/27 - 13:30

“Tuska?”

Unmistakable, husky German accent behind me. I glance over my shoulder, turn, step aside the river of disembarking passengers from the Lufthansa Airbus parked out in the drizzly gray. The veteran green-fatigue-jacketed metalhead, balding, sporting a life-without-parole graying goatee, sticks out his hand.

“Holger. Nuclear Blast.” We shake, he grins and nods at the Testament logo above my lapel, only partially obscured by my boarding pass. He slips me a company card - “Holger Tiefenbach, Distribution & Marketing” - and lifts a finger toward a sign down the corridor: “Matkatavarat.” Luggage.

As we stride through Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, locate the carousel for Flight 848 from Frankfurt, and wait for our suitcases to materialize - I was forced to check mine at the last minute and have since developed acute missing-luggage paranoia - Holger brings me up to speed on our shared reason for being here: Tuska Open Air Metal Festival, sixteen years running, 2014 edition set to kick off tomorrow afternoon.

“It used to be held in Kaisaniemi Park, right in the middle of the city. It was the greatest. You’d show up, basically have an afternoon at the park, and then head straight to the bars nearby, when the sun was just barely set.” He seems to almost sigh while tossing off a plaintive, what-are-you-gonna-do shrug. “They moved the location three, four years ago.”

“So it’s not as much fun now?” I want to get my finger on the pulse of conventional wisdom.

He’s quick to clarify. “It’s still awesome. The new location just took some getting used to.” On our painless stroll through the open doorway that passes for an immigration barrier - the stamps and stern looks and “papers, please” stuff was handled back in Germany, natch - Holger gives an inside view of current happenings back at the Nuclear Blast bunker.

“We spent a lot of time promoting that Tuomas Holopainen solo album - the one about Scrooge McDuck,” he tells me. I haven’t heard it, and ask him how it is. “Not metal. That’s how it is,” he chuckles. “But cool if you’re into that wacky stuff, like the last Nightwish album.

“And we signed Slayer!” He clenches a victorious fist like a kid receiving his BB gun on Christmas. “Finally.”

We’ve reached the Arrivals lobby, and a leather-jacketed brunette gives a wave. Rachel Roth (WandererOfKalevala), Metalunderground.com photographer and correspondent, currently residing in Vantaa. We have a bus to catch, and before parting ways with Holger, I bum a cigarette, pocketing the e-cig I’ve been abusing for two months.

I make a half-hearted promise to myself not to do this too much during Tuska (and not to beat myself up for doing just that). Rationalization is still the great human sport. More...

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Morbid Angel obliterates at St. Pete, Florida.

The old say proclaims that experience is something you cannot improvise or replicate. You need to acquire it through years at the war front, whatever your skill set is. That was demonstrated on July 29 when the now mandatory Summer Slaughter Tour came to the State Theater, located in St. Pete, Florida. None of the participating bands on the current tour (including heavyweights Goatwhore, Origin, and the mighty Dying Fetus) were remotely close to reach the level of obliterating power and majestic sense of darkness showcased by legendary headliners, Morbid Angel.

Some people might disagree but to us, it's clear that after three decades pioneering and redefining the Death Metal genre, the appeal and panache of this Floridian quartet is impossible to emulate. That was demonstrated in the way every song on their set list (both old or new) was received by the rabid fans. "Rapture" "Fall from Grace", "Where The Slime Lives" and even the most recent "Existo Vulgoré" were all worshiped with equal level of euphoria by those in attendance. If that doesn't prove the longevity and influence of the band's repertory on older and newer generations, then, nothing else will.

Despite some minor technical issues here and there, the current line up couldn't perform any in better. Frontman, David Vincent, used his quasi-zen evil persona to set his own set of rules on stage. Both menacing and alluring at the same time, he commanded the masses through the show like if they were experiencing an unique religious experience. Axeman Trey Azagthoth went into total communion with his guitar while the newest generation, represented by guitarist Destructhor and drummer Tim Yeung delivered the goods as the seasoned performers they have become after several years playing with the band.

Experience is something you cannot improvise. Definitely, Morbid Angel is a living proof of this universal truth. They just demonstrated that on this unforgettable show and probably will do it again tomorrow and in the years to come. If you don't trust us, go to one of their shows... you will become a believer.

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Morbid Angel Dominates Summer Slaughter in Austin

Summer Slaughter came in to the same venue, Scoot Inn, as last year's stop off at Texas' capital city. The mid-July temperatures reached a scorching 99 degrees, which everyone from fans to bands did their best to stay hydrated (kudos to Scoot Inn for providing water). Keep in mind, this was still a good 5 degrees cooler than last year.

In regards to the lineup, Summer Slaughter 2014 featured artists expected from a death metal-based tour. This year the brutality of Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus, Origin and Decrepit Birth replaced the shredding progression of Animals As Leaders and Periphery.

While death metal was at the forefront of this year's festivities, complex timing and long-winded solos were dispersed throughout the bill. Memories In Broken Glass, this year's battle of the bands winner, concentrated less on guitar solos as they did low tuned, (7 or 8-string guitar) jumping rhythms and samples. I'm sure they were happy to have played a showed promoted by Come And Take It Productions as they played in front of an impressive, jumping early crowd. More...

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Pentagram On The 4th of July in Austin, Texas

Held at the Mohawk on the historic Red River Street in Austin, Texas, American Icon Records (AIR) produced two stages featuring some of the best hard rock and heavy metal bands not only in Austin, but in the state of Texas. Both nights (I only attended day one) included a headliner that played on the open-air stage. Seminal doom faction, Pentagram headed up Independence Day, while The Sword--a local act with a international following--played day two. More...

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Municipal Waste Fucks Up Austin For $3

Twenty years ago, I remarked that if you went to a concert and didn't have bruises the next day, you didn't have a good time. I don't experience shows the same way now, but my former words live on in the crowd at the Mohawk in Austin, Texas. From massive circle pits to stage and even PA diving, many on the floor surely awoke on Saturday with lumpy, bluish marks on their bodies. Whether it's grindcore, power violence, crossover, hardcore or just plain ole' punk rock, Austin has an affinity for punk-related bands. So when Transmission Events and Red Bull brought in Municipal Waste and Power Trip for a mesely $3 (with RSVP, without the show was $10), you could expect nothing less than a packed house of rowdy punks a metal heads. More...

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Godflesh Pulverises Bristol

Given the recent talk that the future of The Fleece, one of Bristol's best venues to see metal and rock bands, could be under threat, it seemed the perfect time to have one of industrial metal's most important acts, Godflesh perform at the club. Godflesh had been performing a small UK tour in support of their new EP, "Decline and Fall," as well as their forthcoming new studio album, "A World Lit Only By Fire," their first full length album since 2001's, "Hymns," and the prospect of seeing the band live was absolutely thrilling.

They were joined on the night by Ramleh, a name which also has signifficance in their own genre as one of the earliest recognised bands in the noise genre. They more than lived up to their genre's name, as walking into their set, myself and company were immediately met with an ear ache. The band consists of two men, one on bass and the other on guitar, vocals and electronics, the latter of which were certainly the most prominent. Picture a bassist stood in front of an airplane engine, playing one note every now and then and you'll get the idea of what seeing Ramleh is like. I was amazed to see people stood at the front actually nodding along to what was essentially just amplified white noise. Maybe I just don't get it, but I can honestly say that they were one of the worst acts I've ever seen live. Nothing interesting going on, no stage presence, not even any music in the traditional sense of the word. There were far more people stood outside the venue than inside watching them and unless you're a noise fan, I would advise you to do the same if they're supporting someone you want to see. More...

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Sonisphere Festival 2014

Sonisphere Festival returned to Finland last week, to start off the festival season in Helsinki with a bang! Despite the fact that it is Spring and we’ve had hot weather rivaling the Mediterranean this year; we were instead treated to a cold downpour, which only the bravest of metal fans dared endure. Despite the less then summery weather, the turnout was dense, though admittedly covered in less then festive rainwear.

The dark sky was a glaring contrast to the laid back vibe of the festival hosted by Live Nation. Still the atmosphere remained upbeat; as Metallica and Slayer were to be headlining; and the instinct to nest indoors was trampled by the drive to see two such legends live! More...

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Pseudogod Leads Underground Cast At Chaos In Tejas

The last three years I've reported on Austin's extreme music festival known as Chaos in Tejas. Some of the bands I witnessed include Autopsy and Winter. Last year, I attended four consecutive days. Although it took place for five days, May 28-June 1, this year, I didn't recognize a many name as the past three years. This may be because festival promoter, Timmy Hefner decided to tone it down a bit after last year's mega blow out of bands that included Benediction and Bolt Thrower. More...

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Fozzy And Raven Hit Springfield, Virginia

I recently made my first trip to the United States, for which I decided that catching a metal show was mandatory. The best option was by far a trip to the Empire in Springfield, Virginia, where Fozzy were headlining on May 5th, a show sweetened immensely by the addition of New Wave of British Heavy Metal legends Raven performing as special guests. The venue itself is quite impressive, it's got a nice lounge area before heading into the main venue itself, which is plenty spacious but still relatively compact, perfect for up and coming metal acts as well as those with a cult following.

Unfortunately, the show was far from sold out but there was still a decent sized crowd in attendance for the festivities on hand, which began with a local outfit called Shotgun Sugar, who were exclusively a covers band, performing songs by AC/DC, Journey and the like. They served their purpose as a warm up act before Newcastle nutters Raven took to the stage.

Raven are known for their energetic live performances and influential, hectic sound, something I am pleased to say they still possess in abundance. They kicked things off with the "All For One" opener, "Take Control," which immediately caught the crowd's attention. From then on, it was classic after classic, with songs such as "Live at the Inferno" and "Hard Ride" being thrown to the audience at full speed, as well as the title track from their 1981 debut album, "Rock Until You Drop," which had been slowed down for a more anthem like vibe. The interaction between the Gallagher brothers is still great and Raven put on a proper, old school heavy metal show with plenty of crowd banter, posing and a mid-set guitar solo. They finished their forty minute set with the hit, "On and On" from the 1985 album, "Stay Hard," much to the delight of fans in attendance. Of course, there'll always be a few songs which would have been great to hear such as "Don't Need Your Money" and "Crash, Bang, Wallop" but Raven's catalogue is strong enough that even if some favourites aren't busted out, you're guaranteed great music and a great time. More...

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Combichrist Plays Elysium in Austin, Texas

Metal Underground.com has followed Combichrist's recent jaunt over Europe with Mortiis. That tour must have been special with two of the major players in the modern electro-industrial scene. On Friday, May 2nd, I caught Combichrist's mechanized performance at Elysium in Austin, Texas. This tour saw them at the top of the bill with William Control and New Year's Day providing support.

I missed New Year's Day as the concert started at 9 and not 9:30 as the event markers stated. I can't say I'm a fan of their pop-friendly California rock style, but I did hear good things about their performance. Much like the industrialized section of nu metal, the group wore face paint and watching a female singer front a hard rock band is always fun. I wish I could say more about the Anaheim-based group, but for now the You-tube video embedded below will have to suffice.

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Ensiferum, Turisas and Thaurorod at The Circus!

It was to be a more eventful Easter Sunday then most, as instead of the awkward family dinners and drinking binges at a dive bar, I was looking forward to spending an epic evening at The Circus in Helsinki for Ensiferum, Turisas and Thaurorod. There would from that moment on be only small amounts of the required holiday binge drinking at a respectable venue, and in well supplied company!

Though much of the city was quiet, even a half hour before the sold out show was to be played there was a line well outside of the club area, and extending into the square. Red and Black facepaint, and warrior costumes were the attire of the night, it was easy to feel underdressed in a sea of war paint and leather. Drinking horns were clipped to belts and kilts (ie acceptable man skirts), as the Vikings of the city came out to pay tribute to their heroes.

There had been a late announcement only hours before the show that Petri Lindroos was having some painful issues with his hand, and would not be playing guitar that evening. Luckily the day was saved by Jukka Pekka Miettinen (Jukkis) (ex-Ensiferum, ex-Turisas, ex-ArthemesiA) and the sold out show would still occur as scheduled. More...

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Behemoth Mystifies Texas Independence Fest

Come And Take It Productions started Texas Independence Fest in Austin as a way to bring together friends and family in a celebration of Texas. Previous years featured performances by Down, David Allan Coe, Upon a Burning Body, Dixie Witch and many more. This year's festival saw a mix of local and touring acts. Wayne Static of Static-X and We Are The Riot (members of Coal Chamber) brought familiarity to the day's acts, while The Metal Alliance Tour featuring Behemoth, 1349, Inquisition, Goatwhore and Black Crown Initiate painted the afternoon sky black.

The doors to Emo's opened at noon and I arrived around a quarter to 2 in time to catch Denton, Texas melodic death/black outfit Tarim. According to a Come And Take It personnel, Tarim won Come And Take It's battle of the bands, which landed them on this spot. Ten hours is a lot of music to take in. This was my time to coordinate interviews times, but the band, playing material from "The Philosopher King," caught my ears and kept them. They definitely deserved to be on Emo's big stage, and would have proved a tighter fit to the evening's black out.

I missed Casket of Cassandra but caught the following band, Headcrusher. Former residents of Colombia , these deathly thrashers have become a staple in Austin's metal scene. The five-piece band often plays Come And Take It Production shows commonly held at the Dirty Dog Bar. Although this was the first time I caught their act on Emo's stage, it wasn't the band's largest crowd. Festival crowds brought in several times more people than the couple hundred watching the band's mid-day performance. It doesn't matter how many people watch this group; Headcrusher played hard and aggressive. Fans of Gothenburg-style metal such as Dimension Zero, Dark Tranquility and Carnal Forge take note of Headcrusher. More...

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Carcass Heartwork Plays on Heart Strings at Mohawk

The line to get into Mohawk was split in half between minors and adults. Although The Black Dahlia Murder has more than a decade under its 30-something beltline, the band is still a hot commodity among young listeners. The older demographic spawned by Carcass and Gorguts wasn't always welcoming to the 'core kids and their icons, TBDM; however, in terms of attendance, Decibel Magazine was onto something when they squeezed together, and I do mean squeeze, these disparate bands.

Baltimore, Maryland upstarts, Noisem provided a jolting dose of death/thrash. Featuring tracks culled from their recent "Agony Defied" album, the A389 recording artist played fast and spurned on oncoming body-mass wall. Standing on the first balcony, I often found myself checking out the bang bodies below. Long-hairs and spiked dos came together, often in a brutal-yet-loving fashion.

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Destruction & Krisiun Do Virginia

“Fuck all this ‘thrash,’ ‘black,’ ‘power’ bullshit,” snarls the towering mountain of a bassist from stage right. “It’s all Metal, right? That’s why we’re all here.”

Coming from Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer, a genre veteran and one of thrash metal’s European founders, these are powerful words. They serve as a reminder of Destruction’s influences – which, considering the German band’s pioneer status, are decidedly traditional – and its legacy, which includes death and black metal.

All told, Schmier has made it credibly clear that tonight is about celebrating Metal, with that capital “M.” Being heavy, playing your heart out, thrashing, rocking. ‘Banging, for those who can use the word “bangover” with a straight face. That’s a multi-context word if I’ve ever heard one. More...

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SXSW 2014 Day Four: Spirit Caravan

Saturday, March 14, the roads seem quiet compared to the previous night. Part of this was due to my moving back to Red River Street and away from Dirty Sixth. Everybody seemed tired, and as a publicist opined to me, Thursday morning's crash on Red River casted bad mojo onto the festivities. Whatever the cause, there was no 1001 person to flood a capacity venue. More...

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SXSW 2014 Day Three: Dio Tribute, Metalsucks

Friday, March 14, 2014, my third day attending SXSW music festivities, started just after 3 pm. This event was my only excursion outside of live music. Members of Landshark Promotions and DJ Chuck Loesch of 101X "No Control Radio" premiered a CD of the Ronnie James Dio tribute album "This Is Your Life." The three-person panel presented each track from the forthcoming recording featuring an all-star lineup of modern and classic metal artists. It felt good singing along to these majestic reworkings done in the name of charity. 100% of the proceeds will go towards Wendy Dio's "Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund" .

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SXSW 2014 Day Two: Relapse Records, Monte Pittman

SXSW can be an overwhelming endeavor. From word-of-mouth parties and secret performances to unofficial day shows that the festival doesn't promote, planning takes more than cursory glances. After last year's exhaustive outing, I learned a lesson: keep it simple (stupid) and don't over plan. One best experiences South By Southwest by staying in a downtown hotel and taking pedicabs (or real car cabs depending on the extent of travel). For only $2 a day, a bus is the way to go for Austinites, as long as they're not staying past midnight. More...

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SXSW 2014 Beerfest Starts At Beerland

(March 11, 2013) Beerland seemed the perfect venue for the suds fest that marked this year's South By Southwest festival--at least the music portion. Alcohol-induced projections, from top to bottom, were a common, public spectacle this year. One had to be aware of stepping into a puddle of piss or slipping on chucks of regurgitated BBQ on the sidewalk. Some venues, including parties held outside of the downtown area, even offered free drinks. The following night at Dirty Dog Bar, Christian Mistress singer, Christine Davis, called SXSW a "beerfest" during a brief break between songs. More...

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70,000 Tons Of Metal: Day Four

I woke up with a four alarm hangover….it was my birthday! For the second year in a row, I just couldn’t believe that I would spend it in such “majesty on the seas” with bands I admire and musicians I worship. I rose after just 4 ½ hours and reached for the knife that felt buried in my left temple. A quick look out the porthole of the room revealed a cloudy, foggy and rainy day. I stumbled to the shower and managed to get ready for the first show – Atrocity on the pool deck. I took the elevator to floor 11 to get some breakfast and I peaked through the back stage door (just out the elevator) and the rain was torrential. Ok…how is this going to work? More...

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70,000 Tons Of Metal: Day Three

Day three was port of call day for the largest floating festival. This year, the destination was set by the fans who voted narrowly to make port at Costa Maya, Mexico - a new destination and within a short journey to the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben. The boat docked at about noon and I gathered a small group of friends, which included cabin mate and vocalist for Helsott, Eric Dow, LT Rhapsody/21 Octayne drummer Alex Landenburg (who was onboard playing with Bonfire) and Margie, a rabid metalhead who has attended every single 70K cruise. Joining us on the journey was Bonfire vocalist Claus Lessmann and bassist Uwe Kohler, as well as Metal Injection's Dave Pando.

It's was a hot, humid and unforgettable journey into one of mankind's most advanced and mysterious civilizations in Mezo-America, the Mayans. We boarded the coach buses and made our hour long journey into the flatlands of the Yucatan peninsula, now largely abandoned due to high category 5 hurricane strikes in the last 10 years (though you can get a sweet land deal if you wanted to take the risk). Our guide was Manuel,,,who is also known as the "Silver Fox." He provided valuable information on the history of Mayan civilization and touched on the obvious reasons why the word failed to end on December 21, 2012 and the possibilities why the civilization may have disappeared. The map of entire Central American region of ruins also seemed to contain a site that could unlock a title of a future LT Rhapsody song...."The Temple of the Turtles" - or so we had a pretty good chuckle about. More...

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