Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground columns
As a child growing up in the late sixties/early seventies listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Jean Luc Ponty, progressive rock was and is a large part of my musical foundation. The orchestration of prog rock expanded music from anthemic songs with a simplistic chorus-verse structure into compositions that took on a life of their own through arrangements that incorporated elements of jazz, folk and other forms of music in atypical time signatures. These musicians represented a skilled genre, one where a band had to know how to play far beyond 'adequate' and know all types of music. More...
Record sales may be dropping and labels may be on the verge of extinction, but the underground metal scene is still a thriving and vibrant place where musical innovation continues to occur. Every Monday we dig deep into the underground to unearth three bands you may not have had the chance to check out yet, but which deserve to be heard.
It’s no secret I dig bands that mix it up and don’t stick to one straight style, having previously unearthed avant-garde bands, a handful of genre flip-floppers, metal outfits that experiment with non-traditional sounds, and those bands that just plain ignore musical trends.
Today you’ll get another dose of heavy music that doesn’t play by the normal genre rules. These three bands may all technically be black metal, but they push that definition to its limits and sometimes even well beyond!
This German act is currently with Code666 records, which is a smaller label in the grand scheme of things, but it still has some very solid underground acts known for combining sub-genres and mixing up their sounds.
Todtgelichter has four full-length releases under its belt, having just dropped new album “Apnoe” this year (reviewed here). “Apnoe” is definitely less raucous and battering than previous releases, occasionally dropping out the black metal altogether, just to bring it back in at unexpected times to barrel over an unsuspecting audience. The harsh vocals are present but take a back seat to clean male and female singing, accompanied by atmospheric and calm parts that give off a modern-era Anathema vibe.
Keep up with the latest on Todtgetlichter at Facebook and be sure to check out a track from the current album and its predecessor “Angst” below.
While metal bands of pretty much any sub-genre can be found all over the world, different areas have become well known for specific sounds: the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Scandinavian black metal, Bay Area thrash, and so on. But metal continues to spread and evolve across the planet, and now the various Middle Eastern nations are not only developing their own underground scene, but also inspiring a traditional Arabic sound in metal bands from other countries.
Israeli act Orphaned Land may be one of the most well known, with latest album “All Is One” nearing release through Century Media, but there are many more just waiting to be explored in our never ending quest to unearth the metal underground.
Today we’ll cover three lesser known bands either residing in or strongly influenced by the Middle East. If you dig these acts but want something more on the power or progressive side, be sure to also check out Myrath, which was covered in our look at bands getting exposure through the Prog Power USA festival.
Currently down to three members and now seeking a new keyboardist for live shows, Egyptian outfit Sand Aura released debut full-length album “Elegy of the Orient” last year. The album can be ordered directly through the band’s website or streamed in its entirety via Bandcamp.
Sand Aura covers a whole lot of ground sound-wise, working off a proto death metal base with deep and guttural vocals, adding in a folksy edge, and then also bringing out clean female vocals. Give it a listen and decide how it sounds yourself through the player below.
Recently, the respected Death Metal Underground site ran a brief synopsis of the new book "Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music" by S. Alexander Reed. The tome came out earlier this year and is a recommended read for anyone immersed in the current huge wave of industrial bands or who has followed the genre since its inception in the early eighties. More...
The number of metal bands out there has exploded in the last few years, and finding acts that meet your tastes can be quite a challenge, especially if you prefer your heavy music underground instead of well known. To help keep up with the ever shifting sea of metal, each Monday we unearth three lesser known bands all grouped by style or location.
We’ve looked at underground experimental bands before, but today we’ll cover three groups on the far fringe of the avant-garde scene. These three metallic offerings are for fans of the most bizarre reaches of music, combining elements that typically never come within miles of each other.
Age of Silence
Norway’s Age of Silence unfortunately only released a single full-length album back in 2004, titled “Acceleration,” and followed that with an EP the next year. True to its name, the band has been mostly silent since then, only popping up in 2010 to announce work was underway on another album, but nothing has come of it yet.
Age of Silence starts with a distinctly Scandinavian metal sound, but goes primarily for clean vocals, lacing in a variety of odd keyboard sound effects that take the music in a different direction than normal.
While there may or may not ever be new Age of Silence material, band member Andy Winter recently released his own solo album, offering more proggy Norwegian metal for fans who can’t get enough.
Every week we take a look at 3 unsigned bands that stand out from the crowd in our Unearthing the Metal Underground column. This week we take a look at the Los Angeles, California death metal scene.
Having recently moved to Los Angeles from New York, I was very impressed with the scene here. Promoters treating bands with respect and aggressively promoting their shows, grass roots marketing, bands helping each other out, everyone staying to hear every band at every show, and of course tons of talent. Of all the shocks I saw, it was the blending of scenes. There are shows with all genres of metal from brutal death, metalcore, thrash, traditional, and even some hard rock/metal cross over bands. The crowds love them all. The music is heavy and the bands are talented, what more do you need?
Today I am going to focus on three of the death metal bands I've come across from the Whittier area of Los Angeles: Syrebris, Insentient, and Infinite Death. More...
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week, I take on the small, but strong Maltese metal scene.
When one thinks Malta, the first thought that comes to mind is a gorgeous tourist destination rich in Greek, Roman and Arabic culture situated between Italy and North Africa. The Maltese metal scene is a much smaller than other island nations like Cyprus, but it is a strong and hard working underground scene. Though bands are not denied the right to play music they want in this free nation, metal in Malta is typically shunned by the typically close minded culture of the nation and the sheer lack of venues that would have them. Some Maltese bands have been welcomed abroad to mainland Europe and the U.K., though the costs for many are too high. However, the country does have its own metal festivals: the Extreme Maltese Metal and Xtreme Metal Assault festivals held in the summer as well as the “M.D.M.” (Malta Doom Metal) held in November in the city of Rabat.
Some Maltese acts have either made it beyond the Mediterranean to tour Europe and the UK, or at the very least been heard worldwide, but still remain largely underground. Today, we will look at three of those acts: Forsaken, Loathe and Weeping Silence. More...
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column examining three metal bands from Turkey, the country which bridges Europe and Asia, and a conversation was struck wherein I mentioned the idea of checking out some of the underground metal music that Turkey’s neighbours, Greece have to offer. Greece is certainly one of the most fascinating countries in Europe, if not the world, owing to its ancient history, philosophers, contributions to science, maths and politics and mythology, and it’s a place that enjoys heavy metal music too. Some of the more significant Greek metal bands around today include Rotting Christ, Firewind and SepticFlesh, but this week we will uncover three bands which aren’t as well known.
Of all the bands featured this week, Suicidal Angels are probably the most well known, having worked extremely hard over the past few years to spread their brand of thrash metal. The group was formed in the Greek capital city of Athens in 2001 by singing guitarist, Nick Melissourgos and eventually recorded their first full length album, "Eternal Domination" in 2007, which was released in July of that year. The record did well enough to gain them a place supporting such thrash legends as Overkill, Kreator and Onslaught. The release of their second album, "Sanctify the Darkness" further solidified their place as one of the best young thrash metal acts around, and led them to more appearances with high profile artists, as well as slots at such festivals as Sonisphere and Wacken Open Air. The band has since released two more full length records, the most recent of which, "Bloodbath," hit the shelves last year.
Suicidal Angels - "Apokathilosis"
With more than 15,000 bands in our database, and hordes more than that in existence, every Monday we like to take a little time to highlight three underground bands that deserve your attention.
Usually our unearthed bands focus on a single sub-genre or geographic region, but today we’ll look bands that have all experienced a similar phenomena: the flip-flop. Favored maneuver of politicians everywhere, and for some reason also plenty of metal bands, these guys aren’t doing it to pick up more votes, as their flip-flips frequently cost them fans.
Metal has its fair share of musical flip-floppers who went from heavy to soft, vice versa, or smashed opposing elements together to create a different type of sound. Our previous look at three genre flip-floppers covered a variety of them, and there are even more well known acts that have taken this route, from Darkthrone to Anathema and Therion. Below you’ll find a sampling of three lesser known acts that have significantly changed sound from their earlier works.
This Swedish death metal act had a cult hit back in 2009 with debut full-length “The Horror” (reviewed here), which was a brutal and unrelenting take on death/thrash that never let up. Short but sweet, the tracks were brief bites of devastation that didn’t overstay their welcome.
Fast forward to 2013, and Tribulation is an altogether different beast. Unlike the other two bands we’ll look at today, this time the change in sound actually made the songs much longer than before. “The Formulas of Death” (check out the review) saw the band become a progressive death metal outfit with plenty of melody and unexpected stylistic shifts. If it weren’t for the remaining thrash influence in the guitar sounds and the recurring death vocals, this would essentially be two different bands.
Hear the difference yourself through the clips below taken from each album. There is a lot going on musically throughout the second album, so a single song doesn’t really give enough to digest the breadth of the change, but you can also check out the new song “When the Sky is Black with Devils” via the band’s Facebook profile.
This edition of Unearthing The Metal Underground was part of our 2013 April Fools pranks.
The much maligned deathcore genre. Whenever you hear the term, it is beset with cringes from some. Actually, though, deathcore gets a bad rap that merits further investigation. When metalcore evolved into deathcore and placed more emphasis on the screaming, growling and more punctuated breakdowns, plenty of bands were still keeping the heaviness and technical quotient at a good level. There's the pummeling force of the Acacia Strain and the progressive finesse of BTBAM straddling the line with technical death metal on the other end, along with a good measure of heavier and original sounding deathcore bands. More...
Amidst all the pig squeals and face shredding tech-death, there’s plenty of music to be found in the metal world that borrows from (or even relies on entirely!) a symphonic sound. These acts aren’t afraid to show off their melodic side, creating unique songs that blend heavy guitars and even screams with more traditional stringed instruments and keyboards.
If power metal isn’t your thing but you still want music with more melody than the standard death metal troupe, check out this week’s crop of bands as we unearth more of the metal underground.
This Ukraine-based group has existed off and on since the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until last week that it finally dropped a debut full-length album titled “Wind of Freedom” via Svarga Music. If the name didn’t tip you off, the lyrics and themes of the music are based heavily on pagan traditions and are dedicated to the history and folklore of the band’s homeland.
Although Paganland describes itself as a “pagan black metal” band, this is much more on the symphonic and folk side than the black metal side of things, and fans of Tyr will be right at home with much of the new disc. Get a sampling of what the band has to offer through the title track available below, or hear more over at Facebook.
The U.S. and a couple of other nations celebrate Black History Month, which was created back in February of 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass - and to highlight the achievements of noteworthy black citizens and events shaping black history. It may be February, but here at Metal Underground we feature metal from all ethnicities on any given week.
But in keeping with the Black History Month theme, today we will explore three groups that are composed partially or entirely of all black members. The aggression and power of metal is a worldwide phenomena that crosses all genders, races and creeds. Something about metal just touches your soul, blacks and non-blacks alike, connecting you to this style of music that you just instinctively know you were born to listen to. More...
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that perhaps haven't received as much exposure yet as they should. This week, we'll be taking a trip to Turkey, the country where Europe and Asia meet, which shares its borders with no less than eight countries, including Greece in the West and Iran to the East. It's a country with a fascinating history (the Ottoman era of which was covered brilliantly in the PBS Series, "Islam: Empire of Faith") and remains an intriguing place today. It attracts many visitors every year, including heavy metal fans from Arab countries, who are unable to attend rock and metal shows in their homelands. Turkey was also at the heart of one of the more interesting stories in last year's metal news, when Israeli progressive metal band, Orphaned Land, announced that they becoming Turkish citizens, having established a strong fan base in the country and previously winning an award for their efforts towards reaching peace. This week, MetalUnderground will be examing three home grown Turkish bands, in an attempt to showcase it as one of the most exciting places to visit.
Kirmizi (Turkish for "red") is one of the more unique bands covered this week, seeing as it's an all female group. The outfit was founded in 2005 by vocalist Idil Cagatay and drummer Asli Polat and performed tirelessly in clubs like Dorock in the country's largest city, Istanbul. They released their first maxi single in 2010 and recorded two music videos for the release, "Kirmizi" and "Veda Etme," before being personally selected by Ozzy Osbourne to open for him in Istanbul later that year. In 2011, they released their first album, "Isyan," and are currently working hard to bring their sound across Europe and eventually to the United States.
Kirmizi - "Kirmizi"
Kirmizi - "Geri"
In the Portugal Daily View, Moonspell's lead singer/songwriter Fernando Ribeiro was quoted as saying "We were an active part of the underground scene that grew steadily over time, supported only by our passion for metal and by the desire to share it with people from all over the world. To spread music demos around the world was like raising our voices and saying ‘I’m here!’. Those were the more exciting days of my young life. To receive tapes from Poland, Mexico or Germany was an incredible experience. I can imagine it was the same feeling for a foreigner who received a tape from Portugal”. More...
It’s Monday again, which means it’s time to explore three more lesser known bands in the metal underground. Today’s exploration to the underground world features our neighbors to the north, which is home to its fair share of metal legends, from the most extreme to the most melodic. We’ve actually looked at Canadian acts several times before, specifically focusing on Toronto and the Maritimes previously, and today we’ll trek there again for three bands that cross the genre spectrum.
I suppose I should start out with a bit of disclosure: I’m not from Canada, and I’ve only been there once for a fishing trip years ago, although the border is only a few hours north of me. So unfortunately these are bands I know solely via their music and their online presence, and I haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with them in the live scene personally.
While working on the review for the new Chariots of the Gods album “Tides of War,” I got to thinking about the very solid lineup of bands from the frigid north, especially in the underground metal scene. There’s a fairly large grouping of what are essentially “second tier” bands currently active – these guys bring the metal full force, but they haven’t gotten signed with Nuclear Blast or Metal Blade or any of the larger labels focusing on heavy music. They still manage to get hooked up with PR companies to keep their presence known however, release high quality albums, and a good deal of them stay busy with touring and festival appearances.
Chariots of the Gods
Is this Ottawa act composed of thrash maniacs who are really into melodic death metal, or are they in an MDM band that can’t give up their love for Megadeth? Either way, this is pretty crushing, headbanging-mandatory stuff.
Chariots of the Gods will be officially dropping debut full-length album “Tides of War” later this month (January 29th to be precise), and the band has already released teasers that should more than pique the interest of metalheads. We recently had the opportunity to premiere the track “Unbound,” which features a guest appearance by Aleksi Sihvonen of Norther, and you can also hear the album’s title track below. For some more background on the band and info on the album’s themes, check out our recent interview here.
Heavy metal was almost certainly born in the English city of Birmingham, but ask most fans of the genre (especially the European ones) and they'll tell you that the real home of heavy metal is Germany. The country hosts many metal festivals every year, including one of, if not the most famous of them all, Wacken Open Air, along with the likes of Summer Breeze Open Air, Ragnarök and Bang Your Head!!!. Germany has long been a place for rock musicians to ply their trade and build a loyal following: From the Beatles spending much of their early days in Hamburg, to the formation of the Scorpions in 1965, to the rise in German thrash bands like Kreator and Sodom, as well as popularising power metal through such acts as Helloween and Blind Guardian, to modern favourites such as Rammstein, Germany certainly has one of the richest histories in rock and metal music. This week we'll be looking at three young bands to come from the country to help prove that it's still top of the tree when it comes to the genre we all know and love.
Formed in the federal state of Saarland in 2003, the band consists of only one member, who goes by the simple alias, A.H. He recorded the first Arcthuris demo, "The Grim White Woman" soon after the project's inception and released it the next year. Arcthuris has also self-released all of their full length albums, beginning in 2005 with "Ruf des Zerfalls." It would be four years until another Arcthuris album surfaced in the form of, "Children of Nibiru," but since then, material has come quite steadily, with two more albums, "Mondsucht" and "Ghouls of Nepenthe" following in 2011 and 2012 respectively. As one might expect from a one man metal band, Arcthuris started life primarily a black metal venture, but has grown to display a more ambient sound along the way.
Arcthuris - "Lucustas Liebestraum"
Arcthuris - "If I Could"
Heavy music has been steadily evolving since its first major appearances, from slow moving doom to blistering fast thrash and onto the most brutal death metal. Somewhere after figuring out corpse paint and freezing cold riffs somebody decided extreme metal could include unexpected elements like string instruments, keyboards, and other orchestral leanings. The symphonic and the extreme collided, and somehow it worked out.
Now some 15 - 20 years later bands are still finding ways to meld together these two styles, but for symphonic black metal junkies the pool of available talent isn’t as wide as with other sub-genres. You’ve likely heard everything from Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child a hundred times over, blazed through the couple of Dragon Lord releases, imported all those Opera IX CDs, and are done working through the Carach Angren back catalog…so what now?
We’ve previously taken a look at a few symphonic black metal acts as well as other heavily atmospheric bands, but there’s still more underground groups worth checking out if you need more orchestral influenced black metal.
This Belgian outfit is on the verge of releasing second album “Ritu” in January 2013 (reviewed here), which follows the debut “Irreversible Decay” album. The album focuses on different rites of various cultures and mythologies, including a dose of Lovecraftian rituals with songs like “Haunter of the Dark” and “Fhtagn.”
For more info on the album, check out our interview with the band just after the recording process was finished. Get acquainted with Saille’s version of symphonic black metal through songs off both albums, available below.
Malaysia is a country that has really begun to make it's name known in the last few years. It's become a popular holiday destination, it has one of the most stable infrastructures in South East Asia and has become a major investing force in association football (soccer,) with Malaysian entrepeneurs buying into such football teams as Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City. But what is the music scene like in Malaysia? And more specifically, how is heavy metal treated there? A quick Google search will quickly bring up a BBC article from 2001, in which the Malaysian government declared a crack down on the genre. But there are still metal bands active in the constitutional monarchy, and this week we'll be looking at three of them.
First up is Humiliation, a band from the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur who provide an ear catching take on death metal, being influenced mostly by such British extreme metal pioneers as Benediction and Bolt Thrower. The group was formed in 2009 and spent three months recording their debut EP, "Face The Disaster," which was released in November that year through Nebiula Production. The next year, they were able to record and release their first full length effort, "Dawn Of Warfare," which (including an intro and an outro) contained a total of twelve tracks. Since then, the band has soldiered on, despite losing some members along the way, they have been able to continue writing new material, and released their second full length album, "Seek To Survive" in September of last year. The band has also branced out when it comes to touring, having recently played in such countries as Germany, Poland and Romania.
Humiliation - "Minefields"
Although there may be stagnation in many areas of the heavy music scene, particularly at the most visible and mainstream levels, such is not the case with a swath of metal’s underground sector.
Sure, there are dime a dozen bands that all sound the same and use the exact same breakdown of low growls and clean singing (you know which ones I’m talking about – they like to call themselves “melodic hardcore” or “post-something or other”). There are even plenty of groups that claim they transcend genre or don’t care about sub-genre tags because “music is music” - and this is frequently a warning sign what you are about to hear will suck, hard, and very likely be a copy of something else that was just as lame.
But if you skim off that top layer of bafflingly-popular gunk, there are bands to be found that genuinely ignore borders between styles and let a wide range of genres seep into each other, creating unique and interesting sounds.
In previous Unearthing columns we’ve looked at a few metal bands that blend different genres or ignore metal trends as well as experimental or avant-garde acts, and today we’ll unearth three more outfits in those categories. These are musicians that don’t mind getting some prog in their death metal or some black metal in their electronica, and they’ll even play with mainstream elements while still hitting the extreme notes without skipping a beat.
This Swiss avant-garde outfit has three full-length releases under its belt, with the new album “The Revolution is Dead!” (review coming soon) just dropping last month through Code666 Records. Despite the title’s claim, the metal revolution certainly isn’t dead, as Blutmond plays with just about everything that can be found in the musician’s toolkit: black metal collides with saxophone, female vocals, and even some goth and industrial elements.
As a statement from the band itself recently said, the latest album is “a roller coaster of mindfucked hate songs full of love and lots of lost dreams.” This is a group worth checking out for fans of Oblomov, Furia, or black metal bands that all around don’t give a good goddamn about remaining “trve” or “kvlt.” Four tracks from “The Revolution is Dead!” can be heard through the player below.
Back in the eighties, many old school metalheads got their first dose of Brazilian music when those first two classic Sepultura albums came out, along with releases from Overdose and Vulcano. Over in Brazil, though, those bands were a small handful of many in an already vibrant scene. Tape traders started getting wind of this scene and began looking towards other Brazilian bands, which led to great interest in two albums on Roadrunner from another classic act by the name of Ratos de Porao. "Brasil" and the crossover milestone "Anarkophobia" on Roadrunner made us dig a little deeper into the thrashcore scene of this country.
Crossover and extreme metal have thirty years strong down in the tropic of capricorn. RDP and fellow countrymen Lobotomia could hold their own against any stateside crossover band. And when you dig into Brazil's punk/metal history, it is overwhelming to see that their scene - which dates back to the days of Venom, Discharge and the Sex Pistols - continues to be huge and fractured into several subgenres just like our own. A few years before Ratos de Porao came on the scene, Restos de Nada were possibly the first recognized punk band. As can be expected, they hailed from the southeastern region of Sao Paolo - whose urban setting gave rise to their songs of social decay. More...