Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground columns
More than just brutal riffs and unintelligible screams, heavy metal covers a huge range of sounds and has a massive number of sub-genres that dip into just about any style imaginable. Every week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we highlight three lesser known or unsigned bands that deserve to be heard by the wider music community, and this week includes another look at groups that are well outside the standards of black or death metal.
Last summer we delved into three “progressive” metal bands that throw in non-standard song structures, avant-garde twists, and a healthy dose of ‘70s style prog rock. Below you can find three more groups in the prog metal realm that are all unified by a jazzy outlook, some showy technicality, a strong emphasis on bass playing.
The heaviest of the three bands we’ll look at this week, Spanish three piece Continuo Renacer also happens to be an all-instrumental group, following in the footsteps as such acts as Blotted Science by maintaining a feel of death metal heaviness without using any screams or growls.
Without vocals the instruments really get a chance to shine, and the bass lines keep the music moving forward into ever funkier and more avant-garde territory. The guitar playing on the band’s latest album “The Great Escape” (reviewed here) doesn’t get left behind either, keeping up with impressively technical flourishes. The opening title track from the album can be heard in the player below. Head over to the Continuo Renacer Facebook profile for more details on the band.
February is black history month here in America, and we at Metal Underground make sure that black metal is featured to honor the tradition. This month we have unearthed plenty of lesser-known black metal acts and have delved into old school articles on legendary black metal bands like Darkthrone. In keeping with the tradition of black metal history month, let's get back to the true meaning of the phrase by showcasing bands composed of actual black musicians who play metal.
Last year, our Content Manager Ty brought some interesting black bands to light. This year we'll travel to the Caribbean, Africa and other locations to discover some bands composed entirely or mostly of black musicians - further showing how metal isn't solely an Anglo phenomena made up of just white band members. You will find metal everywhere, by all ethnicities and in countries one wouldn't normally associate with metal - by people who love heavy music. We will unearth plenty of our brothers in metal today. Just recently, Botswana's "metal cowboys" got featured at an art exhibit over at Bekris Galleries in San Francisco. This photographic montage is the work of noted shutterman Frank Marshall, who spent countless hours delving into the metal subculture of Botswana for his thesis at Tshwane University. Some of these metalheads are probably more hardcore than your average anglo devotee in the amount of hardship they endure to listen to their music of choice. Let's check in now with a few bands that we have unearthed for you today. More...
A few weeks ago in Unearthing the Metal Underground, I introduced some ultra brutal bands from the southern Filipino city of Davao. This time around, let’s take a look at the capital of Manila, which definitely isn’t to be outdone in the slamming, blasting sickness category. The Metro Manila area, an impossibly huge urban center, is bursting with bands weaned on a steady diet of Disgorge, Malignancy, Devourment, and Gorgasm, so let’s get right down to it.
OK, so technically Pus Vomit isn’t actually from Manila, but the band is from right next door to the metro area, and calls Dasmarinas home. There’s no doubt the denizens of metro Manila can clearly hear the unholy din this three piece has been conjuring since 2005 no matter what part of the packed metropolis they hail from.
Pus Vomit keeps things simple from a lineup perspective, with just drums, vocals, and a guitar player, but there’s little simple about the Pus Vomit sound, which is equal parts slamming accessibility and technical prowess. The band has kept busy since its founding, with two demos, three splits, and a full length, “Degrade the Worthless,” which came out in 2009 on Berdugo Records, the label run by Alexander De La Cruz, the man who also publishes the In Dark Purity ‘zine. Fans of far eastern brutality in the vein of Vomit Remnants, Infernal Revulsion, and Rest in Gore will revel in Pus Vomit’s insane mix of slams and technicality.
Continuing our ongoing coverage of black metal history month, it’s time to dive into three more underground acts that don’t have as large a following as the biggest names in the scene, but are still among the best the genre has to offer. Last week we highlighted three misanthropic black metal bands, and now it’s time to check out groups that take the sound in a different direction.
Pipe organs, keyboards, violins, a grandiose style; all these and more are typical of this breed of metal, in which screeches from hell and fast paced guitars meet beautiful heights of orchestral symphonies. From the mildly melodic to the completely symphonic, these three bands show that injecting non-metal elements doesn’t have to detract from the darkness.
Hailing from black metal ground zero (that mythical land and metal Mecca otherwise known as Norway) and featuring Windir keyboardist Gaute Refsnes, Cor Scorpii has the requisite pedigree to grab the attention of genre fans. Unlike with the other two bands covered this week, Cor Scorpii’s keyboards are tempered and held on a fairly tight leash, letting the guitar tone drive the music. This tasteful restraint results in a sound that is melodic and highly atmospheric without getting overbearingly symphonic. The end product has a swelling and epic quality that is surprising considering the presence of the extremely harsh vocals and dark feeling. Even with the melodic bent the band’s music still tends to be properly dark and chilling, as any black metal release should.
So far Cor Scorpii’s fans have had to be content with only a single proper album, but – praise be to the dark one! – the band officially began the recording process for a sophomore album and follow-up to the debut full-length “Monument” earlier this month. Keep up with Cor Scorpii’s latest activity via Facebook or get a taste of the band’s mix of the extreme and the melodic through the songs below.
“Ei Fane Svart”
February is black metal history month, which means there’s plenty of raw, frozen, and spiteful heaviness headed your way in the coming weeks here at Metalunderground.com. In honor of the infamous style we already took a look at Darkthrone in our Sunday Old School column, and now that it’s time for a new edition of “Unearthing the Metal Underground” we’ll dive even further into black metal with three bands rising up through the ranks out of obscurity.
This isn’t our first foray into the black metal scene, as you can still check out our previous editions covering solo black metal acts, Red and Anarchist black metal, and even Christian “unblack” metal.
Whether you prefer your black metal of the symphonic or utterly eardrum-destroying and abrasive variety, each of these bands deserve to be heard by a wider audience and should hit your regular musical rotation.
Taking a page from the likes of Gothmog and Dimmu Borgir, this young Chicago based band has plenty of extreme vocals and heavy riffing, but supports the music with both corpse paint theatrics and a symphonic flair. The lads from Massakren may be from the U.S. but you’d never tell that from the music alone, which exudes a strongly European feel. Massakren released a self-titled last year (reviewed here), and hopefully we’ll be getting even more melodic mayhem from the band in the near future. To hear what the group has to offer, check out Massakren’s Facebook profile or watch the music videos available below.
Recently Peru, which used to have a lot more rock and metal on it's airwaves a decade ago, played host to an event called "Dia Del Rock Peru." (Day of Rock) It took place on January 7th in Lima and in other satellite cities such as Arequipa. It was a way for the rock community to say "we exist" to all of the media and corporate broadcast venues. Nine bands of diverse styles played in downtown Lima from 4:00 until 10:00 p.m., giving exposure to those artists and the creative collective. You can see footage of the event here. Dia Del Rock might have started just on that day, but it was a blueprint of shows and events to come in the ensuing months. Paco Holguin from the band Emergency Blanket had originally come up with the idea on his Facebook page and it spread like wildfire. Then three promoters came together - Ivan Fajardo, Wayo Aguayo and Eduardo Quezada - who compiled a chain of events that would link together indie labels, stations, magazines and corporations. This show on the 7th was the start of more concerts, and you can learn more about upcoming shows by visiting the official Facebook page of Dia Del Rock Peru.
Of course, Peru is a very large country and only a fraction of it's large pool of bands will perform at events like this. The first band that we present today played at this event, while the other two take the more traditional underground approach of playing the clubs and gaining visibility through tours. The more alternative the genre of metal a band plays, the harder it might be to hook up with a high visibility event. The three bands that we will unearth today have vastly different interpretations of the metal style and different methods of diffusing their music to their respective fan bases. More...
There must be something in the water down in Davao in the southern Philippines, because the sprawling city has produced some of the most brutal, slamming, and at times technical death metal in all of Southeast Asia in recent years. The global brutal death community is beginning to take notice of the Davao scene, as some of the bands are starting to get signed by labels of note in the sub-genre, such as Coyote Records and Sevared Records. Here are a few bands making more than their fair share of gurgling, putrid noise in Davao City, Philippines.
Human Mastication has been blasting out slamming sickness since 2002, and in that time has developed a rock solid international reputation as one of the top slam bands in the business. The early years of the band saw the release of a collection of splits and demos before Human Mastication was picked up by Sevared Records for its debut full length release in 2008, “Grotesque Mastication of Putrid Innards.” Sevared also put out the band’s latest EP, “Persecute to Bloodbath,” last year. Chugging, slamming riffs, disgustingly guttural vocals, liberal use of pinch harmonics, and some combustible groove are all key elements of the Human Mastication formula. This band is currently top of the heap in the Davao brutal scene, and 2012 marks a decade of dedication to unholy slam for vocalist Gee and his comrades in gore. Expect more trademark slamming groove from Human Mastication in the near future.
A friend of mine often refers to heavy metal and hardcore as "children's music." (No, not this kind of children's music). Today, I am going to grudgingly give him some ammunition for his snobbery, as Unearthing The Metal Underground takes a look at two bands who exhibit extraordinary talent and enthusiasm for playing metal, despite being younger than probably every member of this website.
Gauchos de Acero (Los Gauchos)
Some readers here may remember Gauchos de Acero, as they became something of an internet sensation among heavy metal fans in 2007 when videos of three young boys from Argentina were posted by their father, showing them covering the likes of Slipknot, Pantera and fellow South Americans, Sepultura. Although known as Los Gauchos, the duo did not originally have a name, Los Gauchos being a moniker assigned to them by YouTube users, owing to their user name, "gauchosalta." Not only did they become a hit on the internet, but they also attracted the attention of Argentinean promoters, not least when they were booked to perform at Cosquin Rock 2007, an open air festival which packed in over 20,000 spectators. They were even noticed by the Argentinean government, who supplied them with sound equipment!
Gauchos de Acero - "Refuse/Resist"
Power metal: master of epic guitar solos and frequent champion of all that is cheesy. Some love it for the deliciously grandiose high-pitched vocals, and others hate it for the exact same reason. While not all can appreciate the lyrical themes and vocal stylings of the genre, the level of both passion and technical proficiency displayed by the power metal virtuosos can't be denied. There are the obvious big names in the scene like Fates Warning, Blind Guardian, and Jag Panzer, but what’s going on in the underground these days?
Unlike with the hordes of black metal or death metal, there isn’t nearly as large a pool of unknown talent in the power realm. In this case that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as lesser quantity can lead to better quality. For this week’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground, we’ll look at three lesser known bands from different corners of the globe that all approach the power metal style from a slightly different angle.
To start our expedition into the power metal underground we’re headed to Finland for a tour-de-force of shredding solos and pounding drums. Tiluland dropped the debut album “Axes of the Universe” last year and put a surprising twist on the style by going completely instrumental. Driven by guitar acrobatics instead of the standard falsetto singing, Tiluland is the band for you if you love the fast and epic instrumentation of the genre but don’t care for the vocal style.
Check out more on Tiluland via Facebook, or listen to two songs from the “Axes of the Universe” album below.
“Tilu of the Kings”
While the Caribbean island of Cuba may be a source of mistrust for some owing to it's political history and it's former leader Fidel Castro being seen as both an enemy and an icon, the country boasts quite a healthy metal scene, one which certainly deserves to be brought to the attention of headbangers the world over. When scratching the surface, one can find a diverse range of metal bands in Cuba, from the epic to brutal. Here are just a few of the Cuban metal acts on offer.
Formed in La Habana in 2009, Sed mostly comprises of former members of The Flowers Of Evil and Radical OH. The band is perhaps best described as a combination of speed and power metal, featuring crystal clear and powerful vocals along with epic sounding riffs and stampeding drums. The band released their first demo CD, "Sed De Tantas Cosas" last year and has even been able to perform on Cuban television.
No matter how hard metal tries to separate itself from comedy, the two modes of entertainment are often linked, whether by accident or on purpose. Manowar might feel overwhelmingly macho and barbaric wearing cod pieces and furry boots in promotional pictures, but these visual statements are so over the top that some will find the sentiment absolutely hilarious. The grave nature of black metal can also be construed as humorous, especially the visual aspect. Some may view corpse paint as a morbid, anti-Christian statement, while others perceive the strategy as something reserved for children’s birthday parties.
Still, some bands make no qualms about having a sense of humor. Bands such as S.O.D. and Anthrax may pummel their fans with no-bullshit thrash metal, but always make time for joke songs such as “I’m the Man” and “King at the King.” These groups are musicians first and comedians second, whether their songs or presence was intentionally humorous or not. However, in the past few years comedians have started a new trend.
Trend might not be the correct term, certainly three albums do not constitute a “scene,” but metal labels are starting to sign comedians. Each of the three comedians signed to a metal label—Brian Posehn, Jamieson and Jim Florentine—are connected to metal in some fashion. Jamieson and Florentine join metal journalist Eddie Trunk as hosts of VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show.” Posehn isn’t considered a metal expert like Jamieson and Florentine, but he is an unabashed fan. Jamieson and Posehn include humorous metal songs on both of their respective album. However, they are the opposite of the thrash bands listed above; they are comedians first and metal musicians second.
Brian Posehn was the first comedian to sign to a metal label. In 2006, Relapse Records picked up Posehn’s first album “Live in: Nerd Rage.” Posehn’s first album, at least the stand up portion, was recorded as part of the “Comedians of Comedy” tour and includes a sketch with Bob Odenkirk. Odenkirk and Posehn now each other from the HBO skit comedy show “Mr. Show” and its movie spin off “Run Ronny Run.”
Posehn also recorded a couple of songs. “Mr. Show” produced the joke-metal band Titanica whose performance of “Try Again” appears on the said album. Posehn also performs in Posehn, which features Scott Ian [Anthrax], Joey Vera [Armored Saint], John Tempesta [White, The Cult] and Brian himself on vocals. His solo-dubbed group performs a track called “Metal By Numbers,” which rips on metal stereotypes. His 2010 Relapse release “Fart and Weiner Jokes” includes more social commentary about the metal community. “More Metal Than You” is about how metal head often turn being a fan into a competition. Additionally, Brian Posehn is an actor and writer who has appeared in front of the camera on “The Devil’s Rejects,” “The Sarah Silverman Show” and “Seinfeld.”
It doesn’t take long when wandering the streets of the sprawling, congested, and smog-ridden city of Bangkok, once known as the Venice of the East due to its many canals, long since paved over, to realize that metal lives here. Young and old sport metal t-shirts with surprising regularity, metal paraphernalia abounds in shops here and there, and even airport employees asked this recent visitor to the country, upon seeing his tattoos and metal garb, “What metal band are you in?” Though scene insiders in Bangkok remarked to this correspondent that the Bangkok scene is largely split among subgenre lines, it clearly does little to diminish the following among the brutal bands of the Bangkok scene. Here are four punishing bands hailing from Thailand’s capital waiting to unleash upon you and aural assault of massive proportions. More...
Chile is a world unto itself, a land of extremes that begins at the harsh Atacama desert to the north and extends thousands of miles to the south in the fjords of Patagonia. The population is of hardy, rugged stock and it's people are as diverse as our own. Within this long country of one time zone, you have all kinds of microcosms and people of diverse ancestry. There are influences from German and Italian lineage and plenty of native and indigenous folk residing amongst the Hispanic populace. And of course, one common thread appears to always transcend boundaries - music. In the case of metal music, Chile has an unbelievable amount of bands in every subgroup imaginable. Black metal bands such as Runepath have put out demos that have gotten recognition on many webzines, and even the ambient new age doom of Uaral has gone viral on YouTube. The majority of people will think of Tom Araya, who recently got the key to a city as a musical emissary, as the most popular Chileno - but delve a little bit deeper and you will find all sorts of bands.
Chile has been thrashing for years, and you can see this as evident when old schoolers such as Vastator regroup are still around putting out videos and even collaborate with Veronica Freeman ("The Gods Give No Reply"). The great thing about the Chilean metal scene as of late is the organization put into it. The Digmetalworld label has put alot of effort into showcasing and streaming countless bands and releases from Chilean and other South American artists. A fan of one band can easily jump and discover music from other groups this way. While you may stream dozens of releases this way and get to know more metal bands, I still find that many will investigate on their own as well. Great blogspots such as Paganvs Info, for those who can read Spanish, also highlight a vast amount of music from the pagan metal scene in Chile and South America. Here on Metal Underground, we have streamed the entire newest releases of such diverse Chilean metal bands as Lefutray, Sacramento and several others. Today we will take a look at a few different styles of metal bands currently active in the Chilean scene.
I like what Folkheim stand for. They have the touch of the common man in their message of popular rights and autonomy for indigenous people. They don't celebrate Columbus Day, because in their words it would be celebrating 519 years of conquistador oppression. They recently bowed out of the Caviahue festival on moral and monetary grounds, and continue to speak their peace on issues such as the funding of the HidroAysen energy project which many deemed environmentally unsound. Hailing from Antofagasta, they play a rich variety of ethnic black folk metal. Folkheim's first EP was 2006's "Pachakuti," which followed their 2004 demo "Touched by Thy Undisturbed Essence." They continue to play shows all over Chile and have an incredible cult following.
Toronto is located in the South Eastern part of the province of Ontario, five hours east of Montreal, Quebec and three hours away from Ottawa, Ontario. A fair comparison to use to describe Toronto would be as the poor man’s New York City: it is large, expansive and industrial (and emotionally cold) in feel, but extremely culturally diverse, and while there are great opportunities for people to spark their individual creativity, the pressure to conform is palatable. Toronto seems to primarily be an “indie rock” town, but in the past few years, hardcore bands such as Fucked Up and Cancer Bats have been making waves, and Protest The Hero started off in Whitby, a suburb outside of the city. There are a plethora of new metal bands in the GTA, and while they get little (if any) love by Toronto press – metal or otherwise, they are around, getting opening slots for the American and European metal and hardcore bands that come into town.
Sons of Otis
In terms of style, Toronto metal acts seem to prefer to emulate the NWBHM feel, while Quebec metal bands seem to be more technical and favor Black metal and /or grindcore styles. Toronto’s Sons of Otis stands out as being a trio of extremely proficient musicians who stand out from the pack with their unique take on metal. Their sound, which is categorized as psychedelic stoner/doom, is infused with American blues music, which adds a deep-in-your-belly groove and a soulfulness to their sound.
While the band has been kicking around since 1992 and has toured with bands like Electric Wizard and YOB and performed at the renowned Roadburn Festival in Holland in 2010, they have been lauded with critical acclaim, but for some reason commercial acclaim has been stymied by horrible record deals, lineup changes and in my opinion, a musically immature city where their uniqueness isn’t appreciated. While I’d heard of the band for a number of years, their opening set for Dark Castle and YOB this past July blew me away, and if I were in one of the bands performing that night, I would have been intimidated. Sheer power and heartfelt passion for their craft cannot be faked simply to win an audience over. These guys are the real deal.
Logan, Utah sits in a picturesque little furrow by the name of Cache Valley, which is home to many small towns. Righteous mountain views are prevalent throughout and Logan is home to an array of diverse businesses, people and music. One thing that has become very apparent throughout the last few years is that, despite the small town vibe, the town has an awesome variation of pure metal that is comparable to cities ten times its size. Autostigmatic, Simple as Suicide, and Osco are but three of the bands that keep Logan’s metal scene alive and kicking some serious ass.
Autostigmatic is a four piece that is reminiscent of greats like Pantera and Slayer but with a crucially unique metal sound that brings fans back in hordes, craving more with every show. Live, they are non-stop head-banging metal that is cemented in the underground scene not only in Logan, but across Northern, Utah. Hovey is the front man, leading the mayhem with fierce vocals and guitar riffs that merge superbly with ferocious guitar abilities. The band produces deep and contagious bass lines and their drum beats are a hardcore combination of metal meets stampede, all in all creating a sound that pulls you in and saturates your soul.
If there was ever a genre of metal that seems to get the least amount of exposure, it would possibly be the brutal death metal scene. There are literally dozens of bands putting out material every week, and occasionally a few rise above the heap to become well-known with most metal listeners.
Brutal death metal, which has as it's subgenres slam, grind, and porno, can partially trace it's inception back to Earache grindcore compilations and mostly to the late 80's/early 90's when such extreme bands as Blood Duster, Lividity, and Broken Hope put out grisly material that raised the bar in terms of gore, lyrics, and horror-themed album cover art. The following years saw Dying Fetus become one of the top bands of the next wave, with caustic maim-inducing music that influenced countless bands in today's brutal scene. When done well, the music can be hilarious and high energy. When done badly, it is still pretty funny too. More...
Every Monday we take a look at three bands in the metal underground that deserve to be heard by a wider audience.
While normally the various bands unearthed are all grouped together by sub-genre or geographical location, this week we’re headed into slightly different territory to examine three bands that don’t necessarily share a similar sound. Instead, these three groups all have a common thread in that they are highly prolific artists with many releases under their belts, but somehow still haven’t managed to become highly known in the metal community.
Check out the music of Root, Transmetal, and Senmuth below and decide for yourself if you’d like to join these band’s relatively small but loyal fanbases.
This Czech Republic act is a bit of a cult hit in the underground, developing its own unique sound that isn’t quite black metal or avant-garde or ambient or anything else, but has echoes of all those styles and more.
Root has a solid nine full-length releases under its belt scattered throughout a 20+ year history, having just dropped the new album “Heritage of Satan” (reviewed here). Until recently, Root was almost completely unknown by fans of European dark metal acts, only starting to see more exposure after a series of re-releases through I Hate Records in 2008.
For more info on Root, head over to the band’s official website here, or listen to a sampling of songs off “The Temple in the Underworld” and “The Book” below.
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. For as long as there has been rock music, a scene has existed in this Western European country, but many have struggled to gain international stardom, with death metal outfit Gojira probably being the most well known French band in metal today. This week we'll be looking at three bands from France who are out to prove that, contrary to popular belief, the French can throw down just as hard as anybody else.
Formed in 2007 by guitarist and self-proclaimed orchestrator Vynce Leff and recorded their debut EP, "Daughter Of The Night" just six months afterwards, instantly receiving acclaim wherever it was heard and even earned them the titles of Best French Band of 2008 by Metalsymphonique.com and Best EP from HeavyLaw.com. They split with their vocalist last year but were able to find security in December when they recruited Clémentine Delauney to stand behind the microphone.
Whyzdom - "Daughter Of The Night"
Every week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality bands that haven't gotten as much exposure yet as they should. This week we take a look at three bands from the vast country of Russia. Believe it or not, rock and heavy metal music was being made by Russian bands ever since 1960s, but it was not until the 1980s that the Soviet Union allowed such music to be released officially. Since the collapse of the Communist empire in 1991, the Russian metal scene has continued to grow and metal artists from the West routinely perform in the country, where legend has it some of the craziest fans in metal are to be found. Below is just a short example of the some of the band that come from Russia, perhaps not with love.
A Foggy Realm
From Russia's capital city, Moscow natives A Foggy Realm formed in 2009 by accomplished composer and musician, Ilya Lipkin, performing a mix of doom metal and ambient in an instrumental fashion, prefering instead to let their music do the talking. A Foggy Realm recorded their first EP, "Twilight" in January of last year, releasing it the next month. You can download the EP for free by heading to this location. More...
For a genre as controversial as National Socialist black metal (NSBM), it's a given that there would be a backlash against it from within. Especially given that metalheads are often a rebellious bunch, a bunch of songs about extreme forms of nativism was inevitably going to annoy the living crap out of a lot of left-leaning metalheads. And thus, red and anarchist black metal (RABM) was born, a genre even more obscure than NSBM but coming from the radical left.
Not a genre with a specific sound but one defined entirely by ideology, RABM will likely never see mainstream appeal but will still manage to attract a small yet dedicated following committed to a never-ending war with NSBM.
Proving that one can be proud of one's culture without resorting to fascism, Yaotl Mictlan is a Mexican band affiliated with the EZLN secessionist movement in Chiapas. Evoking the religion of the ancient Aztec civilization as an attack on the Spanish imperialism and fighting for indigenous rights is only is still second to the band when it comes to making quality ass-kicking black metal.