Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground columns
I have a special place in my heart for Las Vegas, probably because I lived in Nevada for almost twenty years. You hear all kinds of cliched phrases about Las Vegas being the "entertainment capital" of the U.S., but that depends on what kind of entertainment you're looking for. If you're just some tourist, you'll go hog wild for the latest flamboyant guy taming a white tiger or some pop star appearing at Caesar's Palace. Or you could be the weekend partier from LA, descending on the city for a night of debauchery at one of the dozens of night clubs and ultra lounges. But the kind of entertainment a metal listener wants is going to be markedly different, and a scene does exist in Las Vegas once again.
See, the Las Vegas valley had a great underground scene back in the late eighties and throughout the nineties. Besides Mark Slaughter putting it on the map in terms of commercial metal, Mitch Harris released two LP's with his LV band The Righteous Pigs before leaving to join Napalm Death. Clubs such as Calamity Jayne's brought in weekly shows before they were busted for coke, and the Huntridge was legendary in terms of hardcore and extreme metal shows. All the local bands played at the local college bars around UNLV and at the Elks Lodge in Henderson, and had their music promoted on the radio station before the general manager switched the format to all jazz back in 1998. Local bands such as Goatlord, Requiem and Hemlock (still active and billing themselves "the hardest working band in metal") had no more exposure after this happened, and the local scene died off for a number of years after this.
Technology intervened and created a renaissance for the Las Vegas scene. College radio isn't imperative any more when you can hear everything on satellite radio and the internet now. Besides the House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the Hard Rock Casino bringing in the bigger names, there are tons of local venues hosting concerts now. Every weekend there are shows at the Cheyenne Saloon with local bands on the roster supporting the big name acts that come in from L.A. and elsewhere. That five-hour drive from California has brought in bands ranging from Asesino to Enthraller at this venue, which was the site for the Las Vegas Death Fest 3 and the Doom In June shows. Local favorites like Avenger In Blood and Soiled Carnage can be found there with a whole host of other garage metal bands opening for the big gigs.
In the past five years, the scene has exploded with bands such as metalcore heavy hitters Molotov Solution putting Las Vegas on the map. Another big surprise has been the immense popularity of Guttural Secrete in the national death metal scene. Granted, they've been around almost a decade, but it is literally unheard of for a band this extreme to have almost a quarter of a million hits on Youtube - especially an independent one. In many ways, Las Vegas does have the ideal climate for a scene if any city has. It's 24 hours of non-stop drinking, gambling and every vice imaginable. What it lacks in historic culture it exceeds in bacchanalian virtues. It is the setting for the glitterati and the plastic too, and for every serious extreme metal and metalcore band working the club circuit, the desert floor is littered with alot of screamo bands and younger kids that need to hone their style.
Below we will take you to the music of a few Las Vegas bands that haven't been featured prominently in our pages, so you can get an idea of what this desert community has to offer the metal scene.
Tales of the Grotesque
Tales of the Grotesque define themselves as a brutal melodic death metal band that were "recently released from a dark room where they defined their sound and status as a band." They've been around since 2010 and it's their mission to give you the feeling of an eerie tale crawling in your skin. They were recently voted October band of the month by Las Vegas website FiggZillaMusic.com.
Helsinki, my Helsinki. One year later, and still there is always something new and exciting here. In a city that is constantly evolving musically, a city where Gods of Metal roam the streets, what could be hidden under the surface? Clearly Helsinki is a center in the musical world, where it seems as if everyone you meet either plays an instrument or is in a band. One only has to look at the music that comes from this epicenter to realize how raw with talent the city and surrounding suburbs are.
With such internationally acclaimed acts such as Nightwish, Apocalyptica, Wintersun, Norther, Amorphis, and Moonsorrow boasting their origins here in Southern Finland, is it really a surprise that there is even more phenomenal talent hidden right beneath our noses? That’s not the Koskenkorva I smell, it’s the scent of fresh, raw talent. Heavily influenced by folk metal and symphonic metal, Helsinki area also has a surprisingly good local scene; this week we’ll Unearth the Metal Underground with everything from black metal to symphonic death metal.
Assemble the Chariots
To start with, a hefty dose of black and death metal! Assemble the Chariots was formed in the summer of 2008. The band's musical focus is death, black and hardcore metal, and in its own words “fast guitar shreds, and shit you’ve never heard before.” They had their first release in 2008 and currently are writing a demo set to come out later this year. Personally, I’m loving the flowing guitar riffs and the way the songs quickly transition to Opeth style growls and blast beats. Piano interludes provide melancholic interest and leave me wondering how the hell these guys aren’t on any magazine covers yet.
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 is our fourth exploration of the metal scene in Perth, Western Australia. You can also check out Part 1 (death metal), Part 2, and Part 3 (thrash metal).
The number of good bands that come out of such a small, remote place is quite staggering - it's just a shame that most of them don't get the opportunity to take their music to a wider audience. Today's highlighted bands have, to their credit, made some inroads into the international market.
With two full length albums under its belt, numerous local and national awards, and an appearance at Australia’s largest festival The Big Day Out, progressive metal outfit Chaos Divine has started to get some recognition in their home country. Not content with that, in 2009 the band played at the Progpower Europe Festival in The Netherlands as well as some club dates in Belgium.
March 2011 saw the release of Chaos Divine's second album, The Human Connection. While recorded in Perth, for the mixing and mastering the band managed to score the talents of Swedish producer Jens Bogren, known for his work with Opeth and Katatonia. The album is also available internationally on iTunes. The sound combines progressive elements and melodic death metal with particularly outstanding guitar work and great clean vocals, and will appeal to fans of Opeth and Dream Theater as well as fans of European-style melodic death metal.
Every week in Unearthing The Metal Underground, we check out bands in the underground who deserve more notice for the excellent heavy metal they are producing. This week we're looking at the underground scene in the capital of the United States, Washington, DC.
The District usually conjures up thoughts of monuments, patriotism, and presidential blow jobs, but if you listen closely, ignoring all the political windbags, inner city gunshots and almost weekly protests for one cause or another and you manage to avoid all the indie rock hipster bars and DJ dance nights you can hear the rumblings of a metal scene overshadowed by just about everything else in the most powerful city in the world. But unlike the city's rats who scurry away in the shadows these bands are screaming to be heard, and cranking their amps up too! Here's three of the best underground metal bands in Washington, DC right now that you won't find in any of the tourist guides.
Ilsa is a metal band with a sound that lies somewhere in the filthiest place where old school death metal and sludgy doom collide. This five piece band is raw in the best sense of the word. Heaviness exudes from every riff these guys play, regardless of the tempo, and the rhythm section breaks up bursts of brutality with dirty grooves. On top of it all you've got lead singer Orion's vocals which scream out with a pain that can't be faked. They're often found playing to packed basements at house shows but Ilsa isn't just some garage band. They’re a great underground band really making art for the unwashed masses and they deserve more recognition. Listen to their song Frostthrower on their MySpace page here and you'll see what I mean.
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 the metal scene in London, one of the most famous cities in the world.
Formed in 2006, Mutant has been performing their take on classic thrash metal, which they refer to as speed death, for five years now. They have been able to build up an ever growing fan base in that time, leading to shows with such other acts as Municipal Waste and performing at the Bloodstock, Damnation and Hammerfest festivals amongst others. Early this year they proved to the whole country why they’re one of the best bands going in the British underground, when they were voted the Best Unsigned Band of 2010 by readers of Terrorizer magazine.
Mutant - "The Rauncher"
While Chicago has a reputation as a punk and hip hop town, there's still an active metal scene within the Windy City with some great gems that haven’t gotten nearly enough exposure. Even though Chicago may not have the same metal cred that Boston and Seattle have today, there is still a rawness and experimentation to Chicago metal fused into the scene's bloodstream. Less accessible than Gothenburg and nowhere near as technical as Montreal but certainly not lacking in creativity, the Chcago metal scene's mix of grittiness and experimentation has produced everything from Hewhocorrupts to Ministry to Nachtmystium and that same aesthetic is still alive in 2011 in any number of as yet undiscovered bands.
Now, as part of the Unearthing the Metal Underground series, Metal Underground.com presents three underground Chicago bands that deserve way more exposure and attention than they currently receive.
Blood of the Tyrant
Sounding like the bastard child of Black Sabbath and Mastodon, Blood of the Tyrant is an excellent example of progressive doom metal. While still only having one release to its name, released in 2008, Blood of the Tyrant is still one of Chicago's best unsigned bands, known for epic song lengths, impressive guitar solos and surprisingly energetic take on doom metal.
Located out in the Caribbean between Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic has long been an island nation melting pot for a variety of cultures and styles brought over by the millions of tourists and influences that converge upon it. Dominicans are known in America for the crop of professional baseball players they produce and in our large Hispanic community for the stream of bachata/merengue music along with the superstar reggaeton production duo Luny Tunes.
The times are changing though, and the rich history that the Dominicans have had with folkloric rock music has gradually come to include all genres of popular rock/metal throughout the last couple of decades. Bands such as Toque Profundo and M-16 have opened up the floodgates to more extreme categories of rock music, producing the likes of Ad Bestia's hardcore, Santuario's punk rock, the thrash of Necro, good traditional thrash from Overhated and the power metal of Altus Mortem. For a comprehensive look into the Dominican Republic's rich rock history, check out the two-part video Dominican Rock Pt 1 and 2 to gain a greater insight into the scene.
Nowadays, with home studio computer equipment and social networking, hundreds of young bands are cropping up all over the Dominican landscape. In fact, a few homegrown independent labels now showcase the talents of the more extreme Caribbean bands - Dark Canvas and Goecia records. Today we will take a look at three of the most deserving and hard working bands paying their dues in the trenches of Santo Domingo.
Conceived in 1994, Archaios are the premier melodic techno-thrash band from Santo Domingo. Fusing intricate leads with an abundance of bridges and time changes, this is one band that deserve a further listen. Their new one, "The Distant," drops in November and is an exponentially good progression from their debut, 2006's "Out of the Shadows." You can check out their songs in full at their Myspace page and listen to the promotional sampler clip below, plus a few other tracks from their debut. Also, you can read a full interview with the band here.
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’ll be taking a second look at three bands from the West Country (the South West of England.)
One of the biggest, and quite possibly best, bands from the West Country's metal scene comes in the guise of Seregon, who formed in 2005. The band take influence from such thrash metal heroes as Testament and Sepultura (the latter of which they have shared the stage with on numerous occassions) and add a healthy dose of death metal into the fray, to create a savage sound not quite like any other. While still very much rooted in the underground, Seregon have found themselves performing outside of the United Kingdom, taking to the stage in such countries as Germany, Portugal and Romania amongst others. They are currently working on their new EP, which is expected to be released next year.
Seregon - "The Removal Of The Spine"
Every week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we reveal three bands that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. After taking a look at experimental metal groups and instrumental bands with plenty of progressive elements, this week we’re heading straight into underground prog metal acts.
Throwing in jazzy interludes, unexpected changes in tempo and style, and usually a heaping dose of 70’s rock influence, prog has helped to keep the metal scene from stagnating and provides plenty of heaviness without always relying on outright brutality. There may be an odd contradiction of an entire genre called “progressive metal,” since the whole idea is that progressive music can’t be lumped into a single category and doesn’t follow the rules or format of a specific sub-genre. That whole sticky issue aside, these three bands explode with non-traditional song structures and a huge range of influences that make them well worth hearing for any fan of the more well known progressive metal acts, from Opeth to Dream Theater and beyond.
New Jersey’s Suspyre is the cream of the crop in the underground prog metal world, with production values and song writing chops on par with any huge name act. The band creates massive Opeth-length tracks, but still maintain consistent quality and amazing transitions across ten minute epics. Suspyre’s soaring power metal influence vocal work is especially worth hearing, and the band does even throw in a few growls here and there for a heavier edge.
The group’s last release was the 2008 “When Time Fades” album (reviewed here), but Suspyre is now working on a fourth album. To check out the act’s take on melodic prog metal, head over to the Suspyre Facebook profile or listen to the songs “The Light of the Fire” and “Siren” in the clips below.
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we look at underground bands that embody the metal genre and this week is no exception as we focus on Ogden, Utah. The metal that comes from this area and nearby is astounding, they are metal bands that fly under the mainstream radar but have metal music seared into their souls.
Better known as O-Town to locals, Ogden has an impressive emerging underground music scene. However, the metal reverberating out of this area is distinguishable for the simple fact that they bring it hard, with every show, every song and with every note. Three bands stand out from the pack for a variety of reasons, one being they scorch your souls with their intensity and two… because they are metal to the core.
"The Dead Gates- the entrance to eternal suffering where the hounds of hell feast upon the damned," an apt description for a band as hardcore as these boys. Hailing from Ogden, Utah, these metalheads have taken the Wasatch Front by storm, not only banging heads with O-Town fans but creating a solid fan base throughout Utah. By combining searing guitar riffs, irresistibly heavy bass lines and drum beats of ferocious proportions they create a melodic yet forceful tone that cascades over you. Add that to the vehement growls and intense vocals and you get an effectual sound that is as savage as it is addicting. Deadgates is: Sam E. (vocals), Josh W. (guitar), Mat L. (guitar), Kirk T. (bass), and Matt H. (drums). Check them out on their Facebook on Myspace and on Youtube.
Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground, we shine the spotlight onto three bands that may not have had a chance to hit your musical radar yet. This week we’re taking another look into a unique blend of styles that show how not every metal band has to scream about Satan or politics or personal struggles.
After previously looking at underground folk metal in general last year and then folk metal specifically from the Andes, we’re now delving into three bands that all share a love of Celtic and pagan themes, as well as a desire to mix traditional instruments with abrasive black metal or melodic power metal.
Whether you are looking for a night of fun drinking in a folk atmosphere, an in-your-face dose of extreme metal that draws from other influences, or even a more melodic and calm experience, these three bands show what Canada, Arizona, and the U.K. have to offer in the world of folk metal.
For our first trek into folk-laced metal we’ll take a look at Canadian act Trollband, which recently released the debut album “In The Shadow of a Mountain” (reviewed here). The band has now made the album available as a completely free download to get the music out to a wider audience.
In conjunction with the album’s review, Metalunderground.com conducted an interview with Trollband to discuss the band’s decision to give away the release and other topics, such as the many guest musicians appearing on “In the Shadow of a Mountain.” The interview is available for viewing here.
Splitting the difference between a harsher act like Finntroll and a more melodic band like Equilibrium, Trollband has plenty of symphonic black metal mayhem to keep the heads banging, even while a host of folksy sounds keep the music grounded in a more traditional style. To hear more of Trollband you can check out the band’s MySpace page, or listen to the songs “Heathen Blood” or “Nidhoggr” in the clips below.
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 am checking out Perth’s thrash and thrash-influenced metal scene.
Perched on the arse end of a continent-spanning desert, Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, and not surprisingly this has led to a very active local metal scene. The bands highlighted today have in common some kind of thrash influence – although how heavily that influence manifests itself in the music varies from band to band.
Enforce has been around in one form or another for over 10 years, releasing in that time three full length albums including the latest, “Biblakil,” in the first half of 2011. But the live show is where this band is at its best, whether supporting an international act (Enforce has opened shows for Behemoth, Obituary and Kreator, to name a few), touring Australia, or playing local gigs.
Although a lot of death metal flavors their sound, Enforce has an undeniably strong thrash influence – just look at frontman Guy Bell’s patch jacket!
Enforce - "As Death Sets In" (Live)
Mexico is an enormous country just like our own, composed of 31 states and the Federal District. And like us, their music scene is exploding with bands and talent. Besides some of the bigger acts that have made a name for themselves over the years like Shub Niggurath, Cenotaph and Transmetal (a band once produced by Eric Greif) - not enough is heard with the requisite frequency about this active scene in Mexico. There are dozens of metropolitan areas all throughout this country that have metal bands, and there are several record labels that have been spawned to release this vast amount of groups. The interest in Mexican metal was no doubt piqued in American listeners years ago when such acts as LA's Brujeria showed what a winning combo death metal in Spanish could be. In focusing on one scene from our neighbors in Mexico, we will look at some of the interesting bands that have been coming out of the northern metropolis of Monterrey.
Living in the desert southwest where all of my Mexican neighbors come from Michoaca, Tamaulipas or Guanajuato, it is only natural I have wanted to discover more about this country and it's music. While I've travelled to my share of border towns, which have their own energy and club scene and bars that have pools where you can play volleyball, the only way to truly experience this country is to go deeper south and start seeing all the pueblos and cities that start to have a purer Mexican identity amidst the colorful landscape. I've been to Tijuana, Nogales and Mexicali countless times, been hustled off the street by guys paid to get you into their bar, and enjoyed plenty of drinks while listening to loud thrash metal. But in order to get a truer picture of what the country has to offer, it is vital to go further in and start seeing the true essence of it all. You pass through countless towns as you go deeper into Mexico - almost all having a cathedral, soccer field and a bar within the same block while the locals are listening to their ranchera music. But you know somewhere down the street are a bunch of guys with metal t-shirts on rocking out to heavy tunes on their home stereo. Metal is big down there.
A couple hours southwest of McAllen, Texas is the picturesque city of Monterrey. It is hard to believe that Mexico's third largest metropolitan area (ninth largest city) is this close to the U.S. Driving the desolate chaparral outback to get there is half the fun. Mexico has a system of free roads and toll roads - "carreteras de cuota" - throughout most of this northern area. If you can pay the toll you get to drive on the 4-lane highway. If not, you drive on the free road alongside a produce truck that's falling apart and emitting black smoke. As I watched a man trying to sell his hand tools so he could pay the toll, I couldn't help but be reminded of that song "Caseta de Cobro" by El Tri (about a toll booth operator who steals half the money he collects, buying pot and taking vacations.) I've been stopped by cops on roads like this, and a ten dollar bill usually gets me out of a ticket. Too bad it's not like this in the U.S. In Mexico, the laws of the frontier still prevail, which is sometimes a pleasant departure from regimentation and bureaucracy. You've got to love the rugged outback and a sense of adventure, and that's one of the reasons to head down to cities like Monterrey.
Digression aside, Monterrey is far enough inland to be uniquely Mexican but close enough to the U.S. to hear faded radio station signals. What strikes you about it is how incredibly big it is. As it's located in the border state of Nuevo Leon, this city of 4.5 million people often gets overlooked as being "too gringo" and not having enough true Mexican culture. It has twice the per capita income as other cities in Mexico, an educated workforce - but a lot of strife like many of the northern areas due to the Gulf and Zeta cartels fighting for control despite President Felipe Calderon's drug war. Politics aside, the people of Monterrey pass their day by listening to either tejano/nortena music or different forms of rock and roll - but usually not both. The city has, to me, a rugged beauty in that high desert plains way with it's statuesque palm trees and the jutting outcropping known as the Cerro de la Silla mountain. It's a large commercial and industrial hub with plenty of businesses that export a variety of products (several multinational companies have headquarters down there, such as Nokia, GE and Toyota among the many) and contains several colleges like La Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon within it's permiter. Universities mean youth, ideology and music - hence helping create the musical renaissance over a decade ago. Metal bands have been thrashing here since the 80's, mind you, but in the past ten years the scene has really taken on a whole new life of it's own. 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. For this article I’m going to be looking at three very distinct styles, but all are committed to their style and fan base.
The Maritimes, with its small population and many rural areas, might not be considered the hotbed of metal, but when you look into the underground you see a very different story. With all styles of metal being accepted and embraced, the underground is growing each and every late night. In the name of the Maritimes, sit back with an Alexander Keith’s and enjoy this ride through our underground.
Bass + Guitar + Drums = A Band. Bass + Guitar + Drums + Deep Growls + High Shrieks = A Metal Band. Bass + Guitar + Drums + Deep Growls + High Shrieks + African Djembe = CICADA. Cicada consists of Chester Long (bass/vocals), Anson May (guitar/vocals), Joe Pottie (drums), and Nathan Collupy (Djembe). The obvious white elephant in the room is the Djembe. The Djembe creates an instant groove to their whole performance. The groove sound it creates is something that all bands work hard at achieving with some very complicated bass work, but with Cicada the Djembe frees up Chester to work in tandem with the drums and create a very heavy rhythm that Anson can play in an out of.
It’s not very often that you hear something and think (a) “that’s different” and (b) “that’s really good,” but that’s the simplest expression I can use when describing a band of great guys that has created something really good and really different. You can hear this amazing sound at their ReverbNation page.
How far down have you dug into the Nashville metal scene? NOT FAR ENOUGH. They don’t call Nashville “Music City” for nothing, after all. For this week’s Unearthing the Metal Underground, we dig a little deeper than Part 1 and Part 2 to really get into the muddy fun area of cover bands.
Five-time chart-topping Country singer Rodney Atkins has a guitarist in his crew named Phil Shouse who, alongside being a monstrous guitar player, moonlights as Shredward Dan Halen in "The Mighty Dan Halen." Shouse, alongside Taylor Swift’s bassist, Kelly Clarkson’s drummer, and a guitarist formerly with Shooter Jennings all gave a stellar performance covering Metallica and Megadeth at the first of a series of explosive Nashville cover band shows known as, “Metal At The Mercy”. The drummer for The Reverend Horton Heat also played in other acts on the bill. These people could have (and actually have) all played on the legendary stage of the Grand Ole Opry the very night before donning metal gear and melting faces at a metal cover show.
What do you do with your down time if you’re a Nashville big shot? Play metal, apparently. This week, we take a look at one Nashville cover band and one Nashville festival of sorts for metal cover bands. More...
For this week’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground we’ll take a look at a style that is generally less heavy than our normal offerings, but still of interest to the average metal fan.
Satanic or occult rock bands such as Ghost and Blood Ceremony have been landing recording deals and making it toward the forefront of the metal scene lately, even though their music falls less on the extreme side of the spectrum. Something about the themes and the arrangement of the music calls out to metal lovers though, whether it’s the invocations to Satan to bring about the end or just simply the catchy tunes.
This week we’ll be unearthing three bands who may go about it in slightly different ways, but all of these groups evoke the mood and tone of a different time, not to mention of something supernatural and slightly sinister.
The Devil’s Blood
Dutch female-fronted act The Devil’s Blood has been gaining momentum over the last year since the release of the full-length album “The Time of No Time Evermore” (reviewed here). Clearly drawing on the pioneers and rock acts from the ‘60s and ‘70s, The Devil’s Blood infuses its sound with more of a modern aesthetic and clearer production, which can be heard on the band’s MySpace page.
You can also check out an interview Metalunderground.com conducted with the Devil’s Blood here, or listen to several songs in the players below.
“Christ or Cocaine”
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 am delving into the ferocious metal offered up to the music gods via the Salt Lake City underground metal scene.
In the past, Utah has been known for many things, such as the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Mormon (LDS) culture (really Utahn’s don’t have horns) and of course… polygamy (which 99% of our population does not practice, even if many them would like to). But unbeknownst to the world, it also contains an amazing array of music. From rock, to alternative, to death metal, local bands are showing the world that Utah/Salt Lake City has far more to offer to the Gods of Metal than terrain, religion or quirky lifestyles.
A Balance of Power
A Balance Of Power is one of the first metal bands I came across upon delving into the local scene. They have a very distinct sound combined of progressive and thrash, whcih culminates into pure metal mayhem. Their sound has take them to great heights in Utah and beyond as well as procuring them the honor of being Utah’s first offical Jagermiester sponsored band. From small intimate stages in clubs to opening Rockstar Mayhem festival in Idaho, A Balance Of Power bring out the metal fans in hordes.
Their music is charged with an intense energy that is catapulted to amazing heights at live shows. They recently released their newest CD in April of 2011, "Pride Preceded the Fall." With fierce vocals, guitar and bass riffs that burn into your soul and powerful drum beats, A Balance Of Power is a band to gratify your metal loving soul. A Balance Of Power is Chuck Stone (vocals), Chris Margetts (guitar), Shane Garner (guitar), Adam Fowler (bass), Marvin Dixon (drums). Check them out at ReverbNation.
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 am exploring the Michigan metal scene. With this column, I am not only discussing a brief history of each band and the sounds they create, I will also show links between the three bands. Just like the death metal that emerged from Stockholm, Sweden, the thrash from California’s northern bay area and the hardcore from New York City, Michigan’s death and black metal scene is one of interchangeable members.
On an international level, Michigan’s largest city has a reputation as “Detroit Rock City” or “Motown.” The city has produced a large number of Rock And Rock Hall of Fame members. In reference to the more extreme rock styles of black and death metal, though, the mid-southern region near the capital of Lansing has better soil for producing the Devil’s music.
Lansing’s Summon is one of the earliest black metal bands in the U.S. Although the group formed in 1991, it didn’t take off until 1995. From 1992-1994 former Lucifer’s Hammer guitarist Sean “Xaphan” Peters (guitar, vocals) joined with Chas “Necromodeus” Schoals (bass, vocals), Mark Hague (drummer) and Jeff “Tchort” Elrod (R.I.P.) in the black-doom band Masochist (another important underground USBM act). In ’95, Peters, Schoals and Hague left Masochist for Summon, while Elrod formed another black metal group, Wind of the Black Mountains.
Summon made its first recording, “Fire Turns Everything…Black” demo, as the three piece. This demo served as a blue print for the next couple of recordings. Released originally as a cassette tape, the group re-released it in CD format. Later Summon recordings featured revisions of tracks featured on the demo. The hellish screaming chorus of Schoals and Peters, catchy tremolo picking, chugging thrash breaks and whammy bar solos make hitting the stop button difficult on this recording. 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 am exploring various talented bands in the New York scene.
First up is Staten Island thrash metal band Sanitarius. At first listen it may sound like a some Metallica/Testament clone, but Sanitarius takes influences from melodic death metal and progressive metal, this band surely isn’t a run of the mill band. The singer Robb Quartararo’s rasp is very similar to that of James Hetfield, but he’ll add in screams ala Slayer. Musically they explore more progressive arrangements and the drummer Dave Cordero adds in interesting fills. Both guitarists are extremely talented and are very tasteful. Check out their songs on MySpace and Reverb Nation pages.
“Slaves of Liberty” Live @ The Delancey, New York City, NY on March 23rd, 2011:
In this week’s edition of the Unearthing the Metal Underground column we’ll take a look at three bands that all defy one of the most basic and recognizable traits of extreme metal – a strong vocal presence. These bands feature musicians who have ditched the front man to let their instruments do all the screaming, crooning, whispering, chanting, and shouting.
Whether as a conscious decision, or simply due to the lack of a talented vocalist who can match the music, these three lesser known bands all show that metal doesn’t need grunts or shrieks to tear off faces and shatter ear drums. Without a vocal element, the musicians have the opportunity to bring many different sounds to the forefront that are easily lost by other bands, creating a completely different experience than the standard thrash or death metal track.
Spokane based three piece Odyssey is an instrumental act by choice, having no use for vocals getting in the way of the instrumentation. Don’t let that fact make you think the music doesn’t sing, however, as the long tracks are filled to the brim with technical showcases and progressive transitions that paint a picture in the head just as well as a vocalist could conjure with either clean singing or growling.
Odyssey has very clear influences from the technical metal giants, as well as some of the more well known progressive acts, but the music is more about the journey than the label found at the destination. Any given song can have any number of stylistic shifts, and even throws in a sound reminiscent of metalcore or deathcore from time to time, while keeping everything together into a unified whole.
To hear what Odyssey has to offer, you can check out the entire “Schematics” EP (reviewed here), which is available for streaming through the group’s Bandcamp page, or read our interview with the trio at this location. The songs “Iconoclast” and “Ascendance,” from the debut “Objects in Space” album, can also be heard in the clips below.