Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground columns
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.
What more defines a culture than its customs and the influences of the indigenous people that combine to form a sense of nationality? That's the majestic quality of pagan folk metal, that it brings out those qualities of a nation and heritage steeped in tradition. The countries of South America are rich in overtones from the pre-colombian civilizations that existed up until the 16th century. Largely vanquished by Pizarro, other tribes and pandemics such as small pox, the descendents of these native empires remain to this day - continuing their traditions. Pre-hispanic folk metal permeates nearly every country from Mexico to Chile, especially gaining momentum in the upper Andes region nowadays.
Half of the 13 countries in South America are straddled by the immense cordillera of the Andes mountains, an imposing natural fortification that thwarted the Spaniards looking to pillage. While eventually nine countries were colonized by Spain and adopted Spanish as the official language and culture, the ancient ways remained firmly entrenched. South America's burgeoning pre-hispanic folk metal scene can be attributed to a people yearning for self-discovery of their origins and also as a means of superceding the oppression. Rock/metal has always been a viaduct of freedom of expression, something not always possible in that part of the world. Take Peru, for example. Their country was very permissive of cultural and musical liberties in the sixties. Rock bands and surf music were all the rage. Then the coup'd'etat of 1968 ended all that for the better part of two decades. Their neighbors Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia got just as raw of a deal in the political realm. Rock had been viewed as an alienating factor by various governments and it has taken a while for the memories of the supression by right-wing dictatorships and left-wing juntas to subside in the psyche of the masses.
Building back up since the nineties, the scene has been truly vibrant in many of these South American nations. The lands are awash with dozens of thrash, progressive, death and other variations of metal bands - and many rival some of the best American and European bands in terms of sound and originality. Latinos are quite spirited and put a lot of heart into what they do. They don't take things for granted like some of the more jaded listeners of larger nations. Recently in Paraguay, thousands of people protested and picketed on the streets to get Iron Maiden to add a tour date in Asuncion. Would we do that here? No, because we don't have to fight to have a scene.
South American bands have been fine-tuning themselves for years to intricate and professional stylings of the sub-genres. With that, it should come as no surprise that the pagan metal scene has been thriving in the Andean countries. Dubbed "Ancestral Metal," the traditional folkloric take of black (and other) metal is infused with richly synchronized instrumentation from the Incan and other pre-colombian cultures. There are many bands delving into this style, and you can check out a good cross-section of them in these two nice anthologies Metal Nativo Americano Pts. 1-2. Bands take various different approaches to this infusion of native influences with metal. Some are doom, like Kranium of Peru, or progressive symphonic metal like their countrymen Yawarhiem, while others take a folk-rock approach that has metamorphosized during the years like Ecuador's legendary Aztra or an industrial sound like Bolivia's Alcoholika Lo Christo.
What unifies most of these bands is using themes that date back to cultures that have their inceptions over 10,000 (according to many anthropologists) years ago. They integrate the sounds of instruments from their ancestors, such as the traditional "quena" flute, the "zampoña" - a flute with five or six pan-pipe sound holes, or the "charango" - a guitar made either from wood or the back of an armadillo. Even the "quejada" is utilized, which is a percussion instrument made from the jawbone of a horse or donkey. Combine these pre-hispanic notes of the Andes with traditional or death metal, and a sound is derived that is quintessential South American folkloric metal. The native appeal interwoven with metal creates a sound that is as stark and lush as the majestic mountains and rugged valleys that form the backdrop of the countries. The best known song based upon Incan music will probably always be "El Condor Pasa" by the Peruvian Daniel Alomia Robles (covered by Simon and Garfunkel), but now metal bands are doing their own adaptations. Today we will transpose you into that setting by looking at a few bands from the South American highlands and their outlying regions. More...
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we take a look at three quality underground artists that haven’t gotten the exposure they deserve. This week I am exploring the shred scene in the tri-state area.
Now I wouldn't exactly call it much of a scene here, but there are quite a few talented guitarists in New Jersey and New York. From people posting their own solos/songs on youtube out of a bedroom studio to veteran musicians who book at high class studios to record their album. Today I'll be discussing three acts from across the spectrum. More...
Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at three bands that haven’t had a chance to make as big an impact in the music scene as they should. Whether due to lack of label support, remote location, or just simple obscurity, there are many bands in the underground well worth the time of any serious metal fan.
Rather than looking at three bands in the same region or connected by a similar style, this week we’re delving into three groups that are all relatively unknown side projects of Norwegian prodigy Ihsahn. Probably best known for his work in black metal legion Emperor (which was covered as part of our “Black Metal History Month” at this location), Ihsahn has since headed out on his own to release three solo albums. But before the stage handle Ihsahn was a name known by itself, Vegard Sverre Tveitan was involved in many different projects ranging from freezing cold black metal to the entirely symphonic and even into more bizarre territory with sounds rarely, if ever, heard elsewhere.
After releasing his first solo album “The Adversary,” Ihsahn took a year off to work with other acts and continue to write new music. As black metal fans took in his new solo direction and decided if it stood up to the Emperor material, the musician looked to an entirely unexpected source for his latest collaboration. Teaming up with Norwegian hardingfiddle player Knut Buen, the Hardingrock project was born.
Heading in a vastly different direction than would be expected, Hardingrock’s only album “Grimen” (reviewed here) mixes fiddle heavy folk music, keyboards courtesy of Ihsahn’s wife, spoken word segments provided solely in the Nynorsk dialect, and yes, even some blistering black metal screams. If you are willing to try something vastly different than the standard fare, head over to the band’s MySpace page or checkout the songs “Fanitullen,” “Faens Marsj,” or “Daudingen” in the clips 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. This week we’ll be looking at three bands from the West Country (the Southwest of England.)
First up on the agenda is From Ruin, a melodic thrash metal band from the small town Warminster, which is close to Stonehenge. Having only formed in 2009, the band can be seen as newcomers to the scene but have been rapidly increasing their fan base in their two years they’ve been around. Acclaim has already been flooding in for the band for their blend of soulful vocals with pounding instruments.
From Ruin - "Crimson Tears"
From Ruin - "Fear To Tread"
Many years ago, I grew up and graduated from High School in this small Central American country. Nestled between the political hotbeds of Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has maintained it's status as a democratic bastion while it's neighbors are plagued by coup'd'etats and upheaval. Only a couple hours either way from the capital city of San Jose to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica has the ideal party atmosphere. The breathtaking beauty of the country coupled with the cultural tolerance they exhibit has awakened a phenomena in the metal scene.
Back in the old times, Costa Ricans ("Ticos" - as they are referred as) would clamor to several AOR stations to listen to Budgie or Judas Priest, or be found in a downtown bar shooting darts to Saxon. Yes, the Ticos love their metal every bit as much as any salsa or folklorico music. Nowadays they have definitely evolved with the times and share plenty of love for foreign metal and all things imported. Restrictions are not so hard on entrance visas to foreign musicians hereby opening the floodgates to plenty of stellar international talent. Big name acts are a monthly thing now, especially since Costa Ricans have a good standard of living and can afford to buy tickets and fill the clubs. Bookings into such venues as Pepper's Disco Club and a whole host of local bars is routine.
Back in the 80's, I had only seen Santana and Sting ever come down and perform. Since Iron Maiden played in 2008, visits from such luminaries as Anthrax, Moonspell, Therion and countless others ( Slayer this June) are now the norm. In fact, Marduk raised the hairs on the Catholic Church's neck with their visit last July. But even the priests are of a gentle nature in Costa Rica. "Don't use religious artifacts in an obscene manner on stage," implored a local monsignor.
Perhaps the godfathers of the local scene, a lot of credit must be given to Mantra. Formed nearly twenty years ago, these guys made so much possible for the younger crop of Tico musicians. Their 2003 release "Creature" marked the zenith of their creative career, spawning a couple of classic local death thrash songs. Unlike their younger counterparts, Mantra preferred to sing in Spanish and continue to do so. Nowadays, as with many bands that have been around for a long time, they have changed members and their style of metal a bit frequently. To listen to the classic track "El Ojo de Dios" from Mantra, click here.
Similar respect must be given to Sight of Emptiness who brought Costa Rican metal to the forefront with their win at the UK Open Air Bloodstock festival in 2007. They are usually the opener for most of the international acts that come, and we have posted plenty of news articles and videos about them in the past five years. If you are not familiar with their melodic techno thrash sound, listen to the video for "Desolation Whispers" here. Last week they were one of 27 bands to inaugurate the new National Soccer Stadium.
In January, the Documentary "Heavy Metal 506" was produced, showcasing the talents of Costa Rica's heavy hitters in the metal scene. (The title, incidentally, gets it's name from Costa Rica's country calling code). You can listen to the trailer right here. Also, the four part compilation "Costa Rican Metal" includes twenty bands from genres ranging from commerical metal, symphonic black metal, demonic thrash, brutal death and atmospheric. The first part has links to the other three parts and can be listened to here. Today we will take a look at a few of the bands that are also stirring up the Costa Rican scene.
Advent of Bedlam
You may have heard of Advent of Bedlam, who hail from the town of Heredia, or as they have called it before, "Hell-redia," by their previous name. Together over a decade, they used to be known as December's Cold Winter. Under that name, they put out some nice symphonic black metal and an album of enjoyable tunes. Deciding to go for a more blackened thrash sound, they changed their name to Advent of Bedlam a couple of years ago and have contined to receive great mentions, attaining an ACAM Award Songwriter of the Year nomination and a win for their "Ablaze all Shrines" LP. Their song "Manipulating Human Emotions" also appeared in Zero Tolerance Magazine's covermount CD. They produced their whole new album themselves, since the average Latino producer possibly wouldn't understand where they were coming from. Check out the new one from their "Behold the Chaos" album below, along with a few others.
Advent of Bedlam - "The Stench of Your Faith"
Advent of Bedlam - "The Darkest Alliance"
December's Cold Winter - "The Alabaster Corpse"
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we give our readers a look at a few underground bands from scenes around the world to help spread the word about them. In March, I had the chance to do a short tour in Japan, and one of the tour stops was the city of Nagoya. While there, I had the opportunity to share the stage with and meet some of the prominent members of the Nagoya scene.
The members of Deaflock, formed in 2000, spend their days breaking their backs and risking their digits in the factories of Nagoya's industrial wasteland outskirts, and their nights breaking their necks in the city's downtown metal clubs with their own brand of Bay Area thrash. Bringing to mind acts such as Exodus, Heathen, Vio-lence, and Forbidden, Deaflock has an impressive knack for drawing out the rumbling hook and face stomping rhythms, with hints of melody and progressive elements as well. Signed to Arctic Music Group in the U.S. and Alkemist Fanatix in Europe for the re-release of its debut full length album, “Reality of False Pasts,” which first saw the light of day in April of 2008, Deaflock is now looking to break out in a big way, with plans for the next installment of their catalog to be released sometime next year. The band has also appeared on locally released compilation albums put out by various underground labels in Japan. More...
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at unsigned bands gracing a given locale. This week we will glance at the scene from Connecticut. Often viewed as the vast wasteland between New York and Boston, Connecticut often gets overlooked in terms of it's metal scene. Particularly distressing, considering many acts such as Fates Warning, Nasty Disaster, The Breathing Process and Liege Lord have heralded from there. Currently there are well over a couple dozen unsigned indie metal acts actively blazing the scene, but today we will take a look at three of the best.
Curse the Son
Coming at you from Hamden is stoner doom metal monster Curse the Son. Fronted by scene veteran and NWOBHM aficionado Ron Vanacore on vocals and guitar and completed by Cheech and Rich Lemley respectively, they describe their music as "the sound of dinosaurs walking the earth." Laying down slabs of riffs and mind-warping song lyrics, they purport to be influenced by valium, MJ and zoloft. Their music will take your higher conscious into one trippy journey. They released a full-length, "Klonopain," on their own last year. To listen to Curse the Son's music, check out the band's My Space Page.
Curse the Son - "Pulsotar Bringer"