Archive: Unearthing the Metal Underground columns
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to expose them to the world outside their respective scenes. Although the Los Angeles scene is anything but unified, this apocalyptic city has produced more than a handful of quality bands. This week I’ll be exploring the Los Angeles old school death metal scene.
The L.A. scene is hardly known for authenticity in its death metal, mainly because the current scene is dominated by fad-jumping metalcore and glam throwback acts, but there are other more subtle reasons for its staying underground. For example, there is the fact that while bands in the Florida and New York death metal scenes, for example, were releasing genre-defining full-length albums, LA bands such as the ones below had to make do with short format releases, such as demos and EP’s. Compare Morbid Angel, who, by 1993, had released four full-length albums, to Sadistic Intent, who have yet to release one. Nevertheless, a limited output doesn’t necessarily equate a lack of talent, and so without further ado, here are three of the most talented bands to have graced the LA scene past and present.
Without doubt L.A.’s best underground band, and quite possibly one of the world’s most underrated metal acts of all time, Sadistic Intent plays fierce death metal that borrows from various traditions in the vast heritage of heavy metal. One can discern a range of influences, from Dark Angel and Slayer to Possessed and Morbid Angel, tucked within the unique tapestry that forms the band’s sound. They write long, involved, and esoteric death metal songs with occult lyrics and a truly sinister atmosphere, making them absolutely essential for lovers of morbid, underground metal. Try their EP’s "Resurrection" and "Impending Doom" for obscure and esoteric death metal, or go for "Ancient Black Earth" if fast and blasting percussive madness is more along the lines of what you crave.
If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, seeing Sadistic Intent live is a must, and lucky for you they play at least several shows a year. (Also note that the band members, along with vocalist Jeff Becerra, fill out the current lineup of Possessed.) In a live setting, the band is truly professional, and always live up to their moniker (and then some). Check out the video below to see what you’re getting yourself into.
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 we’re going to be taking a look at the young, yet thriving, metal scene in the United Arab Emirates which is probably more commonly known for its immense wealth from oil drilling, and its Islamic culture. While the UAE is made up of seven Emirates, which are basically like states, Dubai is probably the most well known out of all the seven because it hosts the largest building in the World and is thought to be a great holiday destination. Hopefully after you’ve checked out these three bands, you will be putting it at the top of your holiday destinations as well.
Starting with oldest band first, Perversion has been around in the Dubai scene since 2006; playing a very straight up style of perverted death metal in the vein of bands like Dying Fetus and Aborted. Friends and band mates, Mahmud Gecekusu (bass/vocals) and Rhama Al Rhama (guitars) have been the driving force behind the band from the word go. While they were once a four piece, with Mahumd’s younger brother covering lead guitar duties, they were forced to become the only three piece death metal act in the UAE when Ahmet Gecekusu left Dubai for higher education.
Sticking to their guns, Perversion started to accumulate fans, or as they like to call them “perverts,” by playing local gigs, and with the release of their EP “The Origins of Horror” in 2008 people were able to enjoy such deities as “Venomous Semen” and “Dementia of Devourment” in the privacy of their own homes. They are currently working on their debut album “Pillars of the Enlightened”. You can check out songs on their Youtube channel as well as on their MySpace. Here's a video of the band playing "Pillars of the Enlightened":
Do a little digging and you’ll find a metal scene in just about every country around the developed world. So it should come as no surprise that there is, in fact, a thriving underground swell of support for the dark arts known broadly as metal in South Korea. From the southern port city of Busan to the sprawling capital of Seoul, metal lives in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula. Here’s a look at three of the bands keeping the scene alive and growing in Seoul.
Melodic black metal band Oathean is one of, if not the longest running metal act in South Korea. Oathean was founded in 1993 as a death metal band, then known as Odin, and didn’t adopt its current sound until 1997. A year later the band released its first album under the Oathean moniker, “The Eyes of Tremendous Sorrow.” Since then, Oathean has released four more full-length albums, the latest a self-titled effort that came out this past summer. Oathean enjoyed a brief glimpse of broad exposure in 2005 when their album, “Falling Away into the Grave of Nothingness,” was released in North America via The End records. All other Oathean records bar their debut have been released on band founder, vocalist, and guitarist Do So Kim’s own label, Jusin Productions, marketed as the first extreme metal label in South Korea.
Kim is also the man who brings many of the major touring metal bands to Seoul, as well as being the driving force behind the Asia Metal Festival ongoing series of concerts featuring bands from around Asia and further abroad. What’s more, he is the owner of a rock and metal bar in the trendy Hongdae district of the city, Sapiens 7, and he also owns a large concert hall located in the Sangsangmadang building in the same area, making him an all but indispensable part of the local metal scene as both a promoter and performer.
Oathean’s sound incorporates traditional Korean instruments and, at times, haunting operatic backing vocals into lengthy compositions inspired by the likes of Dissection and Emperor to create a truly compelling mix of Scandinavian and Korean soundscapes. The band has toured to Taiwan and Japan several times, and shared the stage with the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Kreator, and Graveworm. Oathean currently has a lengthy European tour in support of their latest release in the planning stages, their first sojourn to the continent in the band’s history.
Here we go again! Another installment of Unearthing the Metal Underground in the Crescent City a.k.a. The Big Easy a.k.a. N'awlins. Whichever you prefer. With Steven Seagal keeping the streets safe, the metal bands can safely play, and they have been doing quite a bit of that lately. I've got three more amazing bands to tell you about; all playing at least once a month. Please enjoy the reviews and footage. Mabye it will entice you to take a trip down here to check them out. Don't worry; the seafood is safe.
Machine Made Slave
Machine Made Slave plays frequently around New Orleans. If you’ve read my show reports, you’re sure to remember the name. Soon they’ll be opening for Watain and Goatwhore to complete the black metal showcase. Through the many lineup changes, founding members and brothers Jason and Trevor Milbourne (on vocals and bass, respectively) have remained and transformed the band into something truly evil. The talented guitarists Rene and Kevin Roche, who are also brothers, combine a classic metal rawness with black metal melodies and even some South American tunes into their playing. And although Ryan Willis does not have a brother in the band, he still does a fine job of pounding the skins. Jason claims that Machine Made Slave will be recording a full-length album soon when they find a proper studio. He claims that they are taking their time with every aspect of the album so that it’s perfect; “So that it doesn’t sound like a demo.” You can watch a clip of one of their shows with the inclusion of female singer Amy Vial below. We wish you luck in the recording process! Visit their Myspace to see their progress.
I’m going to let you all in on my dirty little metal secret: I don’t dig thrash. At all. Yeah, I know, how can it happen, right? Megadeth, Metallica, Testament, Anthrax, these are the bands that made metal in the ‘80s and ‘90s and brought an otherwise niche genre into the mainstream spot light. Despite their name recognition and commercial success, I just find I can’t sit through a whole thrash album without wishing something different was playing.
In this week’s edition of “Unearthing the Underground,” I’ll be going over bands that start with a base of thrash metal, or have a big thrash metal influence, but add in a variety of different styles. The thrash influenced bands this time around all either have big name members or have released several albums, but haven’t received a big following outside the underground yet.
First off is Germany’s Duskmachine, which is essentially a thrash metal band, but also incorporates power metal, progressive metal, and some groove metal elements. Some of the band’s influences are undoubtedly brought in by members Russell Bergquist (ex-Annihilator) and Randy Black (Primal Fear, ex-Annihilator). Duskmachine last released an album in 2005, and split with former vocalist Mirko Prietzsch back in July. The band has yet to formally announce a replacement, and the last update from the group stated a new album would be mixed this coming October.
Freedom of expression is likely not the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions the People’s Republic of China. It’s a place where the mere mention of anything that might be construed as being the least bit anti-authoritarian by the powers that be can land a person in jail, and dissidents are regularly executed by the state or simply disappeared without even the pretense of due process. But luckily for the metal heads residing in the world’s most populous nation, the government censors have bigger fish to fry than metal bands, and so China’s budding metal community, which features its own independent labels dedicated solely to various facets of the broad genre, and even a nationally published print magazine focusing on all sounds hard and heavy, has been allowed to develop as the country has opened itself up to outside influences in the past couple of decades. Here’s a look at three bands waving the metal flag in the pseudo-communist house that Mao built.
Imitation is often considered the sincerest form of flattery, and if that is indeed the case, then by all means keep Chaotic Aeon’s music away from John McEntee, Ross Dolan, and Gene Palubicki, lest the founders of Incantation, Immolation, and Angelcorpse respectively experience a simultaneous head implosion. If you don’t believe me, try playing any one of the tracks currently streaming on the band’s myspace page, and see if the death metal freak in the room doesn’t confuse Chaotic Aeon with any one of the three. But though the band, hailing from Xi’an, the midwestern Chinese city of Terra Cotta Army fame, may just be aping these American death metal greats, they do a damn good job of capturing their grimy, down tempo brutality that satisfyingly grinds down a mountain of granite like a dirty blackened glacier. The band currently has a six-song EP out on Pest Productions, a Chinese label specializing in black metal. 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 my first article I’m going to be looking at three very distinct styles, but all artists that are on the verge of blowing up.
Nova Scotia, 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.
The Worshyp currently consists of Marz Nova (vocals/guitar), Thor Rune (guitar), Mig Diablo (bass), and KK Devina (drums). It wasn’t always like this though. The heart and soul of the band founder Marz Nova had being playing in cover bands and I’m sure realized that the true rewards are from singing music from your soul, not the Top 40 Rock countdown. Marz being from a small town in Nova Scotia he knew he had to dump the tributes and move to a larger market to make his dreams come true. Hence moving to Toronto.
What it is today is a powerhouse band that blends very classic melodies, with very hard driven guitar riffs. With the new members on board Marz and the boys have almost completed their first full length CD and released their first single “Under Surveillance” to radio stations and ITunes. You can check out “Under Surveillance” and some other great songs on their MySpace page or Reverb Nation. 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. Today I'm taking a look at some bands from my home country whom are centered around the growing doom/sludge/rock/drone scene in New Zealand. (You can check out some other previously unearthed bands from New Zealand here.)
Made In China
Dunedin based band Made In China has been slogging away sincerely in the student ghetto for some time now and is currently in the studio recording for their upcoming album, but until then you can check out their myspace. Made In China combine Alice In Chains style grunge with a heavy groove and a great live show, below is a snippet of their live antics.
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 showcasing Vancouver, Canada’s stellar underground death metal scene, the same city that gave birth to internationally recognized acts such as 3 Inches of Blood, Strapping Young Lad and Bison B.C to name a few. Vancouver though is one city that always has a long list of talented young bands that can easily become metal’s next big discovery.
Death metal and its variances have always been the most dominating metal genre in Vancouver. With quite a few venues catering specifically to the underground metal niche its easy for young bands to flourish. Even with the closure/re-modelling of some of Vancouver’s most iconic metal venues (The Cobalt R.I.P, Pub 340) the underground metal scene refuses to die and becomes bigger each and every year.
First up is Malice Plagued. Quite possibly the most under-rated metal band going in Vancouver today, Malice Plagued is known for their unrelenting dedication to their music and their live performances. With a wide range of influences coming from acts like Rush, Black Sabbath, Testament, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Death, Malice Plagued has crafted a death-thrash hybrid sound unique to themselves, which is what keeps Vancouver crowds coming back for more after every show. Vocalist/guitarist Kyle Pepin knows what it means to be a proper front-man and can command audiences, shred and perform his distinct vocal style with effortless precision. The band is rounded out by drummer Lance Powell and bassist Kyle Smedley. This three piece death-thrash unit is one to keep an eye on and will surely be turning heads in the metal scene for years to come and should be the next Vancouver metal act to be breaking out to an international audience.
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 metal scene in Red Deer, Canada, situated about halfway between Alberta's provincial capital to the north, Edmonton, and the city of Calgary to the south. Surrounded by farming communities and cattle ranches, a small but tight-knit collection of metal bands have been heavying things up in the prairie city of 90,000, setting the stage for Red Deer to finally find it's way onto the metal map. More...
Each week with "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we’ll be spotlighting a few quality lesser known bands in an attempt to spread the word and expose acts that make the underground great. This week we head into a genre that combines two seemingly irreconcilable styles – traditional folk music and heavy metal. Despite what might appear like water and oil, folk music mixes exceedingly well with both traditional metal and extreme styles such as death or black metal. Folk metal is currently dominated by big names like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, and Eluveitie. Anyone who digs a little deeper will find a host of unknowns bands just as capable of making metal heads want to raise a tankard or march off to Mordor.
There’s a joke in the metal world about all bands being inspired by Satan, Lovecraft, or Tolkien. It turns out it’s not just the Europeans who can’t get enough of the epic “The Lord of the Rings” series, though. You can now throw Argentina on that list, with Tengwar drawing their name from the language created by Tolkien.
Tengwar starts with a base of traditional instruments, and then adds the guitars in to augment the music, showing off a huge Celtic influence that is more “folk” than “metal.” The range of instruments found in Tengwar’s music is staggering, covering the gamut of what folk can provide. Galician bagpipes, recorders, flutes, mandolins, tin whistles, and fiddles all make appearances throughout the music.
The clean vocals are done in an epic rock and roll style, keeping up the sweeping and grand ideals of the source material. In some parts the music speeds up and almost approaches a Korpiklaani-esque happy drinking atmosphere. Tengwar is currently working on a full-length album titled “The Halfling’s Rise,” and songs from the “Tengwesta Quendion” EP are available for streaming via the band’s MySpace page.
Footage of the band performing a self-titled track and the song “Bear Skin” (poor sound on this clip) can be seen below.
There are a plethora of high-quality metal bands emerging from the state of Texas, and those who only know the state for Pantera will be shocked to learn about the high number of extreme metal bands who call Texas home. In addition to classic extreme metal bands like Absu, Averse Sefira, Thornspawn, and Imprecation, there are also a number of newer bands who are waving the flag of Texas extreme metal high. Today, we'll take a look at a few newer bands who hail from central Texas (basically, the areas in and around Austin and San Antonio), starting with Hexlust. More...
Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we shine a light on promising bands coming out of the darkness of the underground. Nashville TN is the music business center of the United States, and isn’t without its fair share of shadows where bands outside of the mainstream get their start.
Nashville is home to top-charting hit-makers like Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Ke$ha, and others, but has a dark underside where metal bands thrive. Psychedelic doom metal act Clorange, progressive metal act Invicta, and symphonic black metal band Cernunnos! are the subjects of this Unearthing.
The Nashville scene revolves around several known venues – The End, The Muse, Rocketown, and Exit/In – with nightly local shows. A fair share of bands that have become national touring acts have gotten their start here in Nashville and the surrounding towns of Murfreesboro and Knoxville, such as Whitechapel, Enfold Darkness and Destroy Destroy Destroy. Nashville is also home to the music studio of famed Soilwork guitarist/producer Peter Wichers. With no shortage of studios and talent in this town, bands are able to find each other, play lots of shows, and record very easily, releasing albums just the way they want. 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. The first time I featured cello and violin metal, I put the genre in context with an introduction about Apocalyptica's influence, and featured three fantastic cello and violin metal bands, Judgement Day, Heavin, and Grayceon. Those bands tend to use both violins and cellos, but today I'm going to focus on some more bands that have followed more closely in Apocalyptica's footsteps and are largely classical cello ensembles who cover or play heavy metal.
Primitivity is a cello and percussion ensemble from the Washington, DC area that blends elements of classical and heavy metal music. Cellist Loren Westbrook-Fritts composes the music and provides the leads, while cellists David Teie of the National Symphony, Kristin Ostling of the Baltimore Symphony, and Mauricio Betanzo of the Maryland Symphony all shred out intense riffs and harmonies. Percussionist Robby Burns from the University of Maryland completes the band with rumbling drum hits. Specializing in the music of Megadeth, Apocalyptica, and Metallica, Primitivity has also written some of their own original compositions. The band released "Plays Megadeth For Cello" earlier this year.
Check out one of the band's original compositions, "Convergence" 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. A while back, I wrote about some of the heaviest bands to come out of Taiwan in recent years. This week I am showcasing a few more great bands from the burgeoning Formosa metal scene. 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. I’ve already put the spotlight on some Perth death metal bands - this week I am checking out some Perth bands that don’t quite fit in with any other group. More...
Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we spotlight a few quality unsigned bands in an attempt to spread the word and expose acts that make the underground great. This week we’re returning again to the realm of solo extreme metal to uncover three more one-man bands.
Unlike our last foray into the world of solo musicians, these three groups aren’t restricted entirely to the black metal style. Instead we’ll be covering a wide range of musical projects that showcase how creativity and professional musicianship can flourish in the unlimited freedom of a solo band. 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 the New Jersey extreme metal scene.
The extreme metal scene in New Jersey is hard to find, but it's there. I find that most of them like to hide under the radar and remain underground. the bands I'm featuring here aren't that kind. these are the ones looking to make their foot print in the scene by doing something a little different in their own way. There are too many bands around that do the same song over and over again with different lyrics and in a different key or tempo. 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 offering a brief glimpse of the dynamic Taiwan metal scene.
In the past few years, the metal scene in Taiwan has exploded and now boasts an active roster of more than 50 bands. This is a significant number for the relatively small island nation of 23 million that lies less than 200 kilometers off the east coast of China—with geographical, political, and historical factors playing a key role in Taiwan’s metallic output. The repressive Chinese government currently has well over 1,000 ICBMs aimed at Taiwan, and has maintained that it will use military force if necessary to bring Taiwan back under its control. Taiwan has been governed separately from China since the KMT was defeated by the Communists in 1949 following a four-year civil war, after which the KMT leadership and soldiers fled across the Taiwan Strait. Since then, Taiwan has held de-facto independence that is only officially recognized by an ever dwindling number of African, Central and South American, Caribbean, and South Pacific states. The perpetually tense political standoff with its impossibly imposing neighbor to the west, combined with an ongoing struggle for inclusion in international organizations and increased diplomatic recognition, has made Taiwan the ideal breeding ground for the world’s angriest, loudest, and fastest form of musical expression.
Here are three such examples warranting your attention: More...
Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting the spotlight on a few quality underground bands in an attempt to get the word out. This week we’ll be uncovering three bands that aren’t connected by geographical location, but rather by their decision to go it alone as solo black metal musicians.
By eschewing the benefits and difficulties inherent to a full band, the solo black metal artist is completely unchained by outside influence. A one man black metal group is only constrained by the limitations of his own imagination to create exactly the sound and feel he wants in any release. With how it easy it has become to create a professional sounding release at home it shouldn’t be any surprise that creative minds would want to completely take the reins of their musical direction. More...