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Essential War Metal: Eggs of Gomorrh Interview and Review

     Recently, I got the chance to do something I’d never done in all my time writing about music: interview a band. It’d been something I could have done (in theory) for a fair chunk of time – but there was always some reason I could never bring myself to hit up their PR; usually I was either too busy or too nervous or too both of those things.

     I finally got around to it, and frankly I’m pretty damn glad I did. I got to interview Eggs of Gomorrh, the absolutely savage and ravaging war metal band about everything from the cultural implications of war metal to their latest album (which I included as a sort of double-feature to go alongside the interview). All that being said, let’s get on with the show.

-RD

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Eggs of Gomorrh
Outpregnate
Krucyator Productions
18 March 2019

Genre: Black/Death Metal, War Metal
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
FFO: Archgoat, Sadomator, Blasphemy, Teitanblood, Proclamation, etc.


Bandcamp
https://krucyator.bandcamp.com/album/outpregnate

Shophttps://krucyator.com/collections/frontpage/products/eggs-of-gomorrh-outpregnate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eggsofgomorrh

It’s not easy being a war metal band.

     In addition to all of the regular difficulties that seem to exist for everyone in the world of underground music, playing bestial black metal seems to come with its own additional challenge: how do you make it interesting? Although there are some obvious exceptions to the rule within the genre (Blasphemy, Damaar, Revenge, Conqueror, etc) It seems to me as if bestial black metal is very quick to fall down the rabbit hole of mediocre, “2 br00tal 4 u” music that exists somewhere in the negative zone between amusing self-satire and uninteresting jargon.

     I eventually reached a point when I was so tired of listening to all the Blasphemy wannabes of the world who named their albums shit like “Raping an Angel for his Satanic Majesty” that I became a sort of disgruntled old man (in regards to the genre); curling up into the depressing little metaphorical cave I’d carved myself from those aforementioned bands. Thankfully though, my cynicism about the genre was soon to be melted almost as meltily as that nazi’s face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc.

     I was minding my own business and digging through some charts on RateYourMusic when I came across Eggs of Gomorrh’s prior release, Rot Prophet. Although it had the war metal tag, it was rated highly enough that I decided I may as well give it a spin. And goddamn was I glad that I did. I was instantly blown away by the fact that a modern band could be producing such fresh and genuinely interesting war metal, and I became a pretty devoted follower of their material from that point on.

 

 

     That brings us to the actual topic of this review, the Swiss war metal bands latest EP, Outpregnate. From the top of the very first track, this new EP instantly struck me as being a yet another fresh take on the bestial black metal genre from the band. Although it maintained all the aspects that make some of the best war metal albums ever just so great (rawness, brutality, and a relentlessly pummeling sound) it seemed to also bring in a sound that can only be described as cavernous, and gloomy. In a way, this feels like the war metal equivalent to bands like Incantation.

     Still though, through the thick and gloomy fog that seems to linger around the release, you can still undeniably make out the bands quality that I think endeared them to a lot of us in the first place- their musical attitude of “you know what, fuck this. We can take bestial black metal to a whole new extreme without just playing recycled Blasphemy riffs over and over again.” And frankly, if that attitude were to spread all around the various subgenres of metal, I can’t say that wouldn’t do a hell of a lot of good.

7/10
But wait! There’s more! Keep reading if you’d like to see my Metalstuff.net exclusive interview with the band.

 

Continue reading “Essential War Metal: Eggs of Gomorrh Interview and Review”

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Ricky Danger’s Top 10 Grindcore Albums

danger
Author: Ricky Danger

10: Carcass- Reek of Putrefaction

carcassCountry of Origin: England
Years Active: 1985-1996, 2007-Present
Label: Earache Records
Official Site: https://carcass.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 1988

Let’s kick this list off with the godfathers of goregrind themselves, Carcass. Carcass are, in many ways, one of the most important bands for grindcore, both through their rejection of traditional grindcore politics for a brutal, ravaging, horrific take on the genre as well as their own contribution of normalizing vegan advocacy in the already rebellious, anti-authoritarian, punk rock political ethos of grindcore. The band would go on to change their style numerous times, break up and then get back together, and spark numerous imitators during their long, long career. Still though, this fast, violent, and gut-splattered debut still holds up as their best.

9: Wormrot- Voices

wormrot
Country of Origin: Singapore
Years Active: 2007-Present
Label: Earache Records
Official Site: https://wormrot.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2016

Outside of that one Tom Waits song, the country of Singapore is painfully underrepresented in the world of music. Thankfully, though, we have Wormrot to bring an end to that. The band seem to have just torn through their discography, maintaining the same style of traditionalist grindcore and the same grisly form of aggression throughout, signing to Earache Records after only 9 years and 2 full-length albums. Musically the band aren’t exactly the most innovative by any real means, but that doesn’t make their discography any less energetic, heavy, or well executed.

 

8: Agoraphobic Nosebleed- Altered States of America

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}
Country of Origin: United States
Years Active: 1994-Present
Label: Relapse Records
Official Site: https://agoraphobicnosebleed.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2003

“Altered States,” from my experience, tends to be written off as some kind of novelty record, the full length equivalent of “You Suffer,” due to it’s 99 tracks that take up 21 minutes altogether. In my opinion, though, if you stop looking at it like 99 ridiculously short songs and one, 21-minute composition, the Springfield MA band’s cybergrind masterpiece is actually quite the album. As brutal, fast, and pummeling as grindcore should be, Agoraphobic Nosebleed add another layer of insanity: by using a drum machine instead of a live drummer, they are LITERALLY able to have their music move at inhuman speeds. The band perfectly pair their dark sense of humor and knack for finding bizarre samples to use (I think about the phrase “thar she blows out my fucking dickhole” honestly more than I should) with their delightfully over the top and overblown cybergrind sound.

 

7: Painkiller- Guts of a Virgin

painkiller
Country of Origin: USA
Years Active: 1991-1995
Label: Independent
Official Site: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/pain-killer-mn0000744399
Year of Release: 1991

On the topic of weird things, this next album basically epitomizes them: a combination of free/avante garde jazz and grindcore should be, in theory, gimmicky bandcamp bullshit at best. However, like virtually anything John Zorn touches is, it is some fantastic, experimental, and genuinely surreal music. This album is almost like the audio equivalent to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House,” which for me makes the bad acid trip that is this album all the better. Perfectly melding the chaos of free jazz and grindcore into a dynamic, merciless, and constantly jarring 24 minutes of music, this is a perfect album for all crate-digging connoisseurs of the musically surreal.

6: Nails- Unsilent Death

nails
Country of Origin: USA
Years Active: 2009-Present
Label: Nuclear Blast
Official Site: http://abandonalllife.com/
Year of Release: 2010

 

Nails are without a doubt one of my favorite modern metal bands overall. Despite only having been active for about 9 years, I feel as if the band has cemented their place in extreme musical lore already. While all of their albums are absolutely fantastic, my personal favorite is their explosive 2010 debut album “Unsilent Death.” Featuring 10 tracks and only clocking in at about 14 minutes, Nails made their mark on the grindviolence scene from the second this ravaging instant classic hit shelves. One of my greatest writing crutches is refer to an album as the “musical version” of some other piece of media or an experience, a habit I am trying to break. However, I will allow myself this one: this is the album version of being killed by some cheap mask-wearing, drill-wielding killer in a straight-to-vhs 80s horror movie that was made by the Church of Satan and features actual death.

 

5: Napalm Death- Scum

113721428
Country of Origin: UK
Years Active: 1981-Present
Label: Century Media
Official Site: http://napalmdeath.org/scum/
Year of Release: 1987

What grindcore list would be complete without the grandfathers of grind themselves? It’s really difficult to talk about the history of grindcore (or metal as a whole, to be frank) without mentioning the OGs themselves: sonically relentless, and fiercely political,  Napalm Death took the pure sociopolitical rage of the hardcore scene and helped it take the next logical step, with a little help from the brutality of death metal. The band has never ceased their experimentation with other subgenres, but at the root of their sound will always be the phenomenal blueprint they lay out of the subgenre.

 

4: Discordance Axis- The Inalienable Dreamless

discordance
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1992-2001
Label: Hydra Head Records
Official Site: https://discordanceaxis.bandcamp.com/album/the-inalienable-dreamless
Year of Release: 2000

Artsy kings of the underground, Discordance Axis created a technical, chaotic, and refined spin on grindcore that no other band has ever truly been able to replicate. Almost comparable to what The Dillinger Escape Plan did with metalcore, Discordance Axis’ unique style and sound within their genre has earned them status as legends, even among people who aren’t typically fans of it. Notoriously elusive and camera-shy, the quintet’s mysterious and electric nature only adds to their draw and appeal, although to call it a clutch would be to lie: their music goes above and beyond on its own.

 

3: Contrastic- Contrastic

contrastic
Country of Origin: Czech Republic
Years Active: 1993-Present
Label: Independent
Official Site: https://contrastic.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2000

 

Speaking of bands who have earned themselves the status of legend, in our number three spot is Contrastic, a deathgrind band like none other. Hailing from the Czech republic, Contrastic have always gained a fair amount of attention within the underground community, turning heads with their Disney coloring page themed album cover and getting fans to stay for their bizarre brand of deathgrind, complete with hyperactive energy, heaviness and brutality, a tongue in cheek attitude, and the occasional break for a  upbeat synth segment. Even though they could easily be written off as a gimmick band, Contrastic create some truly fascinating experimental deathgrind on this release.

 

2: Brutal Truth- Need to Control

brutal
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1990-2014
Label: Earache
Official Site: https://brutaltruth.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 1994

A criminally underrated album, this release is one of the few that I would truly feel at ease referring to as “artgrind” or “post-grind” or something along those lines. The sophomore release from Dan Lilkers (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Stormtroopers of Death) oddball grind project, this album goes leaps and bounds beyond the group’s debut album released two years before it, this is really a project that’s artistic vision and musical prowess speak for itself- and I suggest you all let it.

 

1: Pig Destroyer- Prowler in the Yard

pig
Country of Origin: US
Years Active: 1997-Present
Label: Relapse Records
Official Site: https://pigdestroyer.bandcamp.com/
Year of Release: 2001

At the very top of our list we have grindcore giants Pig Destroyer, with their debut full-length album and, I would argue, magnum opus. This 22-track exercise in brutality matches it’s ferocious, violent, depraved vocals and instrumentation with equally depraved lyrics. The album centers on a short story of a young girl being stalked by a depraved lunatic told through brief but nauseating vignettes and introduced and concluded by strange tracks that paint grotesque scenes through some kind of text-to-speech. This album does exactly what a grindcore concept album should: it applies the grind mentality of heavy, ravaging, and extraordinarily brief to how it conveys it’s narrative, and because of this, the lyrics and music work together perfectly to form one horrifying piece of music.

Grulog’s Essential Funeral Doom: Slow

Every once in a while, you stumble across a musical act that transcends artistic boundaries. To call people like this musicians alone wouldn’t be fair or accurate – they’re artists in the real sense of the word.

I listen to a fuck-ton (actual measurement) of metal – a bare minimum of 8 hours a day while I’m at work (and then, to mix things up, I listen to metal when I go home) – and I’ll tell you, I can count the number of metal bands who fall into the “artist” category on one hand.

32804673_2102985469988210_2959725941506441216_n

Slow is one of those bands. I’m not here to review any albums – anything worth saying in terms of album reviews has already been done by minds much greater then my own (minds such as Cody motherfuckin Davis of “Metal Injection” and Master of Muppets from “Angry Metal Guy”).

In fact, unless a band approaches me I prefer to focus on the artist and how/why they do what they do. The reader can decide for themselves whether or not to check it out, and enter into the experience without any pre-existing bias.

And for a band like Slow, I feel like anything less would be doing my readers a disservice. This isn’t a “singles” band, this is a “listen to the whole album in one sitting and then contemplate your life” band.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Basics:

3540375410_logo

Band Name: SLOW (Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool)
Country of Origin: Belgium
Years Active: 2007-Present
Metal Archives Entry: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Slow/3540375410
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/slowdooom
Myspace: https://myspace.com/slowonline
Bandcamp: https://slowdooom.bandcamp.com/
Members: Déhà (Instruments, Vocals), Lore (Lyrics, Concepts, Bass)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Interview:

What is the significance of “Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool” (SLOW)

(Déhà) : When I started this project twelve years ago, it was a counter-project for Yhdarl (my other very dark, suicidal-theme band). I wanted something which was metaphorical for what I wanted : a complete drone soundscape (Whirlpool), that is not violent (Silence). Out/Over is the meaning of “it goes everywhere”, if you will. I must admit I was very young at the time, but it still makes sense to me nowadays.

~~~~~~

What made you choose Funeral Doom as the artistic medium for your work in Slow?

(Déhà) : I chose funeral doom because I wanted a way to express feelings that are a bit ‘trippy’, without necessarily being depressive (like album I and II). Starting from III, I was getting a little more influences from death/doom, but I stuck with funeral doom because I simply love this kind of music. There’s nothing more than this.

~~~~~~

Lore did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of the music lyrically with Oceans (enough so that I had difficulty believing more than one person was privy to the project). Even the cadence of the words is perfect. What made you approach her specifically to write lyrics to Oceans?

(Lore) : Thank you.

(Déhà) : Lore did the most perfect job for Oceans. In the beginning, she was just ‘for help’, but after the amount of emotions she put into this album, as well as time and focus, there was no way I could not propose her to join the band. It became so evident to me. Obvious even.
She got it all right at first listen. That’s quite a sign, isn’t it?

~~~~~~

Listening to your work in Slow from Gaia forward there’s definitely a progression in sound, with everything from guitar tone to the application and use of synth. Would you consider that to be due to growth as a musician, access to more and different equipment, a combination of these things, or something else?

(Déhà) : I believe yes, but mainly simply by going further in the music. I & II are, for me, the first “period” of the band (being instrumental and more drone-ish), III & IV are the second period, and starting from V, we have something else. I can’t stress enough the time spent to control my studio (hence production). It’s, I believe, a normal evolution.

~~~~~~

All of your albums with Slow seem to take grand (and universal) archetypes and weave a story into and through them. 

-With Gaia, the synth kind of carried the narritive in place of vocals. 
-With Mythologiæ there’s a progression using mythological (greek, if i’m not mistaken) archetypes to give subconscious form to the journey of an individual.
-With Oceans, the journey/struggle of the individual is at the forefront and the ocean seems to be the metaphor.

My question is: Do you purposefully approach an album from the position of taking a larger theme and weaving a narrative throughout?

(Lore): I can’t speak for the previous albums as I wasn’t involved with the making of them, but with Oceans it was definitely the goal. Music is both very personal and universal – I find it important to find the right balance in that. We both want to express our thoughts and emotions, we want to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself. Making an awesome album has become almost easy nowadays, but making an album that truly touches people with its story and lingers in the mind is a far greater challenge.

~~~~~~

One constant I’ve noticed on every Slow album is this – there seems to be a thread of hope in all the doom. It manifests itself differently on different albums – on Gaia it was purely the synth, on Mythologiæ it kind of traded back and forth between the guitars and the synth, and on Oceans (interestingly enough) the guitars themselves seemed to carry it.

A lot of Funeral/Death Doom bands seem to focus purely on despair/darkness (which is fucking awesome), and the ones who do try to add that contrast end up sounding cheesy and almost campy. If your albums were a slow moving storm, there’s always a ray of sunlight in the eye. I have to ask, do you add these aesthetic qualities to your music purposefully?

(Déhà) : I believe yes. I like to believe that Slow is mostly narrative, whereas other bands are a simple, crushing smash of despair in the face. Everyone can interpret it in his or her own way. I find Gaïa being insanely positive, for example.

(Lore) : I don’t know… I think it comes naturally rather than we spend a lot of time thinking about and perfecting aesthetics. It is what makes Slow Slow in the first place. Everything is very sincere, it is not merely an image we are trying to create of ourselves. We feel very deeply, both positive and negative feelings, and try to express this in our music. There’s always a spark of light somewhere in the darkness, if you choose to look for it hard enough.

~~~~~~

It seems like, with the advent of the internet, a lot of artists simply write songs until they have enough to fill an album, and then release it. I’m certainly not the first person to notice it, but the “full album” is a disappearing art-form.

With Slow, it seems like your focus is more on writing the album as a whole (musically and conceptually) – where each of the individual pieces is part of a greater narrative and the albums are meant to be listened to in their entirety. Am I imagining this, or is that the case? 


(Déhà)
: This is the case indeed. Every album for Slow, as stated, is narrative and brings forth a story. Gaïa… Well I believe it speaks for itself, as well as Mythologiae and the (definitely greek) content, while Oceans….

(Lore)
: I agree with Deha. We aim to create ‘a whole package’ rather than ‘just an album’ because it gives everyone so much more satisfaction. The songs on Oceans are indeed meant to be listened to as one full song – that way you will truly hear how the story unfolds.

~~~~~~

Is there anything else you’d like readers/listeners to know or to keep in mind in regards to Slow?


(Déhà)
: We are working on album VI right now, which is going to be a little different, but will contain the same crushing doom music. I would dare say that it is be a bit more ‘experimental’.

(Lore)
: That we are very thankful for all the reactions and support we receive from them. Furthermore, what Deha said. We are constructing a small monument as we speak, so keep your eyes and ears wide open.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

So, VI is being recorded as you read this, and Lore is taking over bass duties and arrangements. Fuck yes.

Lorebass

Suicide Silence Pioneer “Mediocrecore”, Experience Worst First Week Sales of Their Careers

I really hate to say I told you so.

Fuck that, I love saying I told you so. I fucking called this a month ago.

Actually, if anything, it was worse than I thought (Whitechapel only did 50% as well as their previous album, Suicide Silence soared around 30%). Apparently diminishing returns is a thing in real life. Who knew?

The critical acclaim for this album is completely non-existent.

Unless you count Metalsucks, who seem genuinely surprised the album sales didn’t set some sort of fucking record.

I don’t feel particularly bad for the band – they’re reaping what they sewed. Insulting the majority of your fanbase while you’re in the middle of selling out will get you exactly 30% of the sales you’re looking for.

I do, however, feel bad for the mindless drones who read metalsucks like it’s the fucking bible and worship at the altar of Suicide Silence. Like this kid.

whineyelistdeuche

Who literally unblocked me the day after Suicide silence went on record bashing metal fans at their shows as patch wearing weirdos for the express purpose of quoting the band to insult me (before promptly blocking me again). It was magnificent. But now that the band’s eating crow, who will think of things for people like him to say?

Also, I’ve heard a lot of people saying bad things about the band for talking shit about other deathcore bands. I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint here – the single greatest thing about Suicide Silence’s PR campaign for the new album is the fact that they were talking massive amounts of shit about deathcore bands.

Now, I shit on deathcore bands all day long. So, in my opinion, knowing that even deathcore bands can’t resist shitting on deathcore tickles my irony bone to no end. And that, dear reader, is a silver lining worth noting.

Bear with me here, it gets better. The deathcore scene (as well as the tail end of the metalcore scene) is almost single-handedly responsible for the negativity towards “metal elitists”. It’s been inflated by the metal media, and Metal Sucks is a perfect example of this. I’ve written a few articles dealing with this in the past, and the contradictions inherent in the “elitist dichotomy”. This viewpoint is expanding on the premises outlined in those articles.

You’ve got a metal news website (metal sucks) who is notorious for propping up the elitist controversy, participating in a bland (and played out) PR campaign for a band from a scene that germinated the whole elitist dichotomy. The metal news website (who never misses a chance to bash elitists) is openly promoting a deathcore band who is doing exactly what they (the site and the scene) pretend to hate.

In other words, they’re virtue signaling a hatred for elitists while openly supporting elitist behavior.

Is there a term in the English language that describes this phenomenon? Oh, wait a minute…

hypocrite

Fucking textbook.

Also, Suicide Silence obviously wasn’t being original or groundbreaking. The thing about being an original, groundbreaking artists – it’s like being rich. If you’re rich, you don’t have to tell other people you’re rich. If you’re a creative, groundbreaking artists, you don’t have to explain it to people.

In fact, in both cases – the fact that you need to tell people implies exactly the opposite.

Hiring a one trick pony producer who lost all cultural relevance to metal 20 years ago (and then writing in a style of music that played out and died 20 years ago) isn’t brave, or groundbreaking – it’s exactly the fucking opposite.

Puke.

 

Suicide Silence are NOT Employing a Failed Marketing Strategy For Their New Album

This is Not an Introduction

Suicide Silence are obviously musical pioneers. As the lead singer so eloquently pointed out in an interview – some people just can’t see the inherent virtuosity of dumbing down your music.

virtuosity

They obviously understand metal fans, and what drives them. It’s not like there was a scientific study that proved metal fans (like classical music fans) are innately attracted to grandiosity and technical prowess in music.

And the majority of metal fans certainly aren’t weirdos. Observations to the contrary have never been the subjects of academic study (by people like Deena Weinstein), or noted by the artists themselves.

wierd-kid

Suicide Silence’s Methods are NOT Transparent and Gimmicky

They’re certainly not using the “Metallica Defense” to justify the musical direction they’re taking on the new album.

And Suicide Silence are totally above playing the elitist card. They’ve obviously gotten some very sound advise from their producer, who is a vital part of the network of metal news we metalheads rely on.

metal-news-cycle

It’s not like Whitechapel tried the exact same thing last year (Elitist bashing on Metal Sucks), or made a video called “The Elitist Ones”. And I’m pretty sure it didn’t backfire spectacularly, giving them their worst album debut since 2008. They certainly didn’t receive less than half the first week sales of their previous album..

How could Suicide Silence fail utilizing a winning recipe like that? Isn’t doing the same exact thing one of your professional peers did last year the definition of pioneering?

The SS crew couldn’t be admitting that deathcore is stagnating. Or that the next step (for deathcore) is it’s inevitable decline. And it’s certainly not 10 years too late for a genre with so much diversity to expand. If it was, it would have progressed to the phase referred to by sociologists as “crystallization”, where a metal genre becomes embedded and rigidly defined. And if that was the case, we’d see a bunch of fucking deathcore clone bands playing the exact same song (exactly like what happened to hair metal).

But that’s not the case, right guys? Like, other metal bands weren’t noticing the crystallization of Deathcore (and praying for it’s inevitable demise) 7 years ago? Right?

Suicide Silence Definitely Knows Who Listens to Their Music. 

Suicide Silence is obviously not commercially inflated faux metal from a genre that predominantly caters to 16 year old girls (that warrants comparisons to nu-metal). So, it’s safe to say the introduction of clean vocals couldn’t possibly have anything to do with pandering to young girls that want to seem edgy, right? It’s about branching out as artists, right?

Diagram displaying Suicide Silence’s Definition of “Death Metal Elitist/General Metal Elitist (Patch Wearing Weirdos)

 

Q: Where can you find Deathcore fans, Death Metal Elitists, and “General Metal Elitists” (Patch wearing wierdos)?

A: The Gathering of the Juggalos, of course.

ss-juggalo

I’ve been wondering where all the deathcore fans, death metal elitists, and patch wearing metal elitist weirdos hang out. Metal Elitists are well known for their love of the Insane Clown Posse. It just goes without saying.

Or maybe Suicide Silence is referring to the ‘elitist ones’ Whitechapel encountered at the Warped Tour. Because that’s another place to find metal elitists of all sorts.

warped-tour

Yeah, that must be it.

Suicide Silence have obviously got marketing to their fans down to an art – nay, a fucking science.

I just wonder what the head of Sumerian Records thinks of all of this? What would he do? What would he say? What did he have for breakfast? What does the inside of his anal pore taste like?

Could he impart some transcendental wisdom on par with these pearls of enlightenment from the mouth/keyboard of Ross Robinson?

ross-robinson

What is the relevance of mentioning the head of a record label known for it’s metalcore and deathcore associations in a Suicide Silence article detailing the inevitable downfall of deathcore? Are producers and record labels counting on controversy to keep their names on the mouths of the general public as a form of life support for a dying genre? What is the meaning of life?

Musical Pioneers

I’m sure Suicide Silence will find innovative new uses for the dotted crotchet on the new album – perhaps in multiple songs. They’ll probably revolutionize deathcore by employing some sort of “down-tuning” (drop A, or something equally as innovative and unique).

I’ve been hearing a buzz about a new musical convention referred to as a “breakdown”, perhaps they will blow our minds by indulging in one or two on the artistic masterpiece coming out later this month. Maybe they’ll really let loose and use gang vocals – how fucking cool would that be?

If your (original) lead singer’s death is the most interesting thing about your band, the sky is the fucking limit.


(Still better than Doris)

Be a Force for Positive Change in the Metal Community!

Global Metal Culture: The Rise of the Digital Metal Scene

The strangest thought hit me today – there are actually people alive and active in the metal scene that don’t know what it was like before the internet.

Stop and let that sink in for a minute.

(cliché reflective opening statement to blog post, check. god I’m getting good at this.)

Is the Internet the Last Major Metal Scene?

When speaking of a metal “scene”, generally people are speaking about a shared sub-cultural space where members are able to participate in the culture. For metalheads, this generally means bar and live shows. Or, at least, it used to.

With the advent of the internet, a person can completely immerse themselves in metal culture without ever physically meeting another metalhead. This isn’t without precedent – I have written previously about how metalheads had social networking before the internet. So really, the digital metal scene can be viewed as a natural evolution of the tape trading scene.

But this is a bit different. More all-encompassing. Scenes arise from the collective need for a sub-cultural space. The internet meets the needs of every metalhead, or at least allows for those needs to be met.

I’m not saying there won’t be local scenes in the future. Of course there will be, that’s the heart-blood of metal.

I AM saying there will never be another band (metal or otherwise) who gets big without the internet. Ever. So, what I AM saying is that the internet has become the largest possible metal scene – with pretty much every single metalhead on earth participating in some way, shape, or form.

The Internet Changed Everything

Metal’s Place in Society at Large

There’s a trade-off here. The best and worst thing about the digital metal scene is how easy it is to access and participate. Metal is no longer the pariah of the music world – it’s become (comparatively) safe in a cultural context.

There is always going to be metal that’s on the outside of what is considered “good taste” by the majority of Western Society – metalheads will make sure of that.

But Jesus Christ, when the President of the United States visits Finland and cracks a good-natured joke about the number of metal bands (per capita) – it’s safe to say the outsider status is gone.

So, lets take a brief look at how the digital age is affecting the unholy (hehe) trifecta of metal culture: Metal fans, metal bands, and the metal media.

How the Next Generation Experiences Metal (The Rise of Digital Metal Fans)

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There is a generation of metalheads who, feasibly

  • never listened to heavy metal in an analog format.
  • never knew what purchasing music was like before Napster and other file sharing sites. (or torrents)
  • never had to stay up on a Sunday night to hear the ONE metal program on a radio station.
  • never had to play “album roulette”, going to a music store and finding the minuscule (if existent) metal section – and buying an album purely because it looked cool as fuck. Chances are, they won’t understand that every genre of metal has its own logo style for exactly this reason.
  • will never know what it was like to depend on ‘zines (specifically the classified section) to know what’s happening in metal.
  • have no idea what it’s like to be stereotyped by the police simply because they favor a style of music (well, maybe not as much).
  • have no fucking clue what the significance of MTV was to music in general, or why Headbanger’s Ball was such a big fucking deal.
  • have never paid 30 bucks for a CD
  • don’t have to rely on the metalhead “uniform” to find other metalheads.

This is literally a group whose experience with metal, and the metal community is so vastly different from previous generations of bangers as to seem almost alien. I think it’s funny – people have been so focused on how the internet and computers changed metal in the past few decades, that they’ve completely neglected to examine how it changed the fans (or even ask if/how it would).

Might it be logical to assume that, as their experience of metal culture is so vastly different – maybe it will change the fan base?

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Metal Bands in the Digital Age (And the Digital Metal Bands)

Even the way new bands create and share music. Remember Job for a Cowboy? The first (and only, to my knowledge) metal band to successfully launch a major career in metal using Myspace? Fucking Myspace?!? I still remember getting messages and a friend request from the band when they were a bunch of unknown dudes from Texas.

Which brings me to deathcore. Sure, I shit on it all the time – 99% of deathcore bands are generic and boring. But if we’re being really, brutally honest here – 99% of thrash, death, and black metal bands are just as generic and boring. I write for an online magazine, and believe me – if the only good thing you can say about a band is that they have an old-school death metal/thrash/black metal sound or aesthetic – it’s a roundabout way of saying there isn’t much good you can say about the band.

Deathcore does have the distinction of being the first metal sub-genre to come to prominence through the internet. Metalcore stands kind of in between – half internet/half old-world. Djent gets a participation trophy.

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Nowadays, bands don’t need to physically amass a following to be heard – they just need access to a computer and pro-tools. Self-releases are more common than ever. In fact, record labels seem like they’re becoming almost vestigial. Bands can crowd-fund an album and write exactly what they want.

Speaking of music production – I guess the “American Metal Sound” is totally a thing now. Essentially it just means you have crystal clear production values and a “full” sound, but I’ve heard people from outside the US use this term to describe a lot of the Thrash albums that came out this year (i.e. Testament and Megadeth’s 2016 releases). Not that this is purely a deathcore related phenomenon – the New Wave of American Metal certainly influenced this as well – but I think it’s a nice change.

Sure, there’s a certain aesthetic associated with the production values of classic metal albums. But you can’t tell me you want every goddamn metal album for all eternity to sound like it was recorded inside a garbage can.

But I digress.

The Digital Metal Media

So yeah, this is the first generation who got their metal related news purely in a digital format. I mean, sure, for novelty’s sake a few people might go out and buy a physical magazine or two. But the medium is simply outdated. The only reason to get them is to act like a hipster or for genuine nostalgia.

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Dramatic Re-enactment of a “Dinosaur Metal” band

As such, a lot of the “dinosaur” metal publications were unable to get past their own bureaucracy (and mounds of paperwork) to get with the whole “information age” thing. Which isn’t really a bad thing, considering most of them got so far out of touch with the metal community. I’m really not sure how they kept going (Well, yes I am. They sold their souls and started catering to the tastes of 16-year-old girls. But that’s another topic altogether).

Interestingly enough, all the major metal news websites have conglomerated in exactly the same manner as the magazines did. Just like the old guard – they publish the exact same stories, they share writers, they cooperate on contests together. It’s a massive circle-jerk.

Lambgoat, Metalsucks, Metal Injection, Decible, theprp.com – they’re all in on it (example, they all use the blast beat network for their advertising). I guess life really does come full circle – reading these guys commentaries on metal culture is about as much fun as chewing on tinfoil (sorry, that’s an old person joke from way back in the day when they used mercury in fillings).

Capitalist bureaucracy at it’s finest, I tell you.

Metal’s Transition from Counterculture to Culture

Pretty much every metalhead who was alive and active in the scene before the internet remembers how things were. “How the internet changed metal” is a pretty popular topic to discuss in metal circles.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything discussing the logical progression of the though/sentiment. If the internet changed metal bands, metal music, and metal media – isn’t it safe to say it significantly changed the fan base?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that metal is no longer a counterculture.

Other sites have touched on the subject, but I don’t think anyone has really gone the extra few feet to discuss the logical implications (positive, negative, and neutral) for metalheads, and metal culture in general.

It isn’t hard to find other metalheads anymore. Besides going to concerts, hanging out at bars, randomly bumping into people in the metal section of your local music store, or (if you were lucky enough) having a metalhead crowd to hang out with when you were in high school – there was a point in time when it was actually a bit difficult to find other metalheads. We used to have to rely on “the uniform” (or people with a particular look) to find each other.

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A positive aspect of this is that heads can now use visual cues other than band shirts to find one another. Facebook metal groups abound, metalheads create their own digital sub-cultural space in popular forums. I think we can all collectively agree that talking shit about Metal Sucks in the comments section of every single one of their articles is one of the purest expressions of sheer collective joy metal culture has to offer it’s adherents.

A negative aspect of this is that although it’s not hard to find metalheads, metalhead interaction on the internet will never be as satisfying as interaction in person. This doesn’t just affect metalheads, in general people fall into the trap of substituting online social interactions for face to face interactions – and this can be very unhealthy. It makes confrontation and altercation infinitely easier, and therefore more inviting. In person, confrontations are a lot less likely, and the results of a confrontation are generally a lot more amicable to both parties. So yeah, there’s that.

OK, enough of this touchy feely shit. Back to the metal.

With online participation, metalheads are better able to come to a consensus as to what constitutes a sub-genre, and what bands fall where on the heavy metal family tree. And nobody, I mean nobody, has done a better job of this than Banger Films.

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Sam Dunn and the crew up in Canada are (in my opinion, and many others judging by their popularity) revolutionizing metal –  by bringing all the little mini-cultures that constitute metal culture into one shared sub-cultural space for the express purpose of documenting and furthering metal culture as a whole.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend subscribing to their YouTube channel. Their revues are top-notch, the sub-genre episodes allow people to democratically discuss a particular section of metal in-depth and decide, democratically, on which bands fit within the categorization being discussed.

A Quick Recap

Let’s do a “Five W’s” test real quick.

What changed? Metal culture

Who changed? The three major aspects of metal culture – fans, bands, and metal media

Where did the change take place? The internet, of course.

Why did the change happen? The internet provided unprecedented access to metal culture, allowing for a universal allocation of sub-cultural space regardless of geographic location.

When did the change take place? It’s still happening, arguably it came to a head in 2000 with the Metallica/Napster dispute.

Conclusion(s)

I would argue that the internet is not just a logical progression of metal culture – it’s the logical conclusion of metal culture. 

When I say logical conclusion – I don’t mean that metal culture will be ending because of the internet. I mean that in terms of progress, it’s impossible for metal culture to move PAST the internet.

Tape Trading? You don’t have to peruse metal magazines and write letters, waiting on the postal service. New metal is literally at your fingertips 24/7.

Meeting new metal fans? Until there is a cultural space for social connections more efficient and all-encompassing than Facebook – there will never be a faster, easier way to meet and interact with other metalheads.

Metal news? Instead of waiting for magazines, we find out what’s happening in the metal universe almost in real-time. It’s just not possible to find things out any faster.

Metal bands don’t need to jockey for positions to be heard by major labels anymore – in fact, it’s (theoretically) possible for a band to gain mass popularity almost exclusively through social media (i.e. Job for a Cowboy, Vulvodynia, etc.).

Integration into greater culture? As much as is humanly possible – I don’t see people getting arrested for wearing metal shirts or being sent to camps for “de-metalizing” (a la the PMRC days of the 1980’s).

heavy metalistsMaybe the police will stop using pictures like this in training manuals? 

School shootings might still be blamed on metalheads now and then, but since the culture has become more visible (due to the internet) I think that’s a lot less likely. Occasional hate crimes against metalheads? Yeah, probably still a thing – anyone who looks “different” is going to be a target by small-minded clusters of mouth-breathers. With the “metal look” as big as it is right now in popular culture, I would even predict that sort of thing is on the decline.

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In other words, because of how convenient and efficient a tool the internet has turned out to be – I believe the final frontier of heavy metal (the music and it’s culture) has been reached.

It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing.

It’s just a fucking thing.

What, Exactly, is Groove Metal?

Introduction

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the sub-genrification of metal. There’s just so much metal out there, they’re kind of necessary. A sub-genre is essentially a quick label used (mostly by fans) to describe bands with similar sonic characteristics.

For pretty much every major sub-genre, most fans will be able to list a couple big name bands that exemplify the sound. With Thrash, you’ve got the big four (bay area) and the big Teutonic four (Germany).

Death metal has bands like Death (obviously), Morbid Angel, Deicide, Nile, Obituary, and Suffocation bringing up the oldschool end of things – and (being the most popular sub-genre in the world) probably several thousand other bands branching off into even more subgenres.

With Black Metal you’ve got the first wave guys like Bathory, Celtic Frost, and Venom. And then there’s the second wave guys who pretty much defined the genre as most people know it today – guys like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, etc.

Power metal, Doom, Melodic Death Metal, Glam, Nu Metal, Grindcore – they all have very distinct, easily identifiable sounds. Within a couple of second of listening to any song within these genres, it’s easy to identify where it belongs in the metal family tree.

Except for one. Groove metal.

It’s weird – this is one of those genres that a lot of people know about. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about the topic can list off a few Groove Metal bands. Which is great – except there’s almost zero overlap. If you talk to three different metalheads about Groove Metal and ask for a list of Groove bands – you’re most likely going to get three very different lists. Even the definitions of Groove Metal vary from person to person. It seems like the only band that people can consistently agree falls in the Groove category is Pantera.

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Now, there is a pretty big group of people who argue that Pantera (post glam, naturally) is a thrash band.

The argument has some merit, but I have some problems with it. Pantera, like most thrash bands, is a very aggressive riff oriented outfit. However, while thrash is typified by fast tempos, Pantera is generally a mid tempo band by comparison. Also, they generally tend to ride what’s known as “the money riff” for the majority of a song. While this isn’t unheard of in thrash, in my experience it’s not the norm.

Fleshing out a Genre from the Middle Ground between Genres

So seeing as Pantera is a generally agreed upon forefather of the Groove genre, their relationship with thrash metal makes defining Groove Metal much easier.Bearing this in mind, I would like to express a few opinions that will (probably) be a tad unpopular.

Because of the black album, I contend that Metallica were as influential as Pantera in the consolidation of Groove Metal as a genre. Think about it, the things people complained about on the album – catchy riffs, predominantly mid-tempo (as opposed to the breakneck pace of Thrash). They ride the money riff for the majority of songs. It’s mid-tempo Thrash. It meets all the criteria of Groove Metal.

Sepultura’s album “Roots” is widely credited as a Nu Metal album. Interesting thought, but there is nothing remotely rap/hip hop oriented about the album. I would argue that Groove metal and Nu metal developed side by side, and ended up having a lot of similar qualities in terms of sound. I don’t think anyone with half a brain cell can lump this album in the same category as the Linkin Park discography – I lump Roots squarely in the groove metal category.

Slayer’s misfit album, “Diabolus in Musica”, is described by the band themselves as an attempt to jump on the Nu Metal bandwagon. The only problem is, all they did was down-tune and ride some grooves. No DJ’s, no rapping – I also classify this album as Groove.

When it comes to fleshing out and discussing Groove metal nobody does it better than Banger. Check out their episode discussing Groove Metal below (then like and subscribe to their youtube channel, facebook page, etc). Seriously though, these guys know what’s up when it comes to metal. I would argue any list of the most important people in metal today that excludes Sam Dunn is a total crock of shit.

Groove’s Influence on Other Genres

We’ve already touched on the Nu Metal/Groove connection a bit, but now might be a good time to reiterate. Groove and Nu Metal share a timeline (and in many cases, an audience) – they formed a genres around the same time, and they influenced each other heavily. Example – it’s no secret that Sepultura were heavily influenced by Korn’s first album when they released Roots (another reason people try to lump the album in the Nu Metal category).

Nu Metal is very groove-heavy, and it’s safe to say there’s a significant amount of overlap between the genres.Example: Machine Head did a one off nu-metal album before returning to Groove Metal. This is a perfect example of the overlap between Nu Metal and Groove Metal:

Nu-Metal Machine Head

Groove Metal/NWOAHM Machine Head

Which leads me to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (which was as much a movement in metal is it is a genre). Besides Machine head, bands like Lamb of God and Chimaira (flag-bearers of the NWOAHM) also fall squarely in the Groove Metal category.

In fact, I would contend that most of that wave of metal bands from the 2000-2010 era wouldn’t exist without Groove Metal (specifically Pantera, but all those Groove pioneers played a part in paving the way for the NWOAHM).

These bands have been known, on occasion, to even pay tribute to the late great Pantera…

Not that only NWOAHM bands cover the Groove legends, but there’s enough bands that have paid tribute through the years (even before Dime died) where you can make a pretty solid inference as to the influence of the band (and therefore the genre).

In Conclusion

Probably the strangest thing about Groove Metal is that it just kind of “happened”. It wasn’t like Thrash or Death or Black metal, where you had a scene with several bands that fleshed out the sound and defined it in a short amount of time. Instead it developed over the course of (at least) two decades, influencing at least two major metal movements as it went.

This is the only time an entire genre was (or ever will be) formed in the empty space between extremely fast (i.e Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash, Speed, etc) and extremely slow (Doom and it’s derivatives) tempos.

The only genre with stranger origins (in my opinion) would be Djent – who the fuck names a genre with an onomatopoeia?

Metal Stuff’s 2016 Review: The Year in Metal

2015-2016 has been an unprecidentedly good time for metal. We’re in the middle of a “metal bubble”, the market is saturated with excellent material. Not sure how long it’ll last, but (seeing as there isn’t anything really incredible slated to release in December) I thought it would be a good time to sum up Metal Stuff’s best releases and biggest dissapointments in metal: 2016 Edition.

Metal Stuff’s “Top  15” Best Releases of 2016

15) Vivaldi Metal Project – The Four Seasons

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This one hit me out of nowhere. I saw something about the release of the album on facebook, checked it out, and BAM. Blown away. Probably one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve experienced this year.

It’s an all-star lineup of metal musicians in a modern (and metallic) interpretation of Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece “The Four Seasons”. And by All-Star I mean they have members of Symphony X, Testament, Unleash the Archers, The Scorpions, Helloween, Within Temptation, Stratovarious, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Soilwork, and a whole fuckload more.

I really can’t say enough good things about these guys, this is a piece I would reccomend to metalheads, fans of classical music, and just about evreyone inbetween.

14) Scorched – Echoes of Dismemberment

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I first heard this album through my side gig doing reviews for Hard Attack Magazine.  No bells, no whistles, no frills. Just excellent (old school style) death metal with horror b-movie samples. If you’re into old school death metal – be sure to pick up a copy.

13) Rob Zombie – The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser

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Have to admit, I was pretty eagerly anticipating this album. I participated in the crowdfunding effot they put forth to make the album happen, I went and saw them live twice in the year leading up to it’s release. And I wasn’t dissapointed one bit.

This is easily his best work since “Hellbilly Delux”, and while he hasn’t completly strayed from the hard rock sound, the band certainly went in a more metallic direction. This is the first album the band’s put out in years that I can listen to from start to finish without skipping a single track. If you’re a Zombie fan, you won’t be dissapointed.

12) Blasphemer – Ritual Theophagy

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Kick ass album, read my full review here. Brutal Italian tech death that doesn’t sacrifice on the low end (or become riff-salad). Very highly recommended, this album melts faces.

 

11) Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

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Sooooooo fucking good. Adding layers of atmosphere to melodic death metal seems like a pretty big risk, but these guys took it and the result was (in this author’s humble opinion) a huge fucking success. I would go so far as to say this is the Melo-Death version of the album Opeth should have released. I’ve always liked the band, but they were never really at the forefront of my musical collection. This album changed that a bit, I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys now for sure.

Proggy and ambient, while still managing to retain the soul of melodic death metal – I highly recommend this album to anyone who will listen. And a few people who won’t.

10) The Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence

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I’ve been a fan of Devin Townsend’s work for over a decade now, but I had never given this side-project of his a listen before this year. And I’m glad I finally did, the man’s a fucking genius. His mix of electronic/ambient music and metal is flawless. Transcendence is a fucking masterpiece from start to finish.

9) Anciients – Voice of the Void

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This album was another pleasant surprise for me in 2016. They ran an (apparently) successful Facebook advertising campaign for months before the album released – so when it dropped that whole “name brand recognition” thing they talk about in advertising took effect. I checked them out just to see, and boy am I glad I did.

Excellent prog metal that ranges from melancholy to borderline brutal, with cleans and screams for days. I’ll be adding this album to my vinyl collection shortly after the holiday season ends (when I actually have money again).

These guys fucking rule.

8) Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

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This one was no surprise, I’ve been listening to these guys for about 2 decades now (since Destroy, Erase, Improve was released in 1995).

I have to admit, I was nervous about this one. I’m not a huge fan of Koloss or Catch 33, and I thought there was a good chance they’d continue in the “artsy” direction of concept albums and slow songs. Boy was I wrong, this is a return to Chaosphere-level heaviness.

I think some of their marketing strategies were a little campy (a delux edition of the album that includes a vinyl mask?), but as far as I’m concerned this album was pure fucking gold.

7) Saor – Guardians

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Admittedly, I have some very strong (and sometimes conflicting) opinions when it comes to the style of black metal known as “post black metal”. I’m hesitant to embrace “post” anything, and (at least in the US) the post-black metal scene is nothing but a bunch of whiny hipsters aping black metal music to seem edgy, when in reality all they’re doing is playing shitty alt-rock with a few black metal elements thrown in.

Saor, to me, embodies the exact opposite of this. It’s a solo project hailing from Scotland, and let me tell you this guy is a fucking artist. He’s the real deal, and a wicked cool guy to boot. He nails the black metal aesthetic and combines it with traditional celtic instruments to create soundscapes that are melancholy and ambient, without sacrificing some of the pure fucking rage at the heart of real black metal.

This guy is pretty much single-handedly responsible for making me redefine what I consider “heavy music”. Nothing but good things to say about this band, and this album simply cements him as a consistently solid and groundbreaking artist.

6) Wormed – Krighsu

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This album will rip you a new asshole. Then it will rip your new asshole a new asshole. I think you can see where I’m going with this. By the end of the album you’ll be shitting yourself out of your asshole’s asshole’s asshole.

This album doesn’t let up for a goddamn second. Full on brutal tech-death. Who the fuck knew Spain could produce (basically) the perfect death metal band? Holy fuckshit. I want to buy two copies of this album – one to listen to and the other to leave unopened for posterity. I’ll be telling my fucking grandchildren about how brutal these guys are.

So fucking good.

5) Infant Annihilator – The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch

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Yo dawg, I heard you like blastbeats. So we put blastbeats on your blastbeats.

In all seriousness, no human on earth has any business playing as fast as the drummer does. This British teen duo actually makes deathcore tolerable. Scratch that, enjoyable. Not quite as good as their first album, but still one of the best albums this year.

4) Fallujah – Dreamless

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Not going to front like I’m some O.G. who’s been listening to them since “Harvest Wombs” – I came across this band by chance right after their previous album, “The Flesh Prevails”, was released. I was just surfing YouTube and liked the album artwork (Totally a valid way of finding new music, it’s scary how good YouTube has become in recommending things you might like). I didn’t listen to anything else for a week, and turned a few of my coworkers on to the band.

When I heard they were releasing a new album I was super fucking stoked, and I wasn’t dissapointed. Every track is pure fire, and I still listen to this album at least once a week. I love the fact that they retained the ambient/brutal sound while making sure that each album has it’s own unique sound, atmosphere, and identity. Easily one of my favorite bands period.

3) Sabaton – The Last Stand

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I’ve been a fan of this band since I was street teaming for Nuclear Blast pre-2006, and I have to admit I find it pleasantly odd/surprising that a band I’ve listened to for years is becoming as popular as they are. Sabaton is easily the fastest rising band in metal, and they deserve it. These guys are relentless road dogs, with a solid live show. The fact that you learn more about history from a Sabaton show than you do in an entire year of public school in America is just the icing on the cake.

Plus, they wrote a song about the Scottish battle of Bannockburn (that pays tribute to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce) – what’s not to love?

2) Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

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These guys are hands down my favorite black metal band. Every album they release is consistent while remaining stylistically fresh and distinct. “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is, in my opinion, their best material to date – and they’re gaining a lot of well deserved international attention because of it. This includes their fair share of controversy – earlier this year they garnered a lot of attention due to members of a local Romanian government announcing they would allow a church-based political group to vet which bands would be allowed to play in the area (in direct violation of the Romanian constitution). This was a direct response to Dark Funeral’s show at Bucovina Rock Castle.

I don’t think a lot of people realize that bands like Dark Funeral and Behemoth are bastions of free speech in that part of Europe, as many Eastern European countries are firmly in the grip of a very conservative church (the Russian Orthodox Church, especially, seems to be radically motivated against heavy metal music).

Even without all the controversy – this is a solid fucking album that I listen to with some regularity. Lord Ahriman is a fucking musical genius.

1) Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake

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Easily the best album release this year. Probably the one I anticipated the most, my full review of the album can be found here. Heavy metal isn’t a contest, but if it was Testament would be winning. I’ll just sum my thoughts on this album up from the first paragraph of my review;

“The “Thrash Revival” has been in full effect since 2015 – it seems like every major player from the Bay Area Thrash scene is back in the studio pumping out the jams. Testament stands out among these giants – delivering, hands down, the best Thrash release of 2016. In fact, I think ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ deserves a nomination for the best metal album of 2016, period. Considering how good ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ was, I had high hopes for Testament’s new album. Brotherhood of the Snake not only met my expectations – it exceeded them (and then some)!”

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Abbath – Abbath (huge fan of the guy, not as good as his work in Immortal)
  • Megadeth – Dystopia (This album made me a fan of Megadeth)
  • Fleshgod Apocalypse – King (Criminally underrated band, excellent release)
  • Rotting Christ – Rituals (Not their best work, but really quite good)
  • Killswitch Engage – Incarnate (Second album with Jesse Leach back on vocals, fantastic album!)
  • Otep – Generation Doom (has a few good songs, but has some stiff competition this year for best album)
  • Aborted – Retrogore (these guys never put out a bad album)
  • Hatebreed – Concrete Confessional (If you’ve heard one Hatebreed album you’ve heard all of them – good but not great)
  • Dead by Wednesday – The Darkest of Angels (Love these guys – from the same scene as Shadows Fall)
  • Death Angel – The Evil Divide (excellent and diverse Thrash album)
  • Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (Quite the pleasant surprise this year)
  • Be’lakor – Vessels (Good melodeath, if a little bit stereotypical of the genre)
  • Brain Drill – Boundless Obscenity (Jesus Christ, so good)
  • Despised Icon – Beast (Triumphant return of a deathcore band that doesn’t suck)
  • Running Wild – Rapid Foray (These guys are legend)
  • Sodom – Decision Day (German Thrash, awesome album)
  • Vader – The Empire (Pure gold)
  • Starkill – Shadow Sleep (I helped crowdfund the album, was not disappointed one bit)
  • In Flames – Battles (Had a few good songs, better than their last album)
  • Metallica – Hardwired to Self Destruct (They set the bar so low for the past 30 years that even a sub-par thrash album is praise worthy)
  • Avantasia – Ghostlights (just good fun!)
  • Anthrax – For all Kings (hooray for thrash revival!)
  • Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn (death’n’roll done right)
  • Lacuna Coil – Delirium (Surprisingly good)
  • Gojira – Magma (Good, but not my favorite)
  • Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Awesome album, but not quite good enough to make my top 15)

 

Metal Stuff’s Biggest Disappointments in Metal, 2016 edition

Devildriver – Trust No One

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Considering the lineup changes DevilDriver went through in 2015, I tried to give this album a little wiggle room when criticizing it. 2 guitarists, no bassist, half the band is green. They didn’t really have time to get together and synchronize as a band – this album sound to me like a record company rushed them to meet a deadline. It’s not bad, but to call it anything other than a disappointment would be disingenuous. I hold DevilDriver to a pretty high standard – Dez is a goddamn genius as far as metal is concerned. I hope their next album will be a little better.

Robb Flynn

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This fucking guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Machine Head – and their album from last year (Bloodstone and Diamonds) was fucking excellent. I just can’t take Robb Flynn seriously. He’s a fucking attention whore who tries to stay socially relevant and apes Corey Taylor to do so. He’s an mildly successful social chameleon at best, and an overreacting turncoat bitch at the worst. His treatment of Phil Anselmo in the media was fucking horrid.

Avatar – Feathers and Flesh

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Maybe I was hoping for “Hail the Apocalypse Part II”, but this album fell flat for me. Which sucks, because they’re a very cool band who’s been underrated for the majority of their career. This album just didn’t clique for me, there wasn’t one song I can honestly say I enjoyed – just a massive disappointment.

Solution .45 – Nightmares in the Waking State II

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I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album just didn’t feel right to me. Like, maybe it was a bit too rushed or under-produced. Which sucks, because Christian Älvestam is my favorite metal vocalist – the guy’s easily the hardest working man in metal and super talented. From Scar Symmetry to Svavelvinter, Torchbearer, Miseration, Quest of Aidence, and all the fucking songs he’s lent vocals to – this guy is the fucking man. He shits excellence, except this album. I feel like he should have spent a little longer perfecting the songs, and not rushing to release a double album.

Whitechapel – Mark of the Blade

whitechapel

It’s sad to see a halfway decent band on the downswing of their career. They tried to stay relevant by releasing a song bashing “metal elitists”, and ironically that’s what seems to have tanked their career. Maybe the elitist ones were correct.

Chelsea Grin – Self Inflicted

chelseagrin

Bands like this are the reason I despise Deathcore. They have one tolerable album, and if I’m completely honest it’s only 50% tolerable (the first half).

Steel Panther

I’d rather let this speak for itself.

Sumerian Records

From every single band on their roster, to the act of completely selling out the image of the Summer Slaughter tour to sell a movie starring the lead singer of the Blackveil Brides, the continued existence of Sumerian Records bothers me. Apparently, in the metal scene money = credibility in some circles. Puke.

Hipsters and Social Justice Warriors

I don’t make it a secret that I fucking hate hipsters. They seem to have the innate ability to ruin anything. I can’t wait till hipster metal is no longer a thing.

Opeth – Sorceress

opeth_sorceress_promocover_revised

I respect when an artist or band wants to branch out, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Opeth has earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want, but that won’t stop me from getting my hopes up (and consequently having them dashed on a rock to the point of near death) every single time they get ready to release a new album. The band even signed to Nuclear Blast and were allegedly down-tuning for the record. I was so hyped. I heard the first single, “Sorceress” – SO EXCITED! Then the album dropped, and what transpired afterwards can only be referred to as one of my biggest disappointments of 2016. Fucking artsy prog from a band that had (at it’s peak) some of the best fucking death metal vocals ever.

The Dio Hologram

dio-hologram

Christ, stop capitalizing on the metal god. For fucks sake, he’s dead. Let him rest. It sounds cool, but I really dislike the idea.

As opposed to the Lemmy hologram at the Rainbow that randomly offers you cocaine and compliments your appearance when you walk by. That’s probably the most fitting tribute ever.

So, that’s about it for 2016 in metal.

Heavy Metal and Christianity

All human social groups share certain characteristics – on a micro level (individual interactions) and on a macro level (large-scale group dynamics). For the purposes of this article, I could choose any large social group in the world – religious or otherwise. I chose to use Christianity for two reasons.

First, the rather tenuous relationship between Metal Culture and Christianity since February 13th, 1970, when Black Sabbath released their first album.

Second – heavy metal collectively has the largest and most loyal global fanbase of any style of music (at least according to statistics released by music streaming service Spotify). Considering Christianity has the largest following of any religion on earth, they’re probably the best point of comparison (i.e. the largest faith based and entertainment based communities in the world). And you might be shocked at the number of similarities between the two.

Please keep in mind this is an observational piece, and is by no means all-encompassing. On to the discussion.

Similarities:

Both are large-scale global “bricolage” cultures

Metal and Christianity are global phenomenons, with legions of dedicated fans/followers on every populated continent. Christianity and Heavy Metal transcend language and culture, as well as economic barriers.

Christianity broke off/fractured from it’s parent culture (Judaism) when the population base reached a critical mass. It later fractured into distinct branches (Orthodox, Catholic, then Protestant with Martin Luther), which have continued to splinter into smaller sub-groups. The sheer number of different denominations is staggering, but all of them fall under the larger umbrella term of Christianity.

Metal broke off/fractured from it’s parent culture (Rock and Roll) when the fan base reached a similar critical mass. It later fractured into two distinct branches (Mainstream and Underground/Extreme), which have continued to splinter into smaller sub-genres. The sheer number of different sub-genres is staggering, but all of them fall under the larger umbrella term of Heavy Metal.

Both Share Similar Spectrums of Adherence

In both Christian and Metal cultural groups there are spectrums of adherence that range from exclusive to inclusive (and everything inbetween). This is a natural occurrence – because as the population of a group increases, so does the number of different opinions within that group.

A good example would be the “real” or “true” member debates. Within Christianity, there is an ongoing discussion in terms of what constitutes a “real” or “true” Christian. A parallel can be seen in the whole “real” or “true” metalheads v.s. posers discussion. in other words, both cultures have their fair share of “infighting” over multiple definitions of adherence.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Why do we need all these subgenres? Why can’t we just call it all metal like we used to?” or something similar? Spend enough time on metal forums, Facebook groups, or with metalheads in general and you might notice it’s a rather common topic of discussion.

Interestingly enough, when discussing the relative diversity of Christianity with Christians I’ve heard similar sentiments (We don’t need all these different denominations/I don’t know why we can’t just call it all Christianity).

There is some merit to these arguments, because all sub-genres and scenes fall under the greater spectrum of Heavy Metal just like all protestant and catholic denominations fall under the greater spectrum of Christianity. So, they’re accurate – just not very specific.

Both are Historically Male-Dominated Cultures

Considering both Christian and Heavy Metal culture are derivatives of Western Culture (which is mostly male dominated) this shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

There is a major difference here though – Christianity was systematically set up to exclude women from positions of power pretty much since it’s inception. A good example of that would be the taboo against female priests/pastors. Metal, however, is masculinist (as opposed to patriarchal).

So, while both social systems formed with predominantly male influence – in this instance the difference is a huge one. Within the church’s social structure – rules have to be changed to allow women to serve the culture in major roles such as a priest or pastor.

Heavy metal has no such restrictions. A women entering the metal scene simply has to navigate social norms that are traditionally considered to be masculine (I’m talking about the scene here, not the industry. All Western industry is patriarchal). The proof is in the pudding here, while the two systems may seem comparable, the end result(s) of the respective social structures for different genders can clearly be seen and differentiated.

Both Christianity and Heavy Metal Have Radical “Fringe Groups”

Both Christianity and Metal Culture have a few skeletons in the closet. Heavy Metal has such gems as National Socialist Black Metal and Hatecore (technically punk, like all of the “-core” derivations, but included here because of hardcore’s association with metal), while Christianity boasts the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and other Christian Identity groups.

“Fringe” hate groups in Metal

“Fringe” hate groups in Christianity

These fringe groups aren’t just about racism, anti-abortion violence in the United States and abroad generally has Christian undertones. And Heavy Metal has it’s own share of isolated, hate-filled violence. From the infamous church burnings and murders to instances of torture, it’s safe to say there are a few very seriously disturbed individuals on the fringes of the scene.

In both instances, the major block of the respective cultures renounce the violence of the fringe groups – but these events are so violent and atrocious it’s hard to separate them completely.

Both Have a “Ritual” Component

Sociologically speaking, a metal concert could be considered a ritual experience. Rituals aren’t limited to religious expression – for instance, shaking a person’s hand as a greeting is a common social ritual.

The metal concert is a ritual of heavy metal culture worldwide. Individual customs may vary based on location, for instance in the United States it’s generally considered taboo to wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see at a show (unless it’s a tour shirt purchased at the concert). However, in other areas of the globe this isn’t necessarily the case. Also, someone not familiar with the incredible variance of metal culture might not recognize that a Black Sabbath show and a Cannibal Corpse show are both considered to fall in the general realm of metal shows.

Likewise, a church sermon is a ritual of Christian culture worldwide. Traditions in American churches might seem foreign to those in Europe or elsewhere. Snake-handling is a tradition of some churches in the southern United States, while the custom wouldn’t be recognized anywhere else in the world. Someone not familiar with the relative diversity of Christianity might not recognize that a Russian Orthodox service and a Southern Baptist service both fall in the general realm of Christian ritual.

And in both cases, the end result of a successful “ritual” is the same – they solidify social bonds between participants.

Both Utilize an Atmosphere of Persecution to Solidify Their Respective Bases

This one’s kind of interesting – as both Heavy Metal and Christianity have a history of persecution. In fact, considering the universal symbol of Christianity is an instrument of torture used against the founder (the cross), one could argue that Christianity is based on a mindset of persecution. Likewise, the founder of heavy metal (Ozzy, through Black Sabbath) was publicly persecuted (granted, he wasn’t tortured and killed – once of the nice things about 2,000 years of cultural advancements, as an accusation of blasphemy has certainly led to public execution historically), most notably in his Suicide Solution trial in the 80’s.

Funny thing about a culture of persecution – it tends to solidify social bonds of the persecuted group and lend a universal sense of purpose through opposition of the invisible “other”. Metal bands and Priests/Pastors alike take advantage of this social mechanism rather liberally. I’m not saying it isn’t for good reason, in certain parts of the world Christians and Metalheads certainly are persecuted – and generally for the same reason. Because they both represent the spread of Western Culture in an area. Bearing this in mind, the tension between metal and christian cultures can be viewed in a different light.

Now, by definition these two groups aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be a christian (or a member of any other faith) and still be a metalhead. So, why is it that so many christian groups are against heavy metal? And why are so many metal artists and fans so vehemently against the christian church?

Short answer – on a macro level they’re after the same thing… membership. They might phrase it differently – Christianity generally says it’s around to “save people’s eternal souls”, while metal is generally there to “free people’s minds” and “promote individual thought”. But at the end of the day, the results are the same. A church saving a person’s soul generally implies participation in christian culture, and by inference the spread of that culture. Likewise, heavy metal grabbing a person’s attention and getting them to think for themselves usually includes participation and perpetuation of metal culture.

They Both Utilize Horror Themes

At first glance, this might seem ridiculous. But if you really break down the components of “Hellfire Preaching” and compare them to death metal lyrics, you’re likely to find a common denominator in horror themes.

In both instances, this is a manifestation of a culture catering to the morbid interests of their bases. Because at the end of the day, there isn’t that much difference between talking about people being tortured eternally in hell and singing about torture in any other medium. In this light heavy metal and hellfire sermons can both be viewed as extensions of horror themed entertainment. Because let’s face it, people like to be scared.

Also, there’s this.

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