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Metal Stuff’s 2017 Review: The Year in Metal

The Good

It was a good year for metal releases.

I think the metal community got spoiled after last year’s “metal bubble” and the Thrash revival. Compared to the incredible amount of good music that got dumped on us anything is going to seem lackluster, but 2017 was a good fucking year for heavy music (once you accept that 2016 was a happy fluke).

Metal Stuff Top 15 albums of 2017

15) Suffer in Paradise – Ephemere

Suffer in Paradise - Ephemere

Quality Funeral Doom from Russia, this album was my “October surprise” for 2017. The synth is a little weird at first, but the contrast lends to the overall atmosphere of the album.

 

14) Loss – Horizonless

Loss - Horizonless

I actually didn’t like this album the first time I listened to it. Glad I gave it another chance – guess it’s more of a grower than a shower. Not necessarily a bad thing, albums like that tend to stand the test of time.

 

13) Nortt – Endeligt

Nortt - Endeligt

Holy fuck. This solo Funeral Doom project from Denmark never disappoints. His last album (Galgenfrist) was released 10 years ago, and the decade long wait for the new album was more than worth it. Dark, gloomy, cold, and most importantly heavy as fuck.

 

12) Belphegor – Totenritual

Belphegor = Totenritual

I’ve been stoked for this album since Belphegor released the video for “Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration” 2 years ago. Another album that was well worth the wait.

 

 

11) Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis

Akercocke - Renaissance in Extremis

A lot of people didn’t like the clean vocals on the album. I’ll admit, Jason isn’t getting any younger – and time has taken a bit of a toll on his vocal chords. But as a whole, that doesn’t really take away from the album for me. The band is as sharp as they’ve ever been, and while the cleans in some sections seem a bit strained, I almost wonder if that’s intentional – because if you listen to other tracks (like the one below), the cleans are pretty fucking good. I dunno, judge for yourself.

 

10) Tie (Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black and Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained)

I couldn’t choose, both bands released some quality material this year (in both cases, also significantly better than the previous release). Straightforward, in your face death metal with no bells or whistles.

 

9) Kreator – Gods of Violence

Kreator_-_Gods_of_Violence

Right on the tail end of the Thrash resurgence, Kreator dropped an excellentalbum that (like most albums released in the first half of the year) seems to have been left out of people’s top albums of the year. Why/How is beyond me, this album is quintessential thrash.

8) Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper

Probably the Funeral Doom release that received the most hype this year (for good fucking reason), the album has lived up to and surpassed any expectations I had. Mirror Reaper seemed to dance on that “invisible line” in the doom metal spectrum between Funeral Doom and Drone (not a bad thing)

 

7) Eluveitie – Evocation II

Eluveitie-Evocation-II-Pantheon

I know, I know. It’s a fucking acoustic album on a top metal albums of the year list. Since recruiting like 20 new members, it’s cool to see these guys bouncing back stronger than ever.

The band already has a full-on folk metal album in the works, and I’m as excited as a pig in shit. If the entire album holds up to the teaser single below, we’re in for a treat next year.

 

6) Mesmur – S

Mesmur-S

These guys need to cough up some merchandise so I can throw more money at them. This was another album that caught me completely off guard this year. Pure sonic embodiment of despair.

 

5) Funeris – Dismal Shapes

Funeris - Dismal Shapes

Argentinian Funeral Doom mastermind Alejandro Sabransky delivers another masterpiece. This guy just writes riffs that satisfy my addiction to heavy music. Punishingly heavy – this really is an album you need to lay down, turn off the lights, and let wash over you.

 

4) Frowning – Extinct

frowning - extinct

The sophomore release from German solo Funeral Doom act Frowning was one of the two albums I was most excited to hear this year. I’ll tell you something, Val doesn’t disappoint. This is pure Funeral Doom that doesn’t sacrifice the residual aggression and heaviness of Death Doom. I really can’t say enough good about this album, or this artist. This is what Funeral Doom is supposed to sound like.

 

3) Temple of Void – Lords of Death

Temple of Void - Lords of Death

This was the third album that caught me completely off guard and blew me out of the water this year. Dark, crushing riffs – if a “holy shit” level of heavy is what you’re looking for then look no further.

 

2) Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With

DF - Wrong one

This is another album that got a lot of beaming reviews, but failed to make most people’s end of year lists. Odd, considering the hype leading up to the album – and how well the band delivered.

1) Unleash the Archers – Apex

UTA - Apex

Favorite album of the year hands down. Hands fucking down. There’s literally nothing I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said. The musicianship is solid, and they’ve managed to capture that “American Metal” production delivering a crystal clear sonic assault directly to your ears. Brittney Slayes vocal chords are simply amazing, I’m a rather big fan of the layered harmonies on a lot of the songs. Even the concept of the album (yes, I’m a sucker for concept albums) is fucking awesome – a stone giant sleeping in a mountain is summoned by an evil sorceress to gather her sons from around the world so she can sacrifice them and gain immortality – told from the viewpoint of the stone giant. Catchy and fun while undeniably heavy and metallic, this is an album you shouldn’t miss.

Honorable Mentions:

Alestorm – No Grave but the Sea, Pallbearer – Heartless, Septicflesh – Codex Omega, Obituary – Self Titled, Myrkur – Mareridt, Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard, Skyclad – Forward into the Past, Decapitated – Anticult, Suffocation – …of the Dark Light, Code Orange – Forever, Æther Realm – Tarot

The Year of OSDM

As predicted last year, metal moved forward from a year of thrash to a year of old-school death metal. It’s not some ground breaking revelation, that’s the order extreme metal evolved in organically.

Once you accept the fact that everything is cyclical, it makes perfect sense that the next phase of metal releases would include the original death metal pioneers.

I’d say releases by Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Decapitated, Six Feet Under, Suffocation, and Autopsy certainly support my ongoing theory that extreme metal movements will mirror the original evolution of the sub-genres.

At this point I would like to predict a major swath of Black Metal releases next year. Dark Fortress, Isahn, Immortal, Shining, Watain, Dimmu Borgir, and Nachmystium all have material in the studio and are all expected to release albums next year – so we’ll see.

Other cool shit

There’s a new fucking Demons and Wizards album coming out next year. New Eluveitie as well.

Be excited.

Be very excited.

I don’t think there was a single bad Funeral Doom release this year. Obviously, the big story here was Bell Witch’s new album – I think there was better FD released this year, but I gotta hand it to these guys – Mirror Reaper was an excellent fucking album.

 

The Mediocre

There were bands that, by all rights, should have released some groundbreaking fucking material that just decided to coast this year.

Arch Enemy released “War Eternal Part II”, but decided to call it “Will to Power”. For fucks sake, they’ve got Jeff Loomis and this is the best thing they could come up with? Oh, and that thing when Amott said there’d never be clean vocals on an Arch Enemy album? Yeah, that’s gone. Goddamn it. I love every fucking member of this band, which is why I’m probably a little over critical, I just hate to see a super group of this magnitude cashing out so soon.

Empire of Sand by Mastodon was another one that really bugged me. “Show Yourself” was utter garbage.

Also disappointingly mediocre – TBDM, Dragonforce, GWAR, and Trivium.

 

The Bad, the Really Bad, and the Ugly

Shit went down when #rapegate hit heavy metal. Decapitated, Suicide Silence, Inanimate Existence, Twiggy (Marilyn Manson’s guitarist), Anthrax’s old guitarist Dan Spitz, Shining. I’m sure there was more. Oh yeah, Gene Simmons – that one caught me totally off guard.

Deaths:

  • 1/28 – Geoff Nicholls (Black Sabbath)
  • 2/13 – Trish Doan (Kittie)
  • 4/5 – Paul O’Neill (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
  • 5/17 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden)
  • 7/14 – David Zablidowsky (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
  • 7/20 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Logs Park)
  • 9/22 – Eric Eycke (Corrosion of Conformity)
  • 10/21 – Martin Eric Ain (Celtic Frost)
  • 10/22 – Daisy Berkowitz (Marilyn Manson)
  • 11/1 – Scott Wily (Vital Remains)
  • 11/7 – Whitey Glan (Alice Cooper)
  • 11/9 – Chuck Mosley (Faith No More)
  • 12/13 – Warrel fucking Dane (Sanctuary, Nevermore)

 

Black Sabbath disbanded too.

So yeah, there’s all of that. I probably missed something.

Weird fucking year.

 

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Metal Stuff Interviews Italian Death Metal Outfit LECTERN

“Death metal must be a shockwave,with its aftermaths as lyrical subliminality like a shellshock! No compromise, no mercy!”
-Fabio Bava

 

First and foremost, the staff at Metal Stuff are all fans of the extreme sub-genres of metal. In particular, Old School Death Metal.

Usually we have to seek it out (through the net, mutual friends, record labels, etc), so when the guys in Lectern got ahold of us and wanted to do an interview – saying we were thrilled might be a bit of an understatement.

These guys fucking rip.

logo

 

You can check out/grab a copy of the album here. Last I checked physical copies were sold out, but you can always snag a digital download for about 6 bucks.

I have nothing but good to say about the music these guys put out – so instead of an album review I’m going to say check out their bandcamp and decide for yourself.

‘Precept of Delator’
LECTERN
Via Nocturna

Metal Stuff: I have to say, I don’t hear about many metal bands from Italy. How is the metal scene there? And how difficult is it for an Italian death metal band to get a following compared to other places in Europe or the United States? Are there a lot of opportunities to play live shows at home, or do you have to travel?

Fabio: “We had and we have great bands here right now, if compared to thirty years ago. Italian outfits are well known if we speak about Lacuna Coil, Death Ss, Labyrinth and others. The scene is full in every genre, from hard rock to grind as we have also, quite good venues for the shows, but most of the bands prefer to throw shit one to the others. It is a very stupid attitude I think, as for the public, they prefer big names to the underground concerts. Mentality follows how the people is, and it is reflected also in the way musicians play and behave. Do you think is it allowable, that famous musicians struggle each other, through stupid comments on the web? If I would be the owner of a record company, I should fire them all in one instant! Music is not a fucking blog, I think! Am I wrong about that?”.

Marco: “I guess, as for every place you live, it gets easier to play time after time. It depends of course by your popularity. Italy has a great problem about metal music, not very much interesting by the public, especially for emerging bands. So it gets even harder. That’s why we prefer to play outside (of Italy)”.

MS: You guys have been around since 1999 now, and it looks like you’ve gone through a few lineup changes. How have your new members influenced your sound on the new album?

Fabio: “I am the main influence, leading the band into Florida old school death metal. We formed with the only aim, of playing that kind of music, with a brutal but not technical approach. Who comes and went off the band, before joining Lectern already knew the musical direction at first. I hate misunderstandings, you know! Lectern death metal must be a shockwave,with its aftermaths as lyrical subliminality like a shellshock! No compromise, no mercy!”.

MS: I really like the fact that you guys stick with an old school death metal sound on Precept of Delator. How would you say the new album compares to your previous work?

Fabio: “We have not to look backwards, to the previous records and songs we wrote. It is not a sort of challenge! It’s death metal, you cannot always label if old school or classic, it’s fucking death metal! Almost all bands, play in the same fucking way, brutal, splatter and slam, there are no recognizing sides, all is the same! Why? Old school is the only way, as I said before! The intent with the new album, was to surpass whatever we ever recorded
in the years. I thought that we needed the best and raw sound, first of all for the guitars. We returned detuning them down of four tones, got the right cabinet and the best studio to record! Essentially, the songs are more brutal, with grunts  and the right harsh attitude. It’s not easy to reach that point, and for the next works expect certainly more and better!”.

Marco: “This new album is for me, more calculated. Not rushed as the first. With this one, we wanted to focus much on the atmosphere than the technique, while in the first one we were a little show-off. I personally took care of the sound effects, introductions and middle sections”.

the-band

MS: I see you guys have played with some pretty big names (Angra, Sepultura, Incantation) is there any chance you will tour the United States in the future?

Fabio: “I hope so! We spoke about that many times, but we never found the real occasion to come along yet. You know, it’s very far from home, as we have to manage everything in all the aspects. Flights, stayings, coach, instrumentation and  amplification, wages, costs, venues, opening bands, merchandise, promotion and whatever. Playing in the United States will be the final leap into a sort of celebrity, and everything needs to be filled in all its forms. It is not just playing into another continent and Europe is different from North America! Yes, we hope to come one day, finally!”.

Marco: “If they call, we answer for sure, just keep that fake pizza away from me or I could kill someone! Anyway, it would be the perfect place for our music, the country where all began”.

MS: I hear a lot of old school death metal influence in your sound, what bands are you guys influenced by?

Fabio: “Sinister, Pestilence, Asphyx and Gorefest of the very beginnings, for the European side. Early bands of 1990’s Florida scene like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Monstrosity above all. Also the New York area is great with Immolation and Suffocation too, also from the American hinterland like Disincarnate, Incantation and Morta Skuld but without the necessity of being so  slow and doomish! I also appreciate some slam and gore bands, their ruthless approach is basic! I often listen to very old  bands like Cancer, Infernal Torment, Baphomet or Lemming Project. They were great combos with undeveloped ideas!
Not for their faults, but the reason was simply that labels begun not to be more so interested to death metal from the first half of the Nineties, from 1996 and on. I remember that Morgoth just the first name that comes into my mind, was another band in such period! If it is not death metal it is just fuck you!”.

Marco: “My drumming is based for the most on power metal of the 1990 and 2000, I got into death metal relatively later. Gamma Ray, Helloween and Rhapsody Of Fire for sure are bands I follow with attention, then some great inspirational drummers arrived later like Jordison, Mancino, Lombardo, Laureano and Kollias”.

MS:  What are your favorite songs on the new album and why?

Fabio: “As for myself, Palpation Of Sacramentarian kicks some Christian asses making me shitting in my pants alone, as for the first riff! Impressive, talented and fucking nasty as Satan!”.

Marco: “Fluent Bilocation is for me one of the most pleasant to be played, but I’m addicted to the final one, Discorporation With Feral. It gets a Slayer vibe that gets me every time!”.

MS: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the new album?

Fabio:
“It is a great record, buy it! Hush!”.

Lectern is:
Fabio Bava: vocals, bass
Pietro Sabato: guitar
Gabriele Cruz: guitar
Marco Valentine: drums

Contact Info:
www.lectern.in
www.facebook.com/lectern666
www.reverbnation.com/lectern
www.myspace.com/lecternband
www.metal-archives.com/bands/lectern
www.twitter.com/lectern666
www.instagram.com/lectern666
lectern@mail.com

Discography:
Bisbetical (1999)
Salvific Of Perhaps Lambent (2010)
Lectern (2013)
Fratricidal Concelebration (2015)
Precept Of Delator (2016)

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.

pantera

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?

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