Native American Folk Metal

American Indian culture has been associated with metal since its roots. Bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar and Anthrax celebrated American Indian culture and empathized with the plight of their race, in songs like Run to the Hills, Spirit of the Cherokee and, of course, Indians.  It makes perfect sense for metal to celebrate such a culture, as it is enmeshed with struggle, strife, warrior lords, mystery and magic. Indian culture is as celebrated in metal as Egyptian or Viking culture because of its mystery.

However, there is a clandestine subset of metal warriors taking the enigma and plight of the Native Americans to whole new levels. Native American folk metal is a sub genre quickly making its way to the forefront. Also dubbed ancestral metal, pre-hispanic metal or tribal metal, this relatively new genre incorporates the use of indigenous instruments into its sound to embody a fullness and uniqueness in sound and melody that rivals well known Russian folk bands like Kroda or Nokturnal Mortum.

I stumbled upon this genre accidentally. With my interest in the flute growing, I was curious as to what American bands were pumping out great folk metal. People tend to forget that America is more than just the USA, so in my quest I chanced upon a slew of South American, Mexican and Central American bands, all celebrating their indigenous roots and shunning an unwelcome invasion of the Spaniards in their credo. I detected a glimmer of underlying “nationalism” (should I say) in the music, which took me back to the roots of the Scandinavian black metal scene of the 90’s. However their rage is justified and I empathized with the message delivered.

I listened to a number of bands and gained a great deal of respect for the purity of the genre, but three artists stuck with me, with epic albums that I will revisit over and over.
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Ch’aska
Carlo Alonso “Hueso” Raffo~ Vocals, Guitars (rhythm)
Marcelo Huacpe~ Native Instruments
Carlos Llosa~ Bass
Fabián Flores Castro~ Drums
Christian Aguirre~ Guitars (lead)

Upon first listening to this band, I was ready to discard them as a 3 inches of blood rip off.  They quickly redeemed themselves, however, by exceeding the power of 3 inches of blood and refining a unique sound all their own.  Their is a sense of victory achieved in the sound, helping to conjure images of battle and the hunt.  Injecting masterfully timed breaks with clean vocals and buildups of epic proportions, this band certainly knows how to leave a listener hooked and wanting for more.  At it’s heart, Peruvian outfit, Ch’aska is a thrashy power metal band, larger than life and bombastic, but the addition of native woodwind instruments to their sound gives the band an interesting feel.  Thus far, Ch’aska has released only one full length album entitled Pururauca and a couple of EP’s.  We can only hope to hear more from this band soon.  I know they have me hooked.

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Guahaihoque
Munseishi~ Ancestral Woodwinds
Naoma~ Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Saitaz~ Bass
Demolt~ Drums
Itztlin~ Vocals

Columbia’s Guahaihoque is the first tribal metal band I had the pleasure of listening to.  What this band does really well is incorporate the use of indigenous instruments in an ingenious way.  Perhaps the most “tribal” of the bands I’ve heard, Guahaihohoque struggled to keep my attention during the more metal parts of their album The Return of the Ancient Gods, only truly shining with their folk elements.  Some of the riffing sounded a bit immature, even “punkish”.  While the band may need to work on refining their sound, their use of the wooden flute is practically hypnotic, making this band truly noteworthy and groundbreaking.

folkheim

Folkheim
Nelson Vilaboa~ Bass
Martin Moreira~ Drums
Erik Nicolas Muñoz Arraño~ Guitars
Pedro Muñoz~ Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Andrés de la Cuadra~ Keyboards
Cristóbal Carmona~ Vocals

Of all the bands within this atypical genre, I was perhaps most impressed by the Chilean sextet, Folkheim.  Forming back in 2003, Folkheim has released two EP’s and their first full length album last year.  Mapu Ni Tiam (the bands first full length release) floored me, as did their EP, Pachakuti.  Folkheim would be considered great black/folk metal even by Russian or Scandinavian standards, with their captivating melodies and hypnotizing breaks into clean chant-like vocals.  Their use of the keyboards is utterly ingenious as it evokes emotions of sadness, embodying the trail of tears left behind by a once sovereign race.  Overall, though, the feel of the music is that of victory, like in all great folk metal.  Once again this band doesn’t forget their native roots, using indigenous instruments throughout their records.  What truly sets Folkheim apart, is the literal, breaks of strictly native music sprinkled throughout their releases that evoke images of rain dances, battle cries and buffalo jumps.  I have yet to find even one song I don’t like.  Folkheim is epic beyond measure.

For those among you bored by the droves of cookie cutter black and folk metal bands, but not wanting to delve into hipster territory for a change of pace, I highly recommend this great new genre.  It is like nothing you’ve ever heard.  So everyone, get out your peace pipe, relax and join me around the fire for a little tribal metal.  Happy Listening.  Hails!

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God Serpent

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As a general rule, black metal is characterized by it’s simplicity and repetitiveness. Gone are the days of easily classifiable metal.  Hailing from Bulgaria, God Serpent is pushing the limits of black metal with their independently released, debut album, entitled Rebellion.

In an era of dreamy, experimental and polished black metal, God Serpent is seemingly on a mission to pollute the glossy and pretentious droves with their credo of filth. They’ve added a special element to their styling, setting them apart.  “Rebellion” drips of technicality.  While the overall feel of the album is grimy and raw, the solos are polished, clean and highly complex.  At times the technical elements can become a bit redundant, sounding a bit like technicality for technicality’s sake, for the most part, though, the band’s debut flows nicely.  There are hints of ambiance sprinkled throughout the LP that compliment the album well and accommodate the overall flow of the record.  God Serpent’s grit is a throwback to the blackened thrash bands of the 80’s and the choruses are highly discernible and anthemic on tracks like Litany of Satan and Rise of the Antichrist, leading me to believe this band will be epic live, despite their laughably common appearance.

The band is hardly “cold”, with their love of the solo, but they maintain that rawness and dangerousness so often forgotten about in today’s world of glossy, produced metal.  Who knew, Bulgaria of all countries, could pump out such good metal?  God Serpent is a refreshing listen for lovers of thrash, black metal and guitar virtuosos alike.  As usual, I will let you judge for yourself.  Happy Listening.  Hails!

Embalmination Tour 2013

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Embalmer has embarked on their western tour with Forged in Gore, and I (being a Cleveland native) was fortunate enough to catch the first show of the tour in their hometown with featured act, Rottrovore as well as local bands Blood Coven, Funeral Pyre and of course, Forged in Gore. The show was held at Lakewood’s only exclusively metal venue, The Foundry. The club is known for being one of many names (The HiFi, The Breakfast Club etc.) but has really come into it’s own as a spot for extreme metal. Slow to compete with punk/metal pub, Now That’s Class, The Foundry has respectfully become a haven for the underground in the past two years.

Blood Coven was the first band to hit the stage. They kicked off the evening nicely, playing classics, Warmaggedon and Feel My Steel, as well as showcasing their new track Age of Hell, to a lackluster crowd. Perhaps the highpoint of the set, for me at least, was when they played my request, Godless and Wicked.  The set was a bit sloppy in places, but not unforgivably so and the pure evil and aggression emanating from the stage, well made up for any slop in the performance.  Perhaps the only true disappointment was the utter disinterest, yielding from the crowd.  I can not, for the life of me, figure out why Blood Coven hasn’t become a greater force in the Cleveland metal scene.  Alas, I appeared to be the only person familiar with the material.  It was of no consequence to me however, I’ve been that person numerous times.  Blood Coven is truly a band worthy of recognition, so I give you Age of Hell!

Blood Coven’s ass kickery made way for black metal outfit Funeral Pyre. Funeral Pyre prefaced their first performance in twenty years with smells of acrid incense and arrant blackness. The crowd prepared for a celebration of evil. The enthusiasm of the crowd would only be met with sheer disappointment, as the set was an utter disaster. The drums were entirely too loud, drowning out sloppily played guitars.  Vocalist Brian Sekula, lazily fluttered about a goats skull as he shrieked classic tracks, Prosperity of Satan’s Reign and Celtic Sun.  Brief moments of harmony were quickly halted by clumsy mistakes, so attempts to get lost in the music or even discern one song from the next, were futile.  This band will definitely have to work together and practice more if they intend to gain a following in the underground live circuit.  Either that, or remain a studio band.

The show wouldn’t be a total bust, however, Forged in Gore hit the stage next to tear our faces off with the brutal death metal Cleveland has become known for.  Lightening fast riffing, blast beats and guttural “vokills” characterized the set.  Tongue in cheek requests for the band to slow down were met with a proverbial middle finger and even faster playing on the track Afterbirth Hors d’ oeuvre. Vocalist/bassist Brian Baxter engaged the crowd even further, inciting mosh pits and interacting with fans. Embalmer vocalist Paul Gorefiend performed guest vocals on a cover song to much approval from the crowd. Forged in Gore put on an incredible set. The band exudes professionalism and can most definitely anticipate a promising future.

We’d all anticipated Embalmer would go on next as initially Rottrevore was supposed to close the show but at that point in the evening everyone was inebriated and logistics mattered little.  Rottrovore went on next.  Excitement came over the crowd as Rottrevore set the perform their first live show in Cleveland in over 20 years.  Although I, personally am not an avid fan of the brutal death foursome, the band did not disappoint diehards, performing classic tracks like Unanimous Approval and Incompetent Secondary to perfection. Rottrovore closed their set with Conspiracised and fittingly the performance was met with “unanimous approval”.

The final band of the evening to play was of course, goregrind aficionados, Embalmer. An intoxicated Paul Gorefiend hit the stage, spewing vocals to utter perfection. You would never guess that he was wasted or that he’d injured his ribs at a Goatwhore show months back. Embalmer killed it, performing tracks from their must-have compilation from 1997, There Was Blood Everywhere, such as Rotten Body Fluids, the title track and my favorite, Bone Box. They also introduced new tracks from the soon to be released LP Apocalyptic Bloodshower. The new songs may have even exceeded the aggression found on earlier releases, which excites me for the release of Apocalyptic Bloodshower. The band closed with the classic, I am the Embalmer, paying homage to sole original member Roy Stewart. Embalmer did not fail to meet high expectations and “keep it fucking sick”!

Overall, the show was the definition of underground metal, with exorbitant demo trading, unofficial, laid back meet and greets, heavy promotion and intense gratitude for underground heads.  A rapturous evening of gore, dedicated to diehards.

Embalmer is currently touring the west coast with Forged in Gore. Dates are as follows…

6/8 Cleveland, OH
6/11 Kansas City, Missouri
6/14-6/15 Las Vegas Deathfest, Las Vegas, Nevada
6/17 Sacremento, California
6/18 Los Angeles, California
6/21 San Diego, California
6/22 Tempe, Arizona
6/25 Houston, Texas
6/26 Dallas, Texas
6/28-6/29 Gutfest, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Catch them in your town! Happy Listening! Hails!

Reflection of the Negative: Cough/Windhand

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While everyone was busy disseminating the new Ghost record and beating off to the glitzy and gimmicky, so-called “originality” of the Swedish sextet, Sludge/Doom outfit Cough was quietly emerging from the quicksand of the Virginia wetlands with their crippling addition to the split with Windhand, Reflection of the Negative, entitled Athame.   The track invites the listener in an opium den of torture and leaves them lame with a slow and echoing drumbeat, a crunchy and hypnotic riff and raspy, sludge vocals.  Staying in doom tradition, the track is obnoxiously long, 18 and a half minutes to be exact, yet never bores with repetitive riffs, instead bridging in proper spots and evoking painful passion in the vocals, drawing the listener further in.  “Crack! Altar! Ritual of Suicide! The time has come…the time has come for sacrifice”, are lyrics you will surely find yourself singing as Cough slowly put’s you under their spell.  Clearly the standout track on the split, Athame is an unadulterated celebration of pain. Fans of Eyehategod, The Melvins and Sourvein take note.  Cough is a worthy addition on the altar of sludge deities.

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Fellow Virginian’s, Windhand’s contributions to Reflection of the Negative, Amaranth and Shepard’s Crook, may not be as memorable as the Cough track, but still hypnotize the listener, inviting them into a world of pain.  Clean and ambient, soulful vocals, traditional doom repetitive riffing and a slow, seductive drumbeat, characterize Windhand’s unique sound.  Reminiscent of doom pioneers, Electric Wizard, yet with more atmosphere, Windhand is most definitely a band worth taking note of.  The band has one full length album to date, boasting rave reviews and does not disappoint on this split.  I am confident we will be seeing more of this band in the future.

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Reflection of the Negative was released on Relapse Records on April 16 of this year and is available for free streaming on Bandcamp.  I’ve posted a link below.  Happy Listening.  Hails!

http://coughwindhand.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.myspace.com/cough666
http://www.myspace.com/windhand/music

Earthling

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This band has seemingly emerged from nowhere.  Virginia based, psychedelic doom thrashers, Earthling have released their debut album Dark Path and metal fans everywhere are still absorbing the sheer originality of it.  If you’re looking for a hamburger look elsewhere, because Dark Path is a goat curry.  There is no such thing as straight up metal anymore it seems and Earthling is exploring territory seldom charted.  With blackened thrash style vocals, thrash/sludge riffs, doomy breaks and Volume 4 era Sabbath soloing, Earthling is a feast for the senses.  Despite the bands apparent love the “subgenre”, their debut album never confuses the listener with experimental mumbo jumbo, instead delivering a groovy thrash injected doom to bearded stoners and conjuring images of marijuana smoke-filled rooms and broken bottle fights at biker parties.  Tracks like Losing Sight send the listener through a maelstrom of resonance, ranging from headbanging riffs to head swaying, arm flailing psychedelia.   Subgenre or not, nothing about this band feels contrived and if the debut release gives any indication of future releases, Earthling will have a promising career. For now though, put on your denim vest and your cowboy hat and join me in the swamp with Earthling.  Happy Listening.  Hails!


http://www.myspace.com/earthlingva

Istapp

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In the arena of underground metal, there is no shortage of “active” artists that are in limbo instead of in the studio. Some of these bands are great. They are bands I refuse to give up on. Istapp is one of those bands.  A refreshing blend of melodic Swedish black metal and folk, Istapp’s recordings are a consecrated celebration of winter.  Istapp means icicle in Swedish.  I’d be hard pressed to find something in nature more metal than an icicle.  Not only is an icicle cold, it can fucking kill you.  Approximately 30 people a year are impaled to death by falling icicles.  That’s nothing to sniff at.

Istapp rivals the daunting omnipresence of the icicle with their 2010 release, Blekinge.  Few bands match the coldness achieved on Blekinge while maintaining the beautiful resonance of melody we find here.  There is a rawness to their sound, found in few melodic bands that eliminates an element of cheese so often celebrated in the world of folk metal.  Istapp is a novel amalgamation of Swedish black metal pioneers Dissection and Slavic Pagan Metal outfit Temnozor.  The band could set itself apart even more by focusing more on the folk elements of the sound, perhaps experimenting with instruments like the flute or horn.  The clean vocals, while sparse, are anthemic and highly impressive, leaving the listener wishing for more.  Not only will you be wanting more clean vocals whilst listening to the 2010 release, you will want more material.  Unfortunately there is not much.  Istapp has released three demos and a compilation entitled Koldens Union in addition to Blekinge.

While everything the band has released is worth listening to the band has been seemingly out of commission since 2010.  One can only discern that there have been problems with the lineup as Istapp did not begin as a one man project.  We can only hope that Istapp will soon record again, but for now I welcome you to join me in the frostbitten fury that is Istapp.  Happy Listening.  Hails!


http://www.myspace.com/istapp