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Top 5 Most Overrated Classic Metal Bands

The term overrated is indeed a favorite among metalheads. As a group, we love to quibble over which band is better than another as a kind of social primer. That said, there is a reason metalheads often find themselves citing bands as overrated. The mainstream media often gives undeserved attention to sub par bands while great musicians largely get ignored.

After explaining to your coworkers for the 100th time that “no, you don’t listen to screamo” it’s tempting to vent to your friends about the bands all those people continuously ask you about. After gathering your votes on Twitter, these are the top 5 most overrated classic metal bands.

5. KISS, AC/DC, Guns and Roses, Van Halen or Any Other Hard Rock Band the Media thinks is Metal

One of the most frustrating things about being a metalhead is continuously having to explain to people what metal even is, or what it’s supposed to sound like. Media outlets and popular music journalists have never given metal the attention it deserves and have often exalted hard rock bands as arbiters of the metal sound.

That Metal Show
These guys only talked about metal 10% of the time. Actual statistics.

Thankfully, this is beginning to change, but it wasn’t that long ago that VH1 was airing metal documentaries in which the heaviest band mentioned was Twisted Sister or Skid Row. While there is nothing wrong with Twisted Sister their sound definitely doesn’t have the qualities of a classic metal band such as Kreator, Slayer or even Sabbath. They simply lack the aggression and misanthropic air that defines metal.

As I said, this is beginning to change, and media outlets are starting to understand what makes metal metal, but this attitude is ultimately what led to the demise of great things like Headbangers Ball. Because extreme metal is a shocking sound for many, it’s tempting for many music journalists to attempt to make the music palatable for a larger audience.

Journalists are finally beginning to understand, however, the massive global appeal of extreme metal. When met with this attitude in the future, all metalheads have to do is simply explain that KISS is not a metal band.

4. Metallica

Perhaps no band in history has sold out harder than Metallica. Yet, despite only releasing 4 good albums, this band has gone down in history as one of the best classic metal bands of all time according to music journalists and the public alike. This is annoying as all hell.

metallica
Oh look it’s Nickleback!

Most metalheads can’t even remember the last time they listened to Master of Puppets or Ride the Lightening (2 of the acceptable Metallica releases) yet people can’t stop bringing them up whenever metal is mentioned.

The fact is, Metallica is a great example of an overrated metal band simply because of fact that there were several other, more exciting thrash bands in the Bay Area that were overlooked because Metallica stole the limelight. Bands such as Forbidden, Nuclear Assault, Death Angel or Vio-Lence barely get mentions much of the time, despite arguably being heavier, but Metallica, oh they’re right up there with Sabbath. Yeah, okay.

3. Death

I’m going to catch hell for this one, but yes, Death is definitely a perfect example of an overrated classic metal band. What irks me most about this band is how they’re treated like the end all be all of death metal. Diehard metalheads, however, have endless debates about the origins of death metal.

During Death’s inception, as Mantis even, there was a move toward heavier sounds (growled vocals, blast beats etc.) among many artists in the thrash scene.

Bands such as Sepultura, Kreator and Sacarfago were releasing albums that were arguably heavier than the milieu of upbeat, speed focused thrash that had come before. While their music could still be considered thrash, death metal definitely has its roots in these sounds. Could we call this proto-death metal? Did I just invent a thing?

*I think I hear the sound of death metal being born

That said, most metalheads are in agreement that the albums Seven Churches by Possessed and Scream Bloody Gore by Death sparked the death metal genre. I’m not here to dispute that. Maybe I lean more toward Seven Churches, but I digress.

I’m not here to dismiss the greatness of classics such as Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy. The reason I cite Death as an overrated classic metal band has to do with

A. The rabid nature of their fans.

B. The mediocrity within the entirety of their work.

Death fans are really another breed. Yes, I will concede that Death was a prime impetus in the creation of the death metal genre but does that mean that we stop there and not tip our hats to all the other incredible acts, who are arguably more interesting and heavier than Death. Any fan obsessed with a single band, or worse, a single album, cough *Individual Thought Patterns* cough, is just annoying.

death_-_individual_thought_patterns_front
Individual Snooze Patterns

As I mentioned earlier, Death was a part of a movement of thrash, as a whole, experimenting with heavier sounds. Bands such as Kreator and Sepultura were also central in spawning the death metal sound. Chuck Schuldiner did work harder than most in his time, I’ll give him that, but this move toward death metal was organic within the scene.

Furthermore, Death’s sound began to weaken and move toward more progressive sounds later in his career. While other bands were getting more brutal and uncompromising in their aggression, Death was releasing albums such as Symbolic which, despite having a few really good tracks on it, is clearly an album designed to appeal to the masses.

I know I’m going to get shit for this, but according to polls, I’m not alone in my belief that Death is an overrated metal band and I’m a bit tired of constantly hearing about how Chuck is god. There’s a million other bands I listen to more and find more interesting than Death.

2. Venom

In case I didn’t infuriate enough people by disgracing the name of Chuck Schuldiner, I’ll add Venom to the list of classic metal bands that are grossly overrated in the scene. Literally every book, article and documentary on black metal cites Venom as the inventors of the genre.

I hold umbrage with this notion because I argue it’s inaccurate. Despite releasing an album entitled Black Metal, Venom no more represents the message of modern black metal than Steppenwolf did heavy metal.

*Cronos distances himself from modern black metal

They certainly had a dangerous image in their time. I remember being a youngin’ and being shocked by their occult facade and violent stage presence. The problem is that this band began and ended at image.

Early Venom has very little in common was what black metal became, and Cronos will admit that. In fact, the entire band continually seeks to distance themselves from modern black metal.

Bathory is the clear first choice for inventing the true black metal sound. Quorthon never wrote anything that sounded like “Teacher’s Pet” and also shared a love the Nordic culture and landscape that would eventually becoming a defining component of the black metal genre.

*the birth of the modern black metal sound

Yet despite Cronos‘ consistent dismissal of black metal or the mediocre, rock and roll air of many Venom tracks, Venom continuously gets praise and recognition for inventing black metal. This needs to stop.

1. Pantera

To the people of whom Pantera’s placement on this list upsets, just know that I am laughing at you…..hard. There are endless reasons Pantera is the number one most overrated metal band of all time.

Glam Metal Pantera
Let’s never forget Pantera used to be a bunch of glam metal pussies….

First of all, who gave a bunch of bros the authority to define classic metal bands anyway? Pummeling through the thin walls of trailer parks everywhere, Pantera are unequivocally the kings bro-ness and douche baggery from their meathead inspired aggression down to Phil Anselmo’s white supremacist leanings.

Frankly, I’m not here to argue about Anselmo’s racism, though. My real beef with this band is the fact that, despite music journalists categorizing them as thrash, Pantera invented the douchiest genre of metal— nu metal.

Pantera Fan Meme
Y’all fans are a meme

Basically anytime metal sees a semblance of mainstream success it turns into something unrecognizable to diehard metalheads. This idea is central to the creation of nu metal. Nu metal was a stripped down and castrated form of metal that could be easily consumed by the masses and Pantera’s comical, adolescent hostility was the perfect cocktail to incubate the creation of bands such as Korn.

I really wouldn’t care that much if Pantera weren’t regarded as a legendary classic metal band in rank with bands like Maiden by so many media outlets and people. Despite admittedly having a few decent albums, Pantera is essentially the Mountain Dew of metal, yet, along with Metallica, they are probably the most recognizable name in the genre. This is why they’re the most overrated metal band of all time.

Can you think of any classic metal bands you think are overrated? Mention them in the comments. Also, should I write a list of overrated modern bands? Let me know. Underrated metal bands coming soon.

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The 10 Most Annoying Types of Metal Fans

In the many years I’ve spent frequenting local and underground shows, I’ve encountered many different types of metal heads. Some of the coolest, most hardworking, intelligent and passionate people I know hold a special place in their hearts for the world’s most extreme genre of music. Metal fans are diverse, with a culture spanning all over the globe and attracting generations of listeners.

That said, any genre of music is bound to attract bottom feeders and scummy assholes. Annoying people are everywhere and extreme metal is not immune to attracting society’s most irritating masses. During my time in the scene, I’ve been able to assess a few common types of people attracted to extreme metal that would have been better off as mere cum stains on their mother’s 200 thread count sheets.  Here are the top 10 most annoying types of metal fans.

The Only Knows One Band Guy

This dude can usually be spotted at fests and major shows and will oust himself within minutes. He loves Slayer, or Pantera, or Death, has memorized their entire discography and he wants you to know about it.

This guy’s annoying because he’s not really a metal fan. He’s a Slayer fan. While others love Slayer, and may even call them their favorite band, they don’t obsess about the band to the point of the exclusion of all other bands.

What I’ve found, is that many of these obsessive fans of one band don’t identify with the metal genre outside of that band. Slayer or Pantera gives them an opportunity to go nuts. That’s all fine and dandy, except that the media often depicts these one band pony guys as “true metal heads” which is both inaccurate and annoying. Metal heads are actually pretty complex and the dude screaming SLAAAYYYERRRR! at the top of his lungs is not.

The Uber Elitist

Also known as “me,” guilty as charged. I think most music journalists are to some degree. I can understand how this happens. When you belong to a subculture that society continually attempts to undermine, it can be tempting to hold that which you adore so deeply within your clutches that you get tunnel vision.

Metal heads are constantly told to open their minds to other, shittier types of music, only to have absolutely no one open up their mind to their music. The few times a metal head can get their EDM DJ friend to listen to Sadistic Intent with them, they have to listen to them rattle off the same drivel about how they “couldn’t understand the lyrics,” “they prefer music with clean vocals,” or about how they “should check out this band Five Finger Death Punch” who they naively believe is just as heavy. They insult your music despite the fact that they’re literally listening to a cleverly arranged computer generated noise.

It gets even worse when the clubs, record stores and magazines refuse to cater to your unique tastes in underground metal. When you see your favorite club, that was once exclusively metal, booking emo bands to rack in bucks, or your favorite magazine featuring Bring Me the Horizon on the cover when you could think of at least eight bands more deserving of that position, you begin to feel as though extreme metal is this special thing just for you to love.

elitist

That said, if we want Revolver to put UADA on the cover instead of Deafheaven, elitist metal fans need cultivate an environment that allows the movement to grow. Looking down on someone for not knowing who Belphegor is helps no one. Nor does refusing to acknowledge bands who even slightly experiment with other styles in their sound as “true” metal. These kinds of experimentation help new listeners get acquainted with a musical style they might not know they liked.

Myrkur is a perfect example of this. Her fusion of Scandinavian folk, black metal elements and neo goth/classical was beautiful in a lot of ways. Was it the future of black metal? Fuck no! But the manner in which many true metal heads went about in berating her efforts was pretty gross. This attitude is going to continue to get metal dismissed as a relevant genre of music by mainstream outlets. Cultivating that niche factor is cool to some degree but eventually it can be frustrating to watch metal be continually be overlooked in the media, despite its massive global scope.

The Anti-Elitist

anti-elitis

The polar opposite of the aforementioned elitist, the anti-elitist thinks elitism is what’s ruining the extreme metal scene. This guy’s right, to a degree; elitist’s snobbery is off-putting to newcomers in the extreme metal community. The problem is that this guy takes his loathing of elitism too far. He can often be found on social media and message boards in a keyboard battle with a true metal fan inventing genres like melodic brutal death metal.

What usually unites these anti-elitist types is their love for a band that’s been deemed as a “poser” band, such as: Lamb of God, Slipknot, Cradle of Filth or Mushroomhead. Many of these types actually love some of the heaviest genres of extreme metal but some overly machismo elitist turds gave them crap for liking one too many deathcore bands a long time ago and they’ve never been able to recover. Now whenever a friend glibly remarks about not liking deathcore they flail shamelessly about how elitists like him are “ruining metal.” All the dude said was that he didn’t like it.

What’s at the core of this guy’s behavior is his own insecurity. He feels like he isn’t as seasoned in differentiating various styles of metal as others, or that his ear isn’t as discerning, so he lashes out at those with discerning tastes in metal, claiming they’re bringing about the downfall of the scene. He is right on some level, petty squabbling does not help metal grow. But he needs to calm down. His insecurity is showing.

The Hardcore/Old School Guy Who Wants to Get All Political

This is a more recent phenomenon. Sure, there have always been bands like Brujeria and Gojira whose lyrical themes were political. But the volatile political climate in the present day has everyone thinking they’re a goddamn pundit and it’s making us all hate each other.

In one corner you have the left winger metal fans who’ve leaked from the hardcore scene and are on a mission to save black metal from the Nazis. According to them, most black metal bands are Nazis — even ones who’ve only expressed disdain for Islamic thought or who have included WWII imagery on their album covers. What was never that much of an issue before has been blown way the fuck out of proportion.

On the other side, you have the equally annoying anti SJW tribe ready to defend even actual fucking Nazis in the name of “free speech.” These guys are loud, obnoxious and just as triggered as their supposedly sensitive counterparts. They regularly announce their SJW purges on social media.

anti-kim_kelly
Whoooo cares?????

Metal is supposed to about escapism, but these assholes want to bring CNN into the club with them. Luckily, beers and shots can drown them out. But the truth is, metal should unite us. The tight-knit community of metal fans has always been heavy metal’s greatest strength, which is why it’s never really been about politics.

Those actual Nazi bands from back in the day have largely been ignored because no one cared. NSBM bands have mostly been deemed as bathroom black metal and many of them have turned to punk because punk rockers care more about the message than the music. The thing about metal is that it is really about the shreds…..and the devil. Hail Lucifer!

The Old Dude Always Talking About How Much Cooler it Was Back in the Day

One of the most interesting things about metal is its longevity. It’s stood the test of time and every year new generations of thrashers are born. According to some people, however, metal’s hey day is long gone. Metal was just better in the early 90s and it’s important to never stop talking about that fact.

This guy is usually pushing 40 or older and remembers the tape trading days like they were yesterday — even though he was only 12 when that shit was happening. According to this guy, shows just aren’t as cool as they used to be and the scene is dying a slow death.

He bases his opinion on low turn out for a Monday night show that wasn’t properly promoted. This dude never drops by those Friday night tech death shows packed to the brim with 20 year old pit monsters.

This person is against growth in the scene. He’s curmudgeonly and stuck in his own ways. He prefers the old school style and hates technology — he’s unwilling to budge. What these dudes will find is that, if they stepped outside their relatively closed off circle for a minute, metal is actually bigger than ever before. More bands are forming than in the past and fans are all the more dedicated to supporting the scene. Because there’s so much saturation in the scene, however, it can be difficult for bands to gain their footing and stand out among the rest. But that doesn’t mean the scene is dying. Quite the contrary, it’s on fire.

The Dude Who Won’t Stop Promoting

This guy’s in a band, did you know that? It never fails, every time there’s major metal show about 15 dudes promoting other, smaller shows, their bands, their distros or whatever show up. That’s all fine and dandy. The problem arises when these dudes don’t know when to calm down, stop promoting for a minute and just have a beer and enjoy the show. I can’t be too hard on this guy though, at least they support the scene.

The Genre Specific Guy

elitist metal fans

This person won’t give anything outside their genre preference a chance. It’s one thing to have an inclination toward a particular sub-genre of extreme metal, it’s quite another to regard all other genres as lame or inferior to your genre of choice.

To be fair, metal fans of this ilk are genuinely rare. More often than not, people who know jack about extreme metal assume we’re all like this. But this dude does exist and it’s pretty fucking annoying. If this is you, expand your horizons; you might discover something cool.

The Dude Who Gets Violent in the Pit

The mosh pit is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood elements of extreme metal.  Outsiders looking in often view mosh pits as rings of violence — cold Darwinist death traps caustically thwarting the souls of lesser creatures disquieted by the sight of blood.

Metal heads see things differently, however. Pit etiquette is mandatory. If someone falls, pick them up so they don’t get trampled. Don’t mess with the people on the sidelines. Protect the women from the giant dudes and overall just have a rowdy good time with limited amounts of bloodshed.

Unfortunately, there’s always one dude, in virtually every pit, that has to mess things up for everyone. This guy is usually wasted and oblivious to how irritating his actions are. Often, he is an outlier in the scene, someone unknown by many of the locals, who’s acting up seemingly to garner attention to himself. He crowd kills, does hardcore kicking and will smash into you with a full beer in hand during a sound check.

mosh pit

This is why a lot of metal heads hate hardcore and deathcore kids. Many of them seem to exhibit this overly violent, bro-ey behavior. The good news is, the metal scene is full of big, burly men who will put an idiot like this in his place should he get too out of hand.

The Crusty Dude “On the List”

Maybe it’s a personal thing, but this type of metal fan irks me the most. This guy frequents grind and doom shows, may or may not actually be homeless and somehow manages to get into every show for free. He cultivates this image of the ultimate scene supporter but spends absolutely no money on the scene. He can usually be spotted with a Miller Hi Life in hand bumming smokes off the people outside who paid to be there.

Certain shows will be filled with this type of fan. At shows like these, grind and noise shows in particular, you’re likely to spot at least one frightened pit bull in the audience against its will, and a combination of patchouli and swamp ass will usually be permeating the air. Many of these types of fans are in bands, but because they’re homeless and have nowhere to really practice, the bands are sloppy, two piece noise projects that sully the name of metal.

The reason these types of metal heads irk me is because they don’t represent what metal is actually about. Metal fans are some of the hardest working people I know. Metal is incredibly difficult to play and takes hours of dedication to master. These crusty fans are simply lazy, for the most part, and are the antithesis of everything metal represents.

Prog/tech death fans

If you thought the elitist was bad, the prog and tech death guys take the elitist attitude to another level. These types of metal fans walk around with an annoying chip on their shoulder. They believe they’ve earned the right to look to down on other genres of music because of the technical prowess of their favorite musicians.

They walk around musing about pentatonic and diatonic scales feeling superior to everyone else. If it’s not steeped in technicality and incredibly difficult to play, it’s not music.

I get where these guys are coming from in some respect. I do tend to look for certain key elements in a band’s sound in order for them to qualify as metal, but the way prog and tech death fans disregard all artists outside their niche as not “real musicians” is pretty fucking irritating. What these people don’t realize is that musicians who play other styles of music are generally focused on refining elements in their music other than just technicality — they want to create melody and atmosphere.

What prog and tech death fans simultaneously overlook and gloat about is how the music they listen to isn’t accessible to everyone. But while they’re feeling superior for their ability to appreciate complex musical overtures, thrash and punk fans are giving themselves whiplash and just having fucking fun. These guys need to calm down. Music is meant to be enjoyed as a social primer and lubricant. It’s great to appreciate it as an art form — musicians work hard to hone their craft — but at some point it’s time to put that stuff aside and have fun.

PS: Anyone who takes anything on this list too seriously is figuratively a shard of glass lodged deeply inside the pee hole of an uncircumcised penis. Hails!

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Five New Bands You Should Be Listening To This Year

5. Grotesque Ceremonium

Turkey isn’t exactly the first place you think of when it comes to extreme metal, but Grotesque Ceremonium is putting Turkey on the map.  A one man project out of Ankara, Grotesque Ceremonium play satanic old school death metal with a blackened edge and a listenable groove.  Think Abhoror but more easily palatable.  The band released their first full length album entitled Demonic Inquisition with the up and coming label Satanath Records last year and the album kicks ass beginning to end.  This is a band you need to familiarize yourself with immediately.

 

4.Limbsplitter

Anyone in the Cleveland area knows Limbsplitter isn’t exactly a new band. They’ve been touring and playing fests since 2013.  2017 is when they really started to take off though, releasing their first full length album, Chloroform Cocktail.  Aside from having the most brutal album cover in history and hilarious song titles (Drenched in Menstruation anyone) Limbsplitter brings in hard with their musicianship. This is brutal death metal with a grindy feel and even some thrash and technical elements.  They’ve been praised in Metal Injection and featured on a number of fests.  Sick shit here.

 

3. Contaminated

Slow doomy death metal anyone?  Seriously, Australia’s Contaminated blew me away with their debut album, Final Man.  I can’t stop listening. This is some of the heaviest shit I’ve ever heard.  Contaminated coalesces the suffocating thickness of doom metal with the intensity of old school death metal to create a dense and truly massive sound.  What really resonated with me was how convincingly 90’s their debut sounded.  Final Man may as well have come out alongside classics like Autopsy’s Severed Survival.  Truly old school and original; Contaminated’s sound is simply crushing.

2. Degotten

For the life of me I can’t figure out why there hasn’t more buzz in the underground metal community over Degotten’s debut Hexentrost.  This is indisputably masterful blackened thrash with a power metal edge. With a sound that’s both colossal and dark, Chili’s Degotten are proverbial thrash metal warriors heading off to battle, six string axe in hand.  This album is thrash metal perfection, complete with cool riffs and shredding solos, but what sets Degotten apart from others in the black/thrash genre is the nod to classic heavy metal and their melodic undertones.  Original as can be, Hexentrost is a must have for 2017.

 

1. Cemetery Winds

I find it fascinating that such a perfect debut has managed to remain shrouded in obscurity, virtually uncovered by popular extreme metal music media. Cemetery Winds is a Finnish one man black/death project (at least I believe they are a one man project because J. Lukka is the band’s only listed active member).  Their style is melodic on an enthralling level while remaining unequivocally Scandanavian death metal.  The band’s debut, Unholy Ascentions, was released in February of this year.  What sets Cemetery Winds’ sound apart is that instead of drawing on black metal’s rawer elements, as has been the most recent trend in BM of the 2010’s, they follow the old horde and draw on the more melodic elements of the genre.  They achieve this while maintaining their originality and not falling victim to At the Gates worship. Unholy Ascensions is every bit as intense as any gritty Australian death metal band with the ambience of the most memorable Swedish black metal. This is truly incredible stuff.

666 The Best Death, Black, and Thrash Albums So Far This Year

Tons of metal zines have posted articles highlighting the best albums of 2017 so far. They all did this back in June, which I suppose makes sense.  Unfortunately, none of these lists have met the expectations of Underworld Zine.  Once again favoring a band’s popularity over substance, the mainstream metal magazines have failed to highlight some of the greatest metal of the year.  I’m writing this article in response to that trend.  Underworld Zine has always been dedicated to covering truly underground bands.  These are Underworld Zine’s top six black, death, and thrash albums so far for 2017.

Death Metal

6. Warpath- The Ambience of War

Brutal death metal never sounded so good.  Hailing from murky Irish wilderness, Warpath are a band you probably haven’t heard of or listened to but you should familiarize yourself with them immediately and prepare to have your faced melted.  Unlike the menagerie of brutal death metal bands that have listeners struggling to keep their eyes open halfway through the album, Warpath manages to keep their latest EP, The Ambience of War, interesting from beginning to end.  Pummeling blasts, emotive and technical solos, and absolutely sickening vocals meet to create an onslaught of brutality.  The production value is top notch.  While you can clearly hear all the instruments, the grimy quality of old school death metal isn’t lost in the clarity.  This is sickening brutality at its best.

5. Desultory- Through Aching Aons

No death metal listicle would be complete without the inclusion of a proper, melodic Swedish band. Swedish death metal pioneers, Desultory, take the number five spot with their truly ferocious comeback album entitled Through Aching Aons.  The LP has that classic Swedish feel that pays homage to At the Gates, respectably. But, dare I say it, Desultory has gotten heavier with age.  They always had a bit of a melodic groove to their sound, and that isn’t lost on Through Aching Aeons, but this album is pummeling all the way through.  Their combination of brutality and catchiness is what sets their sound apart from others in the Swedish horde.

4. Contaminated- Final Man

Australia’s Contaminated is possibly the heaviest band to make the list.  In the vein of early Autopsy or Convulse, Contaminated has perfected a kind of doom and gloom death metal aggression on Final Man with guitar tones that sound like they were dragged through muck and vocals akin to gargling blood.  Being a relatively new band, Contaminated’s 90s feel is utterly convincing.  Proper use of downtuning and crushing, doomy passages make Final Man truly memorable in 2017.  This is some seriously heavy shit.

3. Necrot- Blood Offerings

In an age of five string basses and blistering technicality, sometimes simplicity can be refreshing.  This is certainly the case with Necrot’s latest release, Blood Offerings.  There’s been a lot of buzz about the band’s latest album and rightfully so. Necrot have forgone the tech death trend, instead opting to create death metal in the vein of Dismember, early Goreguts, or even Death.  This is driving brutality through and through, with catchy riffs, gritty production, and an overall sickening ambience.  The kind of stuff made for circle pits and the wall of death.

2. Undergang- Misantropologi

It seems old school death metal is making a massive comeback.  Undergang’s fourth full length release exemplifies this trend perfectly.  Not that it’s really a trend.  Misatropoligi would scare the pants off an Avenge Sevenfold fan.  This shit is grimy to the core.  D. Torturdød’s are some of the sickest low grunts I’ve ever heard and A. Dødshjælp’s blasts will figuratively rip your face off. Simplistic riffs are masterfully arranged on Misantropoli to create a captivating experience for listeners.  Misantopologi is hard not to fall in love with.

1. Immolation- Atonement

The number one spot on the list is going to the old school masters of death and destruction, Immolation. Atonement doesn’t ease listeners into its glory, instead punching them in the face from the very first crushing riff.  It’s always a relief when a band from the 90s can still destroy and Immolation does just that.  This album holds no punches.  With a victorious and powerful feel, enunciated lyrics, unrelenting brutality, perfectly timed solos and sqeals of the guitar, and melodic technicality, Atonement does not disappoint. But then, when has Immolation ever truly disappointed us?  With Atonement, Immolation shows us how American death metal should be done, and we’re thankful for that.

Black Metal

6. Sinmara/Misþyrming- Ivory Stone/Hof Split

If I had to pick one scene in black metal today that’s touching on the originality of the early Norwegian scene, it would the current scene in Iceland.  The black metal movement in Iceland is bursting with creativity and bringing a new, chaotic approach to black metal that hasn’t been seen in years.  Sinmara and Misþyrming are leading the pack in Icelandic black metal and this year the two powerhouses teamed up to release a split.  The album delivers a blackness and chaos of a black hole and conveys a message of sheer insanity. Sinmara are the real innovators on this EP as their track is vast improvement in quality to the tracks on Aphotic Womb.  But Misþyrming brings it hard as usual with their addition to the split, Hof.  This is cool.  This is kvlt.

5. White Death- White Death

This band just creeped up out of nowhere.  I’m glad they did because their self titled release is comparable to Satanic Warmaster or early Behexen.  The Finnish foursome has seemingly mastered the aesthetic of early, orthodox black metal and brought it to audiences in a fresh and exciting way.  Gloomy passages pair with dissonant riffs, and screeching vocals effortlessly.  Even the occasional fist pounding rock and roll beat or acoustic lick can be found on the band’s self titled debut.  This album is a must have for anyone who loves straight forward black metal done well.

4. Irae- Crimes Against Humanity

Irae is another orthodox black metal project, deriving significant influence from the early, Norwegian sound, but also paying an obligatory nod to the black thrash pioneers.  Irae is a one man project out of Portugal, spawned from the ominous mind of a man known only as Vulturius.  This is good stuff. Fist pumping hard rock licks meet with blackened dissonance, and thrashy interludes to form a truly killer, and old school sounding LP.  Vulturius doesn’t overdo the ambience on this, making for a heavy black metal experience spawned directly from the pits of Hell.  This will scare the hell out of your neighbors.  Really fantastic.

3. Noktunal Mortum- Істина (Verity)

The first black/folk metal band to make the list, Nokturnal Mortum are quite deserving of their position here. Simply the way the first full length track, entitled Мольфа kicks in, with that beautiful string arrangement that builds up into sheer aggression, is enough the moisten your underwear.  This album is a beautiful mix of ambient folk passages, triumphant battle cries, and sheer ferocity wrapped into an hour and fourteen minutes.  The Verity experience is orchestral and you almost lose yourself in the beauty of it.  Is this Nokturnal Mortum’s best release?  Nah.  But it still blows away many other bands under the same moniker.  I can’t stop listening.  Keep at it guys.  Slava Ukraine!

2. Goatmoon- Stella Polaris

Findland’s Goatmoon seems to improve every year.  Stella Polaris is a far cry from Death Before Dishonor in creativity and overall beauty.  The intro is a beautiful acoustic piece that’s consuming and immediately demands full attention from the listener.  Every song  is more beautiful than the next, as BlackGoat Desacrator focuses on building atmosphere with gorgeous, melodic riffs. Stella Polaris is probably his most melodic release so far, matched only by Varjot, but with a fuller sound and better production.  The second to the last track, entitled Overlord, is the one that really stuck out for me.  The final track, entitled P.A.I.L. was interesting, to say the least.  Almost an attempt on a black metal ballad, the track works surprisingly well.  Overall, a win for Goatmoon.  Hail!  Victory!

1. Wode- Servants of the Countercosmos

This band is probably the most surprising on the list.  A new band out of the United Kingdom, Wode is knocking the socks of black metal fans with two stellar releases.  Wode’s sophomore release, Servants of the Countercosmos has a sound that’s almost legendary.  To risk sounding presumptuous, can you say the next Dissection?  Not that this is another Dissection rip off, far from it actually.  It’s just that their sound is so highly memorable that it harkens back an era of musical perfection only matched by Dissection.  Every song is better than the next, as Wode pummels into your soul with an unrelenting ferocity not seen since the 90’s.  The melodic nature of the sound and clean production is reminiscent of the early Swedish black metal sound.  All this greatness spewing from a band made up of musicians virtually unknown to the black metal scene.  What a fantastic record.

Thrash/Speed Metal

6. Lich King- Omnomniclasm 

Lich King makes the number six spot on this list for their newest release entitled Omnomniclasm.  The sheer improvement of the band over the years has people starting to really take notice.  Omnomniclasm is standard thrash metal done at its best.  Focusing on speed, aggression, and ferocity, the new album holds true to original thrash metal vision.  Halfway through, Lich King even hails its speed metal predecessors with a slow and triumphant display of power in the song Civilization.  Think in the vein of Priest.  What Lich King has always focused on, however, is having the coolest riffs and playing faster than anyone else.  Omnimnoclasm delivers sheer speed like few others in the new wave of thrash and perfects the sound with good production and riffs that will crush your skull.  Lich King is basically Vio-Lence reborn and for that we’re all thankful.

5. Power Trip- Nightmare Logic

This album has been getting a lot of hype from metal elitists this year and I can see why.  This is crossover at its best. While I don’t hear a huge amount of hardcore influences on Nightmare Logic, the ones that are there are tasteful.  Ultimately, this is aggression and speed perfectly executed through buzz saw guitar tones, face ripping riffs, rad tempo changes all spawned from the first crunchy riff.  Nightmare Logic is a fist pumping masterpiece complete with anthemic choruses and some of the coolest riffs I’ve heard all year.  Power Trip is good shit.

4. Witchnight- Unholy Speed Metal

Witchnight is a brand new blackened speed metal band out of Argentina but their sound, name, and overall image may as well be out of 1987.  These Argentinian shredders go straight for the jugular with their unique brand of black speed in the vein of Tormentor or demo era Destroyer 666.  The fifteen minute EP entitled Unholy Speed Metal is marked by its utter intensity, lightening fast riffage, and cool DIY production.  This is the kind of album I can imagine procuring in cassete form from a truer than thou older friend who partied with Jeff Hanneman back in the day.  The entire EP drips of blasphemy and rage.  Unholy Speed metal is Witchnight’s first EP, first anything ever.  I really hope this band succeeds.  I need more.

 

3.Bloodlust- At the Devil’s Left Hand

Three words: Australian blackened thrash.  Bloodlust is a relatively new band that has old pro chops.  At the Devil’s Left Hand is the band’s second full length release but the structure and execution of the album is so perfect you’d think Bloodlust had been at it for decades.  I could chalk this up to expertly executed D666 worship but honestly, Bloodlust bring their own unique flavor to the table. The most notable positive on this album is probably the tempo changes, which are so succinctly placed that you’re transported in a sort of thrash metal void upon listening.  Just be careful when you’re listening to AT the Devil’s Left Hand.  You might just break your neck whipping around to their paralyzing riffs.

 

2. Blood Feast- The Future State of Wicked
The blood thirst is real this year. Blood Feast are old school motherfuckers from Jersey who haven’t slowed down a lick.  The band split back in 1991 and reformed in 2007 coming back with a vengeance.  The Future State of Wicked is the band’s first full length release since reforming and it slays harder than a good majority of the youngin thrashers attempts at reviving the old school. Everything from the chilling artwork to the riffs that cut through you like chainsaw to Chris Natalini’s penetrating screams is as heavy as thrash gets.  It’s as though they reformed just to show the new horde how it’s done.  This albums just kills, plain and simple.

1. Hellripper- Coagulating Darkness

Forming only three years ago, the UK’s Hellripper has already redefined the meaning of speed with break neck riffs and blistering solos.  This is an impressive feat for a one man project.  The band’s first full length release, Coagulating Darkness is more than simply unadulterated speed though, the execution is masterfully coherent and the tracks are catchy and memorable.  This album just sounds evil.  Guitar worship reigns supreme, as it should, on Coagulating Darkness as the solos are masterfully placed and the riffs are as cool as Destruction’s.  Despite being from the UK, Hellripper’s music has an unmistakable Teutonic ambiance about that you can’t help but fall in love with.  Really great stuff.

 

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch because I missed something, remember this is opinion.  That said, if there’s anything you think I missed, please post it in the comments.  I listen to a lot of metal but I can’t listen to everything. Also note, Underworld is not interested in anything PC, so if you have a problem with one of the bands on the list keep it to yourself and off my site.  That’s all I’ve got.  Stay trve!  Hails!

Six Weird Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Extreme Metal

I’ll never forget what it was like to discover extreme metal for the first time.  Thumbing through the glossy pages of Metal Maniacs and Kerrange magazine and seeing the images of larger than life, bullet belt and spike clad beasts that consumed me, gave me a completely skewed view of underground metal. As I grew older and immersed myself more deeply into the underground world, I became more acutely aware of the misconceptions I had about extreme metal.  I realize that many die hards are most likely already privy to much of this information, but it’s important to note that there are several inequities surrounding extreme metal that prevent the culture from achieving the sort of recognition it deserves.  Also, there’s just some genuinely funny, little known, realities about extreme metal that are simply worth sharing.  For one thing….

1. There’s No Such Thing as Groupies

Any sixteen year old, hormone filled, teenage boy looking to score brownie points with the girls in his life by becoming a musician, shouldn’t touch death metal with 75 and half-foot pole.   Extreme metal has never been very girl friendly.  The aggression and nefariousness of the sound, combined with the fact that for some reason, the ugliest of our species seem to create the most hateful music act as a girl repellent.

Can’t see why girls aren’t falling all over themsleves trying to get to metal musicians

Even well-known bands, like Metallica and Anthrax, can’t realistically harken back to the glory days of girls, girls, girls.  Of course, there are women into metal.  Many, in fact.  But women into metal are generally less superficial than women into other genres.  Metal itself requires more from the listener than casual pop music because of its complexity and depth.  It is also less readily accessible than other forms of music because of limited radio play and publicity, meaning that people seek it out because it adds meaning to their lives.  So the people who are attracted to it tend to be less superficial than say, the people who were attracted to glam bands with regular appearances on MTV.

Usually, women into metal are there for the music and not for the opportunity to meet a celebrity.  They also tend to be more cerebral, meaning that a for attraction to occur, there needs to be more than just a one-dimensional connection between two counterparts.  It takes more than good looks and money to impress a metal chick.  You need a brain. If you’re looking for money, you’re looking in the wrong place anyway because……

 

2. No One Is Really Making Big Bucks

Because of the things I mentioned earlier, lack of publicity and radio play, it’s difficult for a band playing extreme metal to generate any sort of substantial income.  Even the bands that have reached legendary status are living somewhat modest lifestyles.  For example, Fenriz of Darkthrone fame, one of the originators of the second wave of black metal, has held a steady day job at the post office for over a decade.

There are other factors that come into play as well.  Extreme metal maintains a certain anti- commercial aesthetic and runs on an underground ethic that prevents bands from making money the way many pop artists do, ie perfume and clothing lines.  And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for bands to make money selling records today because of popularity of internet downloading and free streaming.  Even back in the tape trading days, however, bands outside the mainstream weren’t generating most of their income from record sales, instead relying on constant touring for income, which often led to burn out and disillusionment for the bands.  It hasn’t changed much since those days.  Basically, unless you’re Slayer, you’re not making that much money.

Took ’em three decades but they’re making the big bucks now

When I was younger, I had no concept of how bad it really was.  A lot of good bands are literally paying out-of-pocket to get to out-of-town gigs, for which they won’t see dime for playing.  Next time you go to a fest, remember a good majority of the bands playing aren’t getting paid at all to be there.  They work day jobs and, because of an extreme work ethic, and a die-hard dedication to the music, they show up and rip the faces off crowds of moshing fans.  Even when these bands get signed, it takes quite a bit of time before the income they generate goes to anything other than gear and travel.  I’ve always found this fact about extreme metal upsetting because, for one…..

3. It’s Extremely Difficult to Play

Remember what I said about extreme work ethic?  Well, extreme metal musicians, death and thrash metal in particular, need it because metal is among the most difficult of all genres to play.  In fact, the only musical genres that even parallel the complexity of extreme metal are classical and jazz.

Metal emphasizes soloing, shredding, and blasts, all musical styles that require a great deal of practice to perfect.  The rise in popularity of tech death has only served to raise the bar for metal as well.  Younger extreme metal audiences are looking for more and more musical prowess and technicality in music every year.

And the guttural vocals that everyone outside metal seems to complain about, well those are extremely difficult to execute as well.  It’s not just screaming like many people seem to think.  If you want to hear screaming, listen to screamo.  Death metal vocals encompass a wide variety of vocal techniques, like tongue placement, and breathing exercises to produce those low, demonic growls.  The masses seem to only care about the fact that you can’t understand the lyrics, however.  I always found that funny because….

4. A Lot of Bands Don’t Even Have Lyrics

Yep, you read that right.  I found this out in an interview with Sodomized vocalist, Eric Newton, after to asking him a question about the lyrical content on the band’s latest release.  He admitted he didn’t really see the point in writing lyrics since people couldn’t understand him anyway..  This is more than just an isolated case, however.  In the mini documentary “Florida: Thrash ‘Til Death”, John Tardy of Obituary admits to not singing lyrics while onstage.

John Tardy of Obituary

Many times what happens, with death metal in particular, is someone from the band will write lyrics, and the vocalist won’t learn them right away if at all.  Because of the nature of the death metal vocal, no one really notices.  Death metal lyrics don’t claim to be meaningful even when they are written.  The point is to invoke feelings of fear and disgust from their audiences.  That goal can be achieved through grotesque artwork, repulsive song titles, crunchy riffs, and low-end guttural vocals that sound like the singer is gargling the blood of his victims. Lyrics are of less importance than these other factors in relaying a band’s overall message.

Of course, there are extreme metal bands that put a lot of effort into their lyrical content.  Behemoth comes to mind as Adam Darski (Nergal) often uses music as a medium to spread his occult message.  Even Napalm Death utilizes their influence to espouse their political ideals.  But the main point I’m making here is that song lyrics are not of great importance to extreme metal.  Death metal vocals serve more as an instrument themselves rather than a purveyor of information.  They are there for the atmosphere.  So in short, it doesn’t matter that much what the band is saying all that really matters is how the music makes you feel.  I suppose it’s a good thing death metal lyrics are mostly filler because…..

5. Bands Are a Revolving Door and Many Musicians Play in Several Bands

It’s pretty much always been that way.  Most people know that Dave Mustaine was replaced by Kirk Hammet in Metallica but did you know that Kirk Hammet played for Exodus before he joined with Metallica?  It’s simply the nature of the scene.  Metal fans share a camaraderie and passion that often sparks a yearning in the fans to create it themselves.  Go to any underground metal gig around the world and I’m willing to bet at least forty percent of the audience can play at least one instrument. With so many musicians in the scene it’s easy to see how bands can become a revolving door.

Also, extreme metal exists as an entity outside the musicians, meaning that fans aren’t simply idolizing a great guitar player or vocalist, they are in love with the aggression and energy of the sound.  It’s uncommon for fans to turn their back on a band for switching guitar players or vocalists as long as the new member has chops.

Because of the tight-knit nature of underground metal communities, many musicians will also play for several bands at a time.  Particularly drummers and bassists who are a commodity because of their relative scarcity.  Passion for the music often leads band members to start side projects as well, that sometimes blow up.  Anthrax’s Scott Ian, for example went on to form S.O.D. whilst simultaneously playing in Anthrax because of his love for hard-core.  S.O.D. is respected to this day for their involvement in creating the crossover genre in thrash.

S.O.D. circa 1999

The D.I.Y. nature of underground metal combined with the technicality of the music both attracts and creates musicians hungrier than ever to put their mark on the scene.  Shared passion for a musical style not celebrated by mainstream audiences creates a natural bond between fans of the music so it’s only natural that a lot of integration between bands would occur.  Because of the underground aesthetic of extreme metal, a new member is often already well-known within fan circles, so the number of bands playing with, sometimes as few as, a single original member remaining is not all that surprising, nor is the fact that fans haven’t turned on these bands.  Morbid Angel’s decision to replace David Vincent with Steve Tucker went over much better than Iron Maiden’s decision to replace Bruce Dickenson with Blaze Bailey, for example.  Blaze Bailey is basically a cum stain on the history of metal whereas death metal die hards celebrate Formulas Fatal to the Flesh as a brutal and original work of art.

Steve Tucker

It’s because this music is, and always will be underground, that a shared ethic exists among its fans; and that’s dedication to the extreme, which is why Metallica’s decision to turn their backs on thrash in favor of mainstream rock was far more detrimental to their image among die-hard thrash fans than their decision to replace Cliff Burton after his passing.  This proverbial middle finger extreme metal gives to the mainstream is one of the reasons why the bands who play it will never experience the glitz and glamour mainstream bands receive, which is why, for one thing….

6. There Isn’t a Backstage Per Say

Extreme metal bands generally play in dark, graffiti riddled clubs.  The clubs are small and there are no dressing rooms or any of that shit.  Not that the bands really need it.  Death metal is come as you are, fuck primping. An all access pass will typically grants a person access through all entrances of the club without being searched which makes it really easy to sneak in beer and what not, (a really cool perk especially since free beer for the bands is mostly a thing of the past) but there’s no secret area backstage where a party is happening.  Bigger bands party hard on tour buses and in hotels and every once in a while there’s a basement in the club where the bands can bring in beer and other substances but that’s not extremely common either.

No one drank more beer than Tankard

What’s cool about this is that the bands are generally down to earth and get up close with the fans.  It’s fairly common to see the members of the headlining bands in the audience banging their heads to the opening bands.  You can shake their hands and tell them how much you admire their work and even share a beer or two with them. This casual attitude in extreme metal is part of what makes it so near and dear to the fans who love it.  You feel like you’re a part of it rather than just a spectator.  No one in the underground is treated like a rock star so no one acts like it.  And that is way cooler than fucking VIP nonsense anyway.

These realities about extreme metal are what make the genre unique in comparison to other musical styles.  The fact is, the underground has been the same since its conception in the early eighties and that’s part of what makes it so magical.  Extreme metal was, is, and always will be a fire kept burning by some of the most dedicated fans in the world which is why is has remained pure.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Underworld Zine’s Top 6 Black Metal Documentaries

Black metal has a rich and fascinating history, rife with scandal, infamy, and philosophy.  Because of the sensationalism of it all, black metal documentaries are among the most interesting music documentaries to watch.  In the precursory years before the alleged release of the Lords of Chaos movie, which will either be an abomination or a masterpiece with literally no in-between, I found myself glued to Youtube, binge watching a copious amounts of music documentaries, specifically covering black metal.  These are my top six picks.

6. Murder Music- The History of Black Metal

murderMurder Music takes the number six position on the list.  Narrated by the beautiful Candy René Ackermann, Murder Music- A History of Black Metal explores the depths of the world’s most controversial style of music chronologically and thoroughly. Featuring interviews from Venom’s Mantas, Abbath, Dani Filth, Satyricon’s Satyr, Hellhammer, journalist Didrik Søderlind, and even Mayhem vocalist Attila, this documentary covers all bases.  What I like about the documentary is that the focus is clear.  It’s about the music and the history of the genre.  Director’s even go so far as to cover the origins of occult music by including an interview with 60’s satanic icons, Black Widow.  This is a good one.

5. True Norwegian Black Metal

truenorwegianblackmetalThis documentary series was a particularly interesting one given that the main focus is on infamous Gorgoroth frontman, Gaahl.  VICE journalist, Peter Best interviews the enigmatic Norwegian vocalist at his home and viewers get an inside look at the man behind the corpse paint.  We get a look at his artwork, his grandfather’s house, and an eye-opening look into his ideology.  The ending, which features a frustrated Gaahl refusing to answer the journalist’s question or even acknowledge him, captures the essence of the man coined by tabloids as the most evil man alive.  Definitely worth the time.

4. Black Metal Satanica

black

This documentary is fascinating, as it explores the philosophy, ideology, and history of black metal in Scandinavia.  Focusing primarily on the second wave, with only brief, compulsory introduction on early black metal, director Mats Lundberg gives us an in-depth look at the meaning behind black metal, covering everything from Nordic legend, race relations, down to Scandinavian tradition.  Interviews with members of Watain, Enslaved, and others are complex and visceral.  Mats Lundberg’s foreboding narration adds a nice touch to a documentary that will have you hooked immediately.

3. Black Metal- The Music of Satan

blackmetal

Ignore the intro on this documentary.  Seriously, skip it if you have to, because once you get into the meat of this documentary, you won’t be disappointed.  This film is directed unlike any other black metal documentary, in that it focuses not on the predictable, sensationalist jargon typical of other documentaries, but on the men behind the music.  Huge names like Fenriz, King Diamond, Cronos, Abbath, Dani Filth, and more are interviewed backstage, in their element and stripped of the corpse paint and image.  Beer is present and there are a lot of hilarious moments.  While the journalists ask prying questions about Christianity, racism in metal, and church burnings, it’s all done in a fun, lighthearted manner.  This is a limited edition DVD.  While you can stream most of it on Youtube and DailyMotion, it’s worth dropping the ten bucks to watch the full version along with the bonus video.  Simply stellar.

2. Metal’s Unexplored Fringes- One Man Metal

omm

Back in 2012, Noisy of all publications, released the only documentary, to my knowledge, to cover the murky caverns of one man, depressive black metal.  The documentary features interviews with three defining one man bands, Leviathan, Xasthur, and Striborg.  The fact that the interviewer only focuses on the men behind these three bands, means the interviews get extremely deep and personal.  Jeff Whitehead (Leviathan) talks about his trouble past as a foster child, Scott Conner (Xasthur) disscusses his deeply misanthropic worldview, and Sin Nanna (Striborg) discusses overcoming drug abuse and the impact isolation has had on his music.  The questions are invasive but never prying and the direction of this documentary flows seemlessly, leaving viewers glued to the screen.  This is a documentary you can watch over and and over and never get bored.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it now, you poser.

  1. Until the Light Takes Us   

This is a no brainer, Until the Light Takes Us is the best documentary on black metal, hands down.  This documentary features the biggest names in the genre, Fenriz, Varg Vikernes, Frost, and more up close and personal, giving the viewers an inside look into their lives.  We get to see sides of Fenriz we’ve never seen before as he discusses his interest in art and electronica.  Varg is interviewed from jail and gets personal about his feelings toward Fenriz, talks about his checkered past, and his opinions on American and Norwegian culture.  Frost performs in a local art show.  The lack of structure and focus on regular conversation make this documentary fantastic for true fans of black metal, interested in getting to know their favorite artists better. It’s truly a masterpiece.

Honorable Mentions:

Once Upon A Time in Norway: This probably could have made the list but I am American and don’t want to read subtitles.  Don’t beat me up for being honest.

Per “Dead” Ohlin- Documentary: This is a really cool documentary that focuses on the life of the deeply troubled Per Ohlin of Mayhem.  Really well done documentary.

What are you favorite black metal documentaries?  List them in the comments.