Tag Archives: America

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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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