Tag Archives: Death Metal

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.

 

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Vader- The Empire

Europeans just do it better.  What can I say?  Legendary, Polish, death/thrashers, Vader simply outdid themselves with this release.  As a formative band in the death metal genre, Vader has manged to maintain their energy and aggression after thirty years and remain a dominant force in the death/thrash genre, with riffs that cut to the bone, leads that blister, and drums that pummel. The Empire is the band’s thirteenth full length release and I give them a lot of credit, as it’s notably difficult for many bands to maintain the kind of hungry energy Vader does on this release after so long in the game.  Perhaps their black leather ensembles have melded to their skin and they’ve become some kind of death metal super villains set on destroying the world with blast and leads.  Who knows but whatever they’re doing is working for them.

Many of the tracks on The Empire focus on the band’s thrashier elements.  The opening track, “Angels of Steel”, is as bludgeoning as ever in its ferocity, causing listeners to immediately take notice.  Vader is not intended to be background music.  By the time the third song rolls around, you’re ready for an anthemic kind of thrash hit, like “Prayer to the God of War”.  I wasn’t too impressed by the decision to immediately follow the fist pumping thrasher, “Prayer to the God of War” with another slower, thrashier tune, “Iron Reign”.  I was admittedly craving something a little more crushing.  Thankfully, Vader delivered with the following track, “No Gravity”.

The two songs that really stuck out to me on this album were “Genocidius” and “Parrabellum”, which is arguably the heaviest thrash song released all year.  Ending the album with the slow, chugging, thrash track, “Send Me Back To Hell”, was a bit weak in my opinion, but I have very few complaints about this album overall.  The Empire is old school to the core and I give Vader props for sticking to their guns after over thirty years at it.  This is a good one.

8/10

Gutted- Martyr Creation

I’m admittedly late to the game in discovering Hungary’s technical death/grind outfit, Gutted but after seeing them destroy at Las Vegas Deathfest, I had to say something.  Their energy live blew me away so I found it fit to give them money and procure a CD.  I’m glad I did.  Martyr Creation is bludgeoning from beginning to end.

The CD starts with a dramatic intro entitled “Chaos of the Beginning”.  The remainder of the LP seems to follow the trajectory of a concept album based on the chaotic nature of creation itself.  “Cosmos of Humans” punches listeners in the face immediately following the slow build up of the intro and this energy continues throughout the album.  The sound on Martyr Creation seems to embody a sort of controlled chaos.  Tangible yet entirely insane, in a good way.

The album is heavy in a way that it forces listeners to take notice.  Technical elements are tasteful, however, and not difficult to digest or in any way distracting from the flow of the album.  The leads are prominently pushed to the forefront in production.  They maintain a melodic element while never losing sight of the chaotic theme of the band’s sound.  I really give Gutted credit for their ability to write technical riffs and leads without losing the emotional aspect in the process.  So few technical bands are able to achieve this.  The result is an LP that induces self-administered whiplash.

For the most part, Martyr Creation blast off into an endless fury of speed, energy, and blasts from beginning to end, in true grind fashion, but tracks like “Deeper than Hell” deviate a bit from the formula with a short break into a clip of spooky background noises and creepy, Children of the Corn like echoes.  This is the heart of the band’s originality.  Sándor Hajnali’s growls complement the fury of Gutted’s sound perfectly and the production is good in the sense that you can hear every instrument without losing the rawness of the band’s death/grind style.

My only complaint would be that, in some ways, the tracks seemed to meld together with one track indistinguishable from the next.  Although there were moments that stuck out.  The solo in “Fades Away” is utterly insane and the breakdown in “False Happiness” hits you harder than the belligerent fat dude in the pit.  Overall, this is a solid release from a band you should definitely be listening to if you’re not already.

8/10

Vomit of Doom- Magnus Cruelty

When I first started this blog four years ago, my intention was to support good underground bands that had been largely ignored, even by the underground metal elite. Obviously, the site has grown immensely since then, but today I’d like give a throwback to the early days of Underworld by supporting a great band that I haven’t heard anyone talk about on metal forums or at shows.  Argentinian thrashers, Vomit of Doom have been shrouded in obscurity since they formed back in 2009 and for no good reason.  The band kicks ass.

Aside from the fact that I love the band’s name, as it harkens back to a simpler time in heavy metal history, not so pretentious and reliant on medical dictionaries and esoteric grimiores, a time when Bill and Ted and Beavis and Butthead defined what it meant to rock, Vomit of Doom lives up to the coolness of their name by writing neck breaking unapologetic thrash.  Vomit of Doom describes their sound as blackened thrash.  I think these days, blackened thrash has just become a fall back genre for thrash bands that write uglier riffs and can’t be likened to the upbeat bay area sound that has defined the genre.  Not that we don’t love you Vio-Lence.

But Vomit of Doom has created a sound that’s truly old school.  While I don’t hear a huge blackened influence, there is definitely a rawness to their sound that’s reminiscent of extreme metal’s beginnings.  They sound like they came right out of 1987, not like they’re trying to.  They just are.  The band’s most recent EP, entitled Magnus Cruelty, can be compared to the sounds of early Sepultura, or Poison (the German band not the gay ass glam band).  There’s even hints of early death metal sprinkled in the sound, think Death or Possessed.   Tracks are short, generally under three minutes in length, and each one pummels the listener with pure, bludgeoning ferocity.

Vomit of Doom achieves their perfected aggressive sound with slightly dirty, lo-fi production, piercing solos, and sickening riffs that will punch you in the face.  L. Warpig Venomous Abominator’s vocals are absolutely disgusting, high-end growls that will leave you wanting more.  Adding to the band’s classic thrash repertoire is the anthemic quality of each song.  This is definitely the kind of music to pound your fist to while screaming NO DIVINE!!! at the top of your lungs.  Every song on the album is memorable but the interlude in the middle left me, as an American listener confused. Other than that, Magnus Cruelty is practically a perfect old school thrash album, aggressive and fast as fuck.  Even the intro and the outro were perfectly tied in with the rest of album, only adding to the nostalgia of the band’s uniquely old school thrash sound.  But listen for yourself.  Happy listening.  Hails!

9/10

Decade of Death: An Interview with Jim Roe of The Primitive

Jim Roe

From iconic death metal gods Incantation, to Goreaphobia, Disciples of Mockery, Terror, Womb, and more; Jim Roe has drummed his way to legendary underground notariety.  There isn’t much going in the midwestern/east coast metal scene that Jim Roe hasn’t had his hand in.  With over two decades of experience under his belt, he has certainly built the impressive resume.  And thankfully for the fans, this workaholic shows no signs of slowing down.

Jim Roe’s current focus has been on his solo project, The Primitive, which he aptly describes as “pounding death metal”.  His EP “Founded in Hell” is an old school death metal fans’ wet dream with its blugeoning blasts and sickeningly heavy death metal riffs.  I chatted with Jim Roe to talk about his inspiration for The Primitive, his involvement with Terror, and his plans for the future.  This is what he had to say.

Underworld– You have quite a lengthy heavy metal resume. Tell the readers a little bit about your involvement in various bands. How has playing a variety of different styles of death and thrash metal influenced your writing?

Jim Roe– Yeah. I guess over the years I have played in some different death and thrash bands. I don’t think I approach it very differently. I just play. It seems to me whenever you create music with other people, you get a glimpse into how they view music and where they are coming from. I think everybody walks away with a different angle on music.  At least people that are open to it.

Jim Roe

Underworld– It’s definitely important for a musician to be adaptable.  So, cliche question, but who are your biggest influences as a musician?

Jim– Celtic Frost, Bonded by Blood era Exodus, Slayer, Death, Autopsy, Dark Angel. Other than death metal my earlier influences  would have to be Bill Ward – Black Sabbath, John Bonham- Led Zepplin, Ginger Baker – Cream, Blind Faith, Alice Cooper, Peter Criss- Kiss, Rock n Roll Over was a big influence when I was very young. Steve Gadds drumming on Steely Dan’s Aja really blew me away and still does.

Underworld– Nice!  A lot of great stuff there.  I’m a huge Kiss fan too.  So, tell the readers about your involvement with Terror. Are you still with the band?

Jim– Yes, I’m still working with the band.   Brian and J.J (RIP) have been friends of mine for many years. We have some shows coming up, June 9th in Detroit and June 10th in Chicago. I will be drumming for Terror. I played on the last 7” Hells Headbanger put out for Terror. We redid some classic Terror, Legions of Gore and Carving Techniques and we are talking about some recordings in the near future.

Underworld– That’s great to hear!  So, what brought on your interest in pursuing a solo project?

Jim– I just really love making music, making metal. Bands seem to come and go, at this point in life I have a little more time for music so learning more about music and playing more instruments and thinking of words and concepts is really great, it keeps me sane. Playing in a band when things are good is great, but when things are bad…its really bad. The Primitive, I can always do. It wont fall apart because four or five grown men can’t get along.

Goreaphobia

Underworld– That makes a lot of sense. I think fans of yours through Incantation, WOMB, Disciples of Mockery, Goreaphobia all knew you as a drummer. When did you start learning to play other instruments and do vocals?

Jim– Not too long ago, I would say when Goreaphobia started to go from everything being really great to everything being really bad. This was the time I started thinking I need to make my own music.

I had done a lot of contributing to the music with Goreaphobia, not the concepts or lyrics, however, because Chris is a master at that. At that time I couldn’t play guitar at all.  I had never tried but I would play the drums and when I did, a melody would kind of happen in my head from the pattern/rhythms I was playing. I would sing or hum these melodies to Alex, mostly, and he would work out the parts on the guitar.  Together, we would turn it into music.  The songs Apolcalyptic Necromancy, and a couple others were done entirely like this.

I had a big part in creating and writing music in all the bands that I have recorded with; WOMB, Incantation, DOM, Goreaphobia. So to do all this over and over again and then just have it all fall apart just gets exhausting. It seemed to me like the only thing to do was pick up the guitar and start trying to play those melody/rhythms myself. So to make a long story longer, I bought my first guitar in 2013.

Underworld– Wow!  You really picked up fast then!  You described Found in Hell by The Primitive as “Pounding Death Metal”. Tell the readers a little bit about what you mean by that.

Jim– I guess I am just aiming to play the type of metal I like; hard hitting, beating the crap out of the drum set death metal.

Underworld– Do you think The Primitive will ever have session musicians and play live?

Jim– Yes, I have two shows booked now for this June. The guys from Terror will be helping me get it done.

Underworld– Great!  So, what are your thoughts on the current Midwestern metal scene? A lot of musicians have complained the scene is waning. Do you think things could be looking up in the coming years?

Jim– To me the scene has always kinda been the same. People talk about the early 90s like the scene was so great, “The Glory Years”. I don’t remember it being much different then now. There are a lot more bands now but the shows are about the same.

Underworld– Finally, what can fans expect to hear from you in the coming months? Any shows?

Jim– Lots of music to come and hopefully many live shows. Cheers and thanks for the interview.  Metal!

You can purchase Founded in Hell and The Primitive at https://theprimitive.bandcamp.com/.  For now stay true!  Hails!

 

Epidemia- Leprocomio

epidemia

From the bowels of Ecuador comes death metal outfit Epidemia.  The band released their second full length LP, Lepricomio, on Russian extreme metal label Satanath Records back in May of 2016 and has received little exposure.  This is unfair, I believe, since Lepricomio is a solidly brutal effort that melts faces upon impact.

Considering the band has been brutalizing audiences for over a decade and has only released two full length albums to date, one can only assume the band suffers from underground band syndrome, which is unsettling from such a promising band. Pulverizing riffs and bone crushing, true metal breakdowns are the meat of Leprocomio.

The more aggressive parts of the album are defined by the cohesive tangibility which induces immediate head banging.  The sound is reminscent of bands like Revel in Flesh or even Dismember.  Solos on the album are eerily Death inspired, the drums are face melting, and Adrian Salazar’s vocals are a clear and classic low growl.  What I found most appealing about this album was the fluidity in the progressions.  Changes in progression flowed nicely which made for an enjoyable listening experience.

Stand out tracks on the album were Retribución homicida (that fucking opening riff) and Agonistes en el inframundo.  This is a band that deserves much more exposure. Fans of old school, gripping death metal with bone crushing blasts, blistering solos, and breakdowns played the way they were meant to be played, take note.  Ecuador’s Epidemia is definitely worth your time.

8.5/10

Curse of Denial- The Thirteenth Sign

curse

Born from the ashes of the instrumental trio, Pawns in Chess, Curse of Denial are yet another super group to come out of the infamous Cleveland metal scene.  Curse of Denial features former members of Descend as well as famed Decrepit vocalist, Rob Molzen.  Their debut, The Thirteenth Sign, which is due for release on February 3, is a thrashy and epic call to the old school death metal sound Cleveland is known for.

The album begins ominously with an intro entitled Ophiuchus the Winding Serpent, effortlessly setting the pace for the remainder of the album.  The whispering chant in the intro is a bit cheesy but in an endearing way.  Curse of Denial’s sound is an interesting mix of old school death metal, with hints of blackened melody, and even an injection of Iron Maiden like epic-ness.  Tracks like Curse of Izebel, Premonition, and the aptly named Pawns in Chess, really set the tone for the overall feel of this release.

I was a bit disappointed in the lack of blast beats on this album, which I felt, took away from the aggression on this album.  I think the band was attempting to produce a more mature, old school sound but it was somewhat lacking the violent ambiance signature of the old school death metal sound.  Jeremy McLellon’s blistering solos scattered neatly throughout the album make up for any lack in brutality, however.  Overall, I think this is a solid release from a promising band emerging from the Cleveland scene.  I look forward to hearing more from Curse of Denial.  Pre-order their CD on Redefining Darkness Records website.

7/10