(With this post, guest writer Alain Mower begins a series of interviews with women in metal.)
As someone who has been in the metal scene for over a decade, half of that spent playing at the local level in metal bands, I’ve noticed some recurring statements, habits, and trends that need to be addressed.
Metal was built on the foundation of being an open-minded, all-embracing haven that accepts everyone from every walk of life. I’ve never been a part of a community where COMPLETE and TOTAL STRANGERS will literally push people away and pick you up from where you fell in the pit, give you a swig of mead from their horn chalice, or go out of their way to help you back out of that super-tight parallel park job, and I don’t expect many other communities with that level of blind trust and companionship exist elsewhere.
That’s why it’s extremely distressing when I overhear or stumble into conversations where people are using terms such as “Girlfriend Metal” or pointing out the ever-elusive “Metal Girl.” I’ve had many a female friend express that they feel uncomfortable attending metal shows, feel extra pressure in live performances, and – disgustingly enough – have had derogatory statements yelled at them, both as fans and as musicians. Obviously not everyone is guilty of such behavior, but it’s still a pox that we need to deal with if we want to continue to be the boundary-destroying, all-accepting community this culture was built upon. I don’t mind if we treat it or cut it off and leave it behind, but something has to be done.
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the seventh installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on the long-departed Upheaval, from Indianapolis, Indiana.)
Here’s another borderline case; a band who purposely blur the best of several genres to concoct a distinct cacophony that will be nothing but complete noise to most. This is understandable, especially when an entity like Upheaval endeavour to be as abrasive as possible but without stepping radically outside their influences’ paradigms. Whereas their kindred spirits in Creation Is Crucifixion (will post about them separately) annoyingly dabbled with unnecessary electronic sequences, Upheaval didn’t push to create compositions that were completely impenetrable.
Instead, they deftly blended venomous strains of death and black metal with metallic hardcore that acknowledged, but never parodied, their influences. Despite their antiquity (first two tracks are from 1997), there is something timeless about these apocalyptic hymns, or maybe it’s simply the fact that I’m unable to renounce my past musical obsessions. See what you think and decide if I’ve been merely indoctrinated:
(We are delighted to welcome Mick from the excellent Brutalitopia metal blog to our site with this guest review of the new album by Hypnos.)
I suppose I’m preaching to the choir, but No Clean Singing does an outstanding job of introducing all of us to new bands. In response to Islander’s call to arms for guest posts, I figured I’d return the favor to the NCS community and contribute a band I just discovered a couple months ago that really took me by surprise… so much so that *spoiler alert* it should be making an appearance on my year-end list over at Brutalitopia. If post-metal is your thing, you’re going to want to have Hypnos on your radar.
Hailing from Lyon, France, Hypnos is a five piece post-metal band that sent me a promo back in September for their debut album, The Fall. Despite being a generally lazy listener, I thankfully hopped on this album a few weeks after getting word about it. Only six tracks in length, The Fall utilizes atmospheric passages that bring acts like Isis and Mouth Of The Architect to mind, while throwing in harsh vocals that are somewhat akin to Behemoth. These harsh vocals dominate the album, which, much to the glee of many readers here I’m sure, leaves the album void of clean vocals and accentuates some of the droning harshness The Fall takes the listener through.
I want to thank all of the guest writers who have sent in such excellent posts for publication during my vacation. I’ve got five days left before returning to earth with a thud, and some really interesting guest posts remain to be published between now and then. And if any of you are still pondering whether to send in something, there’s still time.
Though I haven’t been listening to much music during this trip, I did set aside some time a few days ago to go exploring. And for those who don’t know, that’s what this MISCELLANY series is all about: I pick a band whose music I’ve never heard, usually focusing on names that aren’t household words, and I listen to a song or two. I write my impressions, and I stream what I heard so you can explore right along with me. I picked four bands for this trip, and they turned out to be a really diverse lot.
I came across this first band via an album review by Madam X at Angry Metal Guy. I usually read what she writes anyway, but in this case there was a double attraction — the other being that album cover you’re looking at. It’s a photo of a doll created by Klaudia Gaugier, and once I saw it I knew I would be listening to the music.
(In this post, guest writer This Is The News hands out some personal awards for the best metal album cover art of 2013. Please leave your thoughts — including your own favorite cover art of the year — in the Comments.)
It’s time again for year end lists, which boils down to two things for most of us:
- No surprises. Decibel, Revolver, and Metal Sucks will publish lists that we probably could have predicted back in June.
- We will want to argue with their choices anyway.
As much fun as that is, let’s take it a step further with a look at some of the best album cover art of 2013. Good artwork can be the incentive to hear an unknown artist, or a small consolation to a disappointing album. Even if you’re bummed out that the new Avantasia album isn’t actually about gnome wizards, at least you still have a fun bit of fantasy art to admire. So look, argue, give your own list of favorites. You know the drill.
I decided to take another break from vacationing to browse the interhole for news and new music, because I continue to have this paranoid suspicion that things continue too happen even when I’m not paying attention. And hellfire and damnation, did I quickly find many items of interest! I’ve collected three items in this post and will try to package up the others in a post tomorrow . . . because vacationing calls me like a siren, and I forgot to stuff my ears with wax.
As explained in this review, the debut album by Norway’s Blodsgard — Monument — is in my humble opinion one of the year’s best, and certainly one of my personal favorites. Yesterday brought the premiere of the first music video for the album, for a song named “Sjeler Vil Brenne” (“souls will burn”). It’s a great song, and the video, though mysterious, is transfixing.
The film was made by an Australian company named Shining Dark Productions. Interestingly, Blodsgard have stated that they left the video interpretation of the song entirely in the production company’s hands, “as we believe in the integrity of the artist and the importance of complete artistic control”. Perhaps a risky move, but one that I think worked in this instance.
(Our supporter xBenx has compiled a series of guest posts, this being the sixth installment. Each one focuses on a different band that he fears may have been overlooked by the masses, and today the spotlight is on Norway’s Myrkskog. Those with long memories may recall that Myrkskog were also the subject of one of Andy Synn’s early SYNN REPORTS.)
For me, Myrkskog were somewhat overshadowed by Zyklon, understandable given the latter’s credentials, but the former were no slouches. In fact, their supreme blitzkrieg of blackened death, which is meticulously calculated in its delivery and jammed to the brim with gloriously scything glacial riffs, is gloriously addictive once you give in and submit yourself. What I like best is how the two genres are melded, they’re almost crystallised to the point where they are in complete harmony, yet there are brief instances where one still dominates the other.
Myrkskog are now back together apparently, and ’bout time. It’s been ten years since the last album and there’s no need to keep us waiting any longer.
Part of our year-end Listmania series consists of re-publishing lists of the year’s best metal that appear on what I call “big platform” web sites, and today we have one from Stereogum. It was one of the web’s first blogs to offer mp3 downloads, and it has evolved into a high-traffic portal with a focus on independent and alternative music news, downloads, videos, and gossip.
Last year Stereogum published a list of The Top 40 Metal Albums of 2012. It’s not clear they’re going to do that this year [correction: they are, next week], because today they published a list of The 50 Best Albums of 2013, spanning a wide variety of music genres. What I did was siphon from that list only the metal albums I saw on it — as I define metal — along with the rankings for each of those albums. Of course, you may wish to see the entire list, but you will not see it here. Instead, you will see this subset:
(In this post TheMadIsraeli continues his retrospective assessment of the discography produced by the seminal death metal band Pestilence, whose new album Obsideo was released recently. The first part of this series can be found here.)
Fucking finally I can fucking get back to this fucking shit and fucking write about fucking metal and shit. I must finish this Higher Criticism series and review Obsideo before the year is over or else my lungs will claw their way out of my ass (you can thank Michael Swaim of Cracked for that one) from the feeling of abject failure.
I both love and hate these two records. They stand as a testament to the pinnacle of how thrashy death metal can and SHOULD be done. In a way, I think Pestilence can be considered the most influential factor in the birth of the so called deathrash style. I mean, there were other bands sure, but not many who weaved the two styles together this seamlessly at the time. Maybe Devastation, and maybe early Death, but those are about the only other examples that occur to me.
(Andy Synn reviews the seventh studio album by Sepultura.)
Talking about a new Sepultura album is surprisingly difficult.
The politics, the media attention, the factions, and the infighting – both between the band and ex-members, and between the fans of various eras – mean that getting any sort of clarity of feeling or judgement can be a tricky business. It’s very easy to be biased or prejudiced, one way or the other, when it comes to a band with so much contentious history.
It’s a bit unfortunate that this is the case, as The Mediator… (as it shall henceforth be referred to for brevity’s sake) continues what I see as a pretty damn fine run of form for the modern incarnation of the band, a group who simply refuse to rest on their laurels or let their legacy continue to be defined solely by past glories.