(In this guest post, Johan Paulin features an eye-popping list of metal bands, all of whom hail from the same relatively small town in northern Sweden. Tons of music in here, too.)
As most metalheads with more than a fleeting interest in extreme metal know, Sweden has been a forerunner ever since Quorthon struck his first minor chord back in the 80’s. The explanations for how a population the size of Sweden’s could spawn so many good metal bands have varied, and I won’t get into them now, but it’s safe to say that the great band / population ratio is over the top. Still, for all the bands you do know, dozens more toil in more or less obscurity and deserve a better fate. Thus, when Islander called upon us readers to contribute while he took a well-earned vacation full of cloudgazing and Krokodil [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desomorphine], I decided to take the opportunity to champion some of the great bands that originate from my hometown of Umeå, Sweden.
Umeå is located in the northern part of Sweden and has a population of about 120,000 in the whole municipality, making it the 12th largest city in Sweden according to The Font of All Human Knowledge. If that may seem laughable to many of you, you’ll be rolling on the floor when I tell you that the population of London is equal to the population of my whole country! So, fuck demographics and let’s get on with the metal.
Maybe you don’t realize that you need a Meshuggah fix, but you do. In fact, needing it and not knowing you need it could be the source of many of your mental and emotional instabilities. If you watch these two videos, you could become a happier and more well-adjusted person. And by “happier and more well-adjusted”, I mean vacant-eyed, slack-jawed, and slobbery.
I almost didn’t post the first video. I almost didn’t even watch it. I don’t like being the last metal blogger in creation to post about things, so when I see a video that has already made the rounds, I kind of assume that everyone who cares has seen it and I should spend my time on something else. But I got an e-mail today from Johan, an NCS reader who was actually at the club in Sweden where the video was filmed, watching the performance as it happened, and he changed my mind.
As he explained in his message, “Last year Toontrack (creators of drum-software and sample-libraries) decided to throw a staff party/PR stunt by having Periphery and Meshuggah play gigs at Scharinska villan in Meshuggah’s hometown of Umeå. Nothing special right? Except for the fact that Scharinska is a tiny club fitting 300 people in total, maybe 200 in the actual concert room, and that only 100 tickets were released to the public. The rest were given away to employees and partners. Needless to say, the gig was tremendous and the crowd was boiling (literally, it was insanely hot)…. The camera that is shooting straight towards the stage is pretty much where the back of the room is, it’s that tiny.”
In late April you may have seen a video that showed Edvard Hansson — the light technician for Sweden’s Meshuggah — operating the control board for the band’s show in Paris last December (I saw it via The Monolith). By all accounts, the lighting on the band’s current tour is a true extravaganza, and what made the Hansson video such a jaw-dropper was the realization (in The Monolith’s words) that, “Rather than having programmed a static lighting show, he actually ‘plays’ along with with them, triggering parts of the setup in time with the complex rhythms of the music.
Unfortunately, the Hansson video didn’t show the light show itself, other than through the strobing flashes in the corner of the screen. But I just saw a video of the band performing at the Cirkus venue in Stockholm on May 9 that provides a good view of what happens as Hansson pushes all those buttons. It’s really amazing.
WARNING: For those prone to strobe-induced seizures, don’t watch this. It comes next . . . .
Meshuggah now have an official video for the song “I Am Colossus” from Koloss that adds layers of the alien and the grotesque to the song’s atmospherics. Or perhaps the video merely brings out elements of the alien and the grotesque that were present in the song all along.
The video is an animation created by Magnus Jonsson, who is to be congratulated for a really amazing job.
That’s really all I have to say . . . now be good to yourselves and watch “I Am Colossus” after the jump.
(DGR turns in this review of the live show by Meshuggah, Animals As Leaders, and Intronaut in Sacramento on March 1.)
This may be the third sold-out show that I have gotten the chance to attend at Ace Of Spades. That seems nuts considering that I have gone to a ton of concerts there since the venue opened up in downtown Sacramento – but that venue is huge. I admit that when I checked the site on the day of the show to make sure none of the bands had cancelled (a lesson that I learned after The Ocean had to flake out on the Job For A Cowboy/Between The Buried And Me show that hit there), seeing the SOLD OUT tab next to the show was exciting.
Seeing a band that you’ve never gotten the chance to see before is great, but seeing it with the hum and excitement of a ton of other people has such an effect on shows that it’s hard to describe. You often hear performers talk about how they will feed off of an excited crowd in front of them, but it seems there’s something about being in a packed venue that has that effect on the people watching as well.
I also still get a laugh out of seeing that giant swath of people standing in line across the street when the other side has a pool bar, then the venue, a burger restaurant, and then another bar – basically the type of place where a bunch of metalheads outside across the street seems weird.
(Here we have the latest installment of Andy Synn’s lists of favorite things that come in fives.)
One thing that metal does very well (compared at least to pop, hip-hop, and even most rock music) is the long-form song. Heck, I imagine if I were to calculate the “average” run time of a song from amongst my vast collection, it would definitely come out somewhere between 5-6 minutes. A “short” metal song is often one that goes up to about 4 minutes after all (in contrast to the fact that this would be considered longer than average in the other genres I’ve mentioned).
One reason for this is that metal often needs room to breathe, to develop its melodic (or dissonant) themes properly. Metal revels in space, stretching itself, filling up the space with noise and sound, light and vision. It’s also a genre often synonymous with story-telling, and one which – largely free from the external constraints enforced upon the 3-minute pop song – contends to offer a deeper and more rewarding (and as such, longer lasting) emotional experience for the listener.
Then of course there’s Napalm Death… so, ok, metal isn’t ALL about length and depth (short, sharp impact is certainly a common trade-mark too) but it DOES tend to do long songs very well.
So I’ve chosen five of my absolute favourites, presented in order from shortest to longest. And there’s not a single Opeth song among them.
Last week when I caught wind that Scion AV would be releasing something new from Meshuggah tomorrow, I ventured a guess that it would be a new Meshuggah song, perhaps as part of a two-track EP, maybe with a live track included along with the new song. Well, it turns out I was right.
Yes, Pitch Black is a two-song release with a previously unreleased studio recording from 2003 — “Pitch Black” — and a live track. The second track is a previously unreleased, live version of “Dancers To A Discordant System” from obZen. Both songs are very much worth hearing and having.
What do these songs bring? Here’s a partial list: brute, bruising, chugs with that reliable Meshuggah tone; spacey cosmic ambience; near-spoken-word vocals, some of it positively robotic; a fidgety, squirming guitar solo in the title track; and funky bass lines as the foundation for what sure as fuck sound like sax solos (or a guitar tuned to sound identical to one) on both songs.
I generally don’t see much point in trying to guess about a future event when all I have to do is wait a week and I’ll have the answer. But this time I just can’t resist.
By way of background, consider these facts. First, Scion A/V, that renowned automotive patron of metal, is sponsoring The Ophidian Trek 2013, which is Meshuggah’s up-coming North American tour with Animals As Leaders and Intronaut; it kicks off on Feb 11 in Orlando.
Second, Scion A/V also sponsored Meshuggah’s 2012 North American tour with Baroness and Decapitated, and to boost that baby Scion A/V made the lead track from Koloss (“I Am Colossus”) available for free download and financed a limited edition 7″ vinyl version of the song as a giveaway on the tour.
(To see what this list is all about, read the introductory post via this link.)
I listened to a greater variety of metal this year than ever before, branching out more seriously into certain sub-genres that I had largely neglected in the past. It was fun, but I’m now paying a heavy price.
How heavy? Here’s how heavy: My list of candidates for this year’s selection of the Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs, drawn from my own listening and recommendations from readers and NCS staff, consists of more than 230 songs from over 160 bands.
I’ve explained before that I don’t make my own annual list of the year’s best albums because I have so much trouble comparing large numbers of albums from different genres to each other. Also, I’m indecisive by nature. So how in the world am I going to whittle own a list of more than 230 songs into a smaller group of 20 or 30? Honestly, I have no fucking idea. However, as the Chinese philosopher Laozi wrote, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. So I’m stepping off now . . . and I hope I will find a way to finish the list before old age claims all of us.
Because I felt the need to get this thing going despite the fact that I haven’t finished the final list, I decided to start with a couple of easy decisions. We begin with two great songs by two bands who are favorites of this site and whose 2012 albums have become quite popular across much of metaldom.
Here’s a collection of items that came my way over the last 24 hours that I thought were worth sharing — in addition to all of the awesome posts that already graced the site yesterday. (I can use the words “awesome” and “graced” without tarnishing my well-known reputation for humility because I’m not directly responsible for any of ysterday’s posts, even though this post will also be awesome.)
TOURISM: MESHUGGAH AND ENSLAVED
I saw via Heavy Blog Is Heavy the rumor that Meshuggah will be touring the U.S. along with Animals As Leaders and Intronaut early next year. The rumor is based on a flyer for a date in Minneapolis that you can see above.Yes please.
That same photo up there also provides evidence of another tour that I read about previously. This one is official: Norway’s Enslaved will be returning to the U.S. and Canada in early 2013 for a headlining, 20-show “Winter Rite” tour joined by U.S. doom metallers Pallbearer and occult rockers Ancient VVisdom (and both of those bands are killers).
The tour begins January 30 in Philadelphia and ends February 22 in New York City. The full schedule can be seen after the jump. And in case you missed our earlier post yesterday, Osmose Productions has just uploaded three older Enslaved albums for streaming and download on Bandcamp for the first time.