(In this post, guest writer Utmu sheds some light on underground bands who deserve a higher profile.)
I’ve been listening to some bands lately and I really like them. I also wanted to write another article, so I just decided to combine the two. I don’t know how obscure these bands are, although the music they make is great and they should be recognized for that.
The first two are bands who may be well-known in certain circles, but to anyone who merely scratches the surface of those circles (like I often do with different scenes) I think they’re more obscure. Again, I don’t really know how well-known these bands are, so don’t hold me to the “this band doesn’t get enough attention” mentality. I enjoy them and I don’t hear about them often. The third section in this article is about a creative band from my region who I think should get way more recognition than they seem to get.
Here’s a band that’s been on my radar for a while. Ever since Invisible Oranges released that mix-tape containing Aosoth and Infestus, I’ve remembered Urfaust because they have a really unique sound, and more recently I’ve put time into really listening to their music — it was a great decision to do so.
Urfaust re a two-piece black metal band from the Netherlands who have been making ritual music for true clochards since 2003; in spite of being from the Netherlands, instead of singing in Dutch, the lyrics are in German, which I think has to do with their name, Urfaust.
The band have one demo, four splits, two EPs, and three full-lengths under their belts, as well as a compilation that was released last year called Ritual Music for the True Clochard, which I really want (the artwork can be seen at the top of this post). The comp contains tracks from the four splits and some music that was remastered from one of their full-lengths. They are signed to Ván Records, which you might recognize as the label that hosts/hosted other bands such as Verdunkeln, Castle, Gold, Bethlehem, and The Ruins of Beverast.
The music itself is made up of black metal riffs along with the drums playing a rock beat and melancholic singing (the description in the IO comp used the word “caterwauling”, which, in many instances is the correct word). The singing is incredibly emotional and eerie, having an almost banshee-like quality; add the echo that is often present and you have yourself a real-live ghost singing on a black metal album.
As for the drumming: I love me some metal drumming, however, it turns out that some of my favorite bands use rock beats (including Urfaust here) and Urfaust uses them very effectively. Since this band tends to play mid-to-low-tempo songs, the drumming is perfect and a nice “normal” beat is welcome from time to time in metal music, in my opinion anyway.
The riffing is black metal riffing, but along with the vocals and drumming it seems to have a trance-like effect, one that I would say rivals that of some doom bands (not necessarily in the same way, though). Urfaust make great black metal, and the members create something original, moving, and entertaining: everything that one needs in order to make something truly outstanding. I can’t help but nod my head to this band’s music.
Urfaust’s (awesome, and reasonably priced) Merchandise
Thou. A short name for a band who play long songs and have a long list of releases in their discography. For only being around since 2005, this five-piece hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana has two demos, eight EPs, three full-lengths, a whopping eleven splits, two compilations, and one box set. Here’s an interview with the band’s bass player from 2010, courtesy of Scion A/V:
The music is slow, doomy metal that occasionally goes into droning notes. It sounds very tortured and very dystopian. I normally don’t like bands that are of a style similar to Thou, but the riffs are interesting and I love how the songs evolve over the ten minutes instead of giving me the exact same riff over and over again for nine out of those ten minutes of a song.
The band have many riffs in their songs, much like Opeth; some of the riffs go on for a bit, but the band switch up the notes in their music and add new life after every section. I love the way the lead plays along with the rhythm. I also enjoy the rasps greatly; I’m glad they went with this style of vocals, as it is, in my opinion, what really gives the music that tortured sound.
The drumming is exquisite. The drummer always seems to know when to hit something and how, and he really plays in a way that perfectly complements those riffs. The bass really helps to make everything all the more heavy, and almost makes the songs seem slower than they are. It helps to create the music’s dirty atmosphere.
If Thou’s music were a war club, the bass, drums and rhythm guitar would be the rounded part, the vocals and lead would be the nails in it, and the overall tempo would be a barbarian trudging into battle and bashing in the enemy’s skull as time slows down. Everything works so well in this band’s music, everything complements everything else. Here’s their opus, “Summit”:
And now for the regional band called Sloth Herder (I call them regional because, well, they aren’t local to me; besides, they tour in states outside of their own). Sloth Herder are a kind of grind band (I wouldn’t call them that exactly, more on why later) from Pennsylvania and Maryland and were formed in 2009.
They’ve released two EPs and a four-song EP in February of last year called Sluggard EP. Another, more recent, six-track EP was released on December 21st called Abandon Pop Sensibility. They jokingly posted on Facebook: “the ‘Abandon Pop Sensibility’ EP will be available December 21st, 2012, just in time to usher in the new age of consciousness… or something.”
So, in the introductory paragraph for Sloth Herder I said I wouldn’t exactly call them grind. They play grind, predominantly, but a more transcendental version. By that I mean they go outside of the grind genre. You have grinding guita- wait a second… I thought I was listening to grindcore, not doom metal… what the what? That’s right, a grind band that has doom passages. Some guitar notes even sound like they were pulled from a black metal album.
I’ve been told by grindcore guru Phro, that Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire have a doom sound as well, but I don’t know much about them (thank you Islander and Phro for your feedback about the sound of Sloth Herder, by the way… I was a little confused by them). Additionally, the vocals go from black metal rasps to the typical shrieking and growling of grindcore. So now we have a blackened doomgrind band. Yay! Arbitrarily making up genres!
But in all seriousness, Sloth Herder play grindcore but go outside the mold to do what they do, and I applaud the music they are making, whether or not they were going for grindcore with doom passages and black metal vocals.
The guitar plays great riffs and the bass is high in the production, so much so that this bass-deaf listener doesn’t even need to listen for it. The bass is crushing, and I like its important role in this band; while my experience with grind is limited, I can’t say I’ve heard a grind band with a bass this high in the mix before and it adds a lot of heft to the music (it’s higher in the mix on Abandon Pop Sensibility than on Sluggard EP, but still plays a big role). Now and again, the riffs sound discordant and dissonant, even reminding me of Deathspell Omega.
The drumming, like the rest of the music, switches with the sections: bursts of speed, spasticity, and a slow style are common. Everything from blast beats to the few-and-far-between drum notes of doom. I think, though I’m not sure, that the drummer uses cymbals more often than the usual percussion-based musician. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you; I happen to enjoy the cymbals.
Sloth Herder have a wide range of sounds, and I’m sure if more people knew about them they’d have a much bigger fanbase. Tell the people you know about this band and hit them up on Facebook with a “Like”.
Sloth Herder’s Facebook
Sloth Herder’s Bandcamp: the newest EP is name-your-price, and the older EP is free. SH also haves a gray shirt with their logo for sale for only $8.00.
Sloth Herder’s Personal Blog