Five New Bands You Should Be Listening To This Year

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5. Grotesque Ceremonium

Turkey isn’t exactly the first place you think of when it comes to extreme metal, but Grotesque Ceremonium is putting Turkey on the map.  A one man project out of Ankara, Grotesque Ceremonium play satanic old school death metal with a blackened edge and a listenable groove.  Think Abhoror but more easily palatable.  The band released their first full length album entitled Demonic Inquisition with the up and coming label Satanath Records last year and the album kicks ass beginning to end.  This is a band you need to familiarize yourself with immediately.

 

4.Limbsplitter

 Anyone in the Cleveland area knows Limbsplitter isn’t exactly a new band. They’ve been touring and playing fests since 2013.  2017 is when they really started to take off though, releasing their first full length album, Chloroform Cocktail.  Aside from having the most brutal album cover in history and hilarious song titles (Drenched in Menstruation anyone) Limbsplitter brings in hard with their musicianship. This is brutal death metal with a grindy feel and even some thrash and technical elements.  They’ve been praised in Metal Injection and featured on a number of fests.  Sick shit here.

 

3. Contaminated

Slow doomy death metal anyone?  Seriously, Australia’s Contaminated blew me away with their debut album, Final Man.  I can’t stop listening. This is some of the heaviest shit I’ve ever heard.  Contaminated coalesces the suffocating thickness of doom metal with the intensity of old school death metal to create a dense and truly massive sound.  What really resonated with me was how convincingly 90’s their debut sounded.  Final Man may as well have come out alongside classics like Autopsy’s Severed Survival.  Truly old school and original; Contaminated’s sound is simply crushing.

2. Degotten

For the life of me I can’t figure out why there hasn’t more buzz in the underground metal community over Degotten’s debut Hexentrost.  This is indisputably masterful blackened thrash with a power metal edge. With a sound that’s both colossal and dark, Chili’s Degotten are proverbial thrash metal warriors heading off to battle, six string axe in hand.  This album is thrash metal perfection, complete with cool riffs and shredding solos, but what sets Degotten apart from others in the black/thrash genre is the nod to classic heavy metal and their melodic undertones.  Original as can be, Hexentrost is a must have for 2017.

 

1. Cemetery Winds

I find it fascinating that such a perfect debut has managed to remain shrouded in obscurity, virtually uncovered by popular extreme metal music media. Cemetery Winds is a Finnish one man black/death project (at least I believe they are a one man project because J. Lukka is the band’s only listed active member).  Their style is melodic on an enthralling level while remaining unequivocally Scandanavian death metal.  The band’s debut, Unholy Ascentions, was released in February of this year.  What sets Cemetery Winds’ sound apart is that instead of drawing on black metal’s rawer elements, as has been the most recent trend in BM of the 2010’s, they follow the old horde and draw on the more melodic elements of the genre.  They achieve this while maintaining their originality and not falling victim to At the Gates worship. Unholy Ascensions is every bit as intense as any gritty Australian death metal band with the ambience of the most memorable Swedish black metal. This is truly incredible stuff.

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Thank you Antifa For Making Black Metal More Relevant Than Ever

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The people in the above photo are amongst the most loathed group in extreme metal today.  The masked horde calls themself Antifa (Anti-Fascists) and they ironically believe that anyone who thinks differently than them deserves violent treatment and a smear campaign unleashed upon them.  I’ve been talking a lot about how they’ve waged war on black metal by accusing the genre of racism and protesting to have black metal events shut down.

Mainstream media and venues have been surprisingly complicit with their demands and refused to cover or book bands deemed white nationalist by Antifa. Of course, just because Antifa has labelled a band as racist it doesn’t necessarily mean the band is actually white nationalist.  Their definition of what it takes to be a “Nazi” is broad and varies from member to member. Anything from putting a WWII era tank on the cover of your album to denouncing socialism can brand one a Nazi in the eyes of Antifa. Many of you have probably read the recent article in Metal Sucks entitled An Open Letter to Hells Headbangers to Stop Distributing Music By White Supemacists. The letter calls for a boycott of Hells Headbangers merchandise in the event HHB refuses to comply with the writers demands.

What’s remarkable about the letter is that metalheads, far and wide, came to the defense of Hells Headbangers.  I’ve never seen a group of consumers more eager to buy merchandise from a particular brand.  Although I have not seen any actual statistical data showing a spike in sales for HHB after the article was written, the emboldened attitude from fans of the label showed that at the very least fans had no intention of boycotting the label.

This is the common attitude of metal fans worldwide.  As soon as Antifa shuts down a show or suggests a boycott on a band’s merch because they’ve deemed a band racist, fans dole out support for the band via social media.  Does this make metal fans racist? Maybe some are, but it’s more likely that metal fans just don’t like being told what to do.  The thing is, metal fans have been hearing about what is wrong with their music for decades (it’s satanic, promotes suicide, promotes violence etc.).  Even the accusation of racism isn’t new for us.  We’re used to being attacked because of the lyrical content of our music so we go on the defense. In the 80s, when a bunch of church ladies, called the PMRC, attacked metal, it did nothing to deter metalheads from listening to the satanic and violent music they’ve always loved and, in fact, record sales for the accused satanic and pornographic bands spiked.  This is pretty much the whole reason Cannibal Corpse is a household name.  Today, the new church ladies, SJW Antifa types, are doing the exact same thing for metal but they’re also doing something else.  They’re making black metal dangerous again.

Dee Snider testifying against the PMRC

Regardless of what the artists themselves say, black metal has always been driven by scandal.  Back in the early 90s, with the second wave of black metal in full tilt, church burnings, grave desecration, and murder put black metal bands in the spotlight. Magazines like Kerrange featured a menacing young Varg on the cover and had captivating headlines like “The Ugly Truth About Black Metal”.  I remember reading these articles and being intrigued by the elusive Scandinavians in corpse paint. Were they really killers?  Did they really worship death or Satan?  What would music created by these mad men actually sound like?  As an isolated sixteen year old who spent her evenings reading the Necronomicon, listening to Morbid Angel, and applying eyeliner; black metal was exciting and dangerous.  I needed to know more…..to hear more.

After Varg and Faust went to prison and black metal expanded beyond Norway, the genre became more about the music than image.  There was always going to be some controversy in black metal, Dissection and Graveland come to mind, but the 2000s served more to expand black metal and define kvlt.  You had the Swedish sound and the Polish, even the Ukrainian.  With black metal exploring so many musical territories, melodic, raw, depressive…., the genre became more exciting for people who were already black metal fans.  Although black metal would always have its murky past, there was no real controversy in black metal in the 2000s.  The LLN tried to revive some of the controversy but that whole scene was largely a joke.  Black metal was improving in quality every year but as far as scandal and the press were concerned, the genre was coasting.  That is until Antifa decided they were all racists.

First Antifa shut down a Graveland concert.  Admittedly, Rob Darken does have some pretty racist views.  Whether or not these are his genuine beliefs or if he uses Nazi imagery and rhetoric for mere shock value, I’m not certain, but it is documented that Nergal from Behemoth grew tired of Darken’s political drivel and parted ways with him and the far right wing group he was involved in to create his own, occult driven black metal.  Whether or not you agree with Rob Darken’s political view, and I very much hope the majority of my readers disagree with him, you can’t deny that Antifa’s controversial actions got Graveland a great deal of free press.  Headlines were plastered on every webzine about how Antifa shut down a black metal show that most people were otherwise unaware of.  I can imagine Graveland was typed into a metal archives search engine more times after Antifa’s shut down their show than it had been in years.

Rob Darken of Graveland

Soon after, a Facebook page was created entitled “Antifa Against Black Metal”.  A number of “white supremist” bands to avoid were listed on the page.  The page has since been taken down and there are rumors that the page was fake; created by “fascists” who wanted to make Antifa look bad.  Still, Antifa have attemped to shut down a number of shows, including a Marduk show, and black metal fans have spoken out by and large against Antifa and in support of the bands.   Shutting down the Marduk show, in particular, incited rage in the metal community, since Marduk does not espouse white supremist beliefs and was only deemed as such for their controversial album art, which, according to Antifa members, glorified Nazism.

Still Marduk was everywhere, featured in every magazine, and discussed on numerous social media posts.  No one in the metal community took Antifa’s side on this issue.  In fact, the group alienated the few supporters they had left in the extreme metal scene with their false accusations.  Marduk played a number of shows after the one in California was shut down, and thanks to Antifa, everyone knew Marduk was touring America.  Now newly emboldened with a formidable visage, Marduk went on to play every other show on the tour unhindered.

Marduk

What does it matter that Marduk has a more daunting image?  Well, that’s kind of what black metal is about.  Euronymous was known to make extreme statements to the press to create fear among people.  The entire embodiment of black metal relies on striking fear into the hearts of the masses.  It’s always been this way, since the days of Venom and their blatantly satanic imagery, and Antifa are doing more to solidify this image than anyone else at the moment.

Dead and Euronymous

To a good majority of metal fans, free speech is more important than protecting people’s feelings.  This is not going to change any time soon.  We are, after all, the people who gleefully sing along to lyrics like “Eyes bulging from their sockets with every swing of my mallet.  I smash your fucking head in, until brains seep in through the cracks, blood does leak.  Distorted beauty, catastrophe steaming slop, splattered all over me.” (Cannibal Corpse, Hammer Smashed Face).  Antifa isn’t winning any fans among us; only enemies.  Because of Antifa, however, black metal is in the press again, appearing more fearsome and controversial than ever.  So we thank you Antifa, for all the free press.

 

 

 

666 The Best Death, Black, and Thrash Albums So Far This Year

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Tons of metal zines have posted articles highlighting the best albums of 2017 so far. They all did this back in June, which I suppose makes sense.  Unfortunately, none of these lists have met the expectations of Underworld Zine.  Once again favoring a band’s popularity over substance, the mainstream metal magazines have failed to highlight some of the greatest metal of the year.  I’m writing this article in response to that trend.  Underworld Zine has always been dedicated to covering truly underground bands.  These are Underworld Zine’s top six black, death, and thrash albums so far for 2017.

Death Metal

6. Warpath- The Ambience of War

Brutal death metal never sounded so good.  Hailing from murky Irish wilderness, Warpath are a band you probably haven’t heard of or listened to but you should familiarize yourself with them immediately and prepare to have your faced melted.  Unlike the menagerie of brutal death metal bands that have listeners struggling to keep their eyes open halfway through the album, Warpath manages to keep their latest EP, The Ambience of War, interesting from beginning to end.  Pummeling blasts, emotive and technical solos, and absolutely sickening vocals meet to create an onslaught of brutality.  The production value is top notch.  While you can clearly hear all the instruments, the grimy quality of old school death metal isn’t lost in the clarity.  This is sickening brutality at its best.

5. Desultory- Through Aching Aons

No death metal listicle would be complete without the inclusion of a proper, melodic Swedish band. Swedish death metal pioneers, Desultory, take the number five spot with their truly ferocious comeback album entitled Through Aching Aons.  The LP has that classic Swedish feel that pays homage to At the Gates, respectably. But, dare I say it, Desultory has gotten heavier with age.  They always had a bit of a melodic groove to their sound, and that isn’t lost on Through Aching Aeons, but this album is pummeling all the way through.  Their combination of brutality and catchiness is what sets their sound apart from others in the Swedish horde.

4. Contaminated- Final Man

Australia’s Contaminated is possibly the heaviest band to make the list.  In the vein of early Autopsy or Convulse, Contaminated has perfected a kind of doom and gloom death metal aggression on Final Man with guitar tones that sound like they were dragged through muck and vocals akin to gargling blood.  Being a relatively new band, Contaminated’s 90s feel is utterly convincing.  Proper use of downtuning and crushing, doomy passages make Final Man truly memorable in 2017.  This is some seriously heavy shit.

3. Necrot- Blood Offerings

In an age of five string basses and blistering technicality, sometimes simplicity can be refreshing.  This is certainly the case with Necrot’s latest release, Blood Offerings.  There’s been a lot of buzz about the band’s latest album and rightfully so. Necrot have forgone the tech death trend, instead opting to create death metal in the vein of Dismember, early Goreguts, or even Death.  This is driving brutality through and through, with catchy riffs, gritty production, and an overall sickening ambience.  The kind of stuff made for circle pits and the wall of death.

2. Undergang- Misantropologi

It seems old school death metal is making a massive comeback.  Undergang’s fourth full length release exemplifies this trend perfectly.  Not that it’s really a trend.  Misatropoligi would scare the pants off an Avenge Sevenfold fan.  This shit is grimy to the core.  D. Torturdød’s are some of the sickest low grunts I’ve ever heard and A. Dødshjælp’s blasts will figuratively rip your face off. Simplistic riffs are masterfully arranged on Misantropoli to create a captivating experience for listeners.  Misantopologi is hard not to fall in love with.

1. Immolation- Atonement

The number one spot on the list is going to the old school masters of death and destruction, Immolation. Atonement doesn’t ease listeners into its glory, instead punching them in the face from the very first crushing riff.  It’s always a relief when a band from the 90s can still destroy and Immolation does just that.  This album holds no punches.  With a victorious and powerful feel, enunciated lyrics, unrelenting brutality, perfectly timed solos and sqeals of the guitar, and melodic technicality, Atonement does not disappoint. But then, when has Immolation ever truly disappointed us?  With Atonement, Immolation shows us how American death metal should be done, and we’re thankful for that.

Black Metal

6. Sinmara/Misþyrming- Ivory Stone/Hof Split

If I had to pick one scene in black metal today that’s touching on the originality of the early Norwegian scene, it would the current scene in Iceland.  The black metal movement in Iceland is bursting with creativity and bringing a new, chaotic approach to black metal that hasn’t been seen in years.  Sinmara and Misþyrming are leading the pack in Icelandic black metal and this year the two powerhouses teamed up to release a split.  The album delivers a blackness and chaos of a black hole and conveys a message of sheer insanity. Sinmara are the real innovators on this EP as their track is vast improvement in quality to the tracks on Aphotic Womb.  But Misþyrming brings it hard as usual with their addition to the split, Hof.  This is cool.  This is kvlt.

5. White Death- White Death

This band just creeped up out of nowhere.  I’m glad they did because their self titled release is comparable to Satanic Warmaster or early Behexen.  The Finnish foursome has seemingly mastered the aesthetic of early, orthodox black metal and brought it to audiences in a fresh and exciting way.  Gloomy passages pair with dissonant riffs, and screeching vocals effortlessly.  Even the occasional fist pounding rock and roll beat or acoustic lick can be found on the band’s self titled debut.  This album is a must have for anyone who loves straight forward black metal done well.

4. Irae- Crimes Against Humanity

Irae is another orthodox black metal project, deriving significant influence from the early, Norwegian sound, but also paying an obligatory nod to the black thrash pioneers.  Irae is a one man project out of Portugal, spawned from the ominous mind of a man known only as Vulturius.  This is good stuff. Fist pumping hard rock licks meet with blackened dissonance, and thrashy interludes to form a truly killer, and old school sounding LP.  Vulturius doesn’t overdo the ambience on this, making for a heavy black metal experience spawned directly from the pits of Hell.  This will scare the hell out of your neighbors.  Really fantastic.

3. Noktunal Mortum- Істина (Verity)

The first black/folk metal band to make the list, Nokturnal Mortum are quite deserving of their position here. Simply the way the first full length track, entitled Мольфа kicks in, with that beautiful string arrangement that builds up into sheer aggression, is enough the moisten your underwear.  This album is a beautiful mix of ambient folk passages, triumphant battle cries, and sheer ferocity wrapped into an hour and fourteen minutes.  The Verity experience is orchestral and you almost lose yourself in the beauty of it.  Is this Nokturnal Mortum’s best release?  Nah.  But it still blows away many other bands under the same moniker.  I can’t stop listening.  Keep at it guys.  Slava Ukraine!

2. Goatmoon- Stella Polaris

Findland’s Goatmoon seems to improve every year.  Stella Polaris is a far cry from Death Before Dishonor in creativity and overall beauty.  The intro is a beautiful acoustic piece that’s consuming and immediately demands full attention from the listener.  Every song  is more beautiful than the next, as BlackGoat Desacrator focuses on building atmosphere with gorgeous, melodic riffs. Stella Polaris is probably his most melodic release so far, matched only by Varjot, but with a fuller sound and better production.  The second to the last track, entitled Overlord, is the one that really stuck out for me.  The final track, entitled P.A.I.L. was interesting, to say the least.  Almost an attempt on a black metal ballad, the track works surprisingly well.  Overall, a win for Goatmoon.  Hail!  Victory!

1. Wode- Servants of the Countercosmos

This band is probably the most surprising on the list.  A new band out of the United Kingdom, Wode is knocking the socks of black metal fans with two stellar releases.  Wode’s sophomore release, Servants of the Countercosmos has a sound that’s almost legendary.  To risk sounding presumptuous, can you say the next Dissection?  Not that this is another Dissection rip off, far from it actually.  It’s just that their sound is so highly memorable that it harkens back an era of musical perfection only matched by Dissection.  Every song is better than the next, as Wode pummels into your soul with an unrelenting ferocity not seen since the 90’s.  The melodic nature of the sound and clean production is reminiscent of the early Swedish black metal sound.  All this greatness spewing from a band made up of musicians virtually unknown to the black metal scene.  What a fantastic record.

Thrash/Speed Metal

6. Lich King- Omnomniclasm 

Lich King makes the number six spot on this list for their newest release entitled Omnomniclasm.  The sheer improvement of the band over the years has people starting to really take notice.  Omnomniclasm is standard thrash metal done at its best.  Focusing on speed, aggression, and ferocity, the new album holds true to original thrash metal vision.  Halfway through, Lich King even hails its speed metal predecessors with a slow and triumphant display of power in the song Civilization.  Think in the vein of Priest.  What Lich King has always focused on, however, is having the coolest riffs and playing faster than anyone else.  Omnimnoclasm delivers sheer speed like few others in the new wave of thrash and perfects the sound with good production and riffs that will crush your skull.  Lich King is basically Vio-Lence reborn and for that we’re all thankful.

5. Power Trip- Nightmare Logic

This album has been getting a lot of hype from metal elitists this year and I can see why.  This is crossover at its best. While I don’t hear a huge amount of hardcore influences on Nightmare Logic, the ones that are there are tasteful.  Ultimately, this is aggression and speed perfectly executed through buzz saw guitar tones, face ripping riffs, rad tempo changes all spawned from the first crunchy riff.  Nightmare Logic is a fist pumping masterpiece complete with anthemic choruses and some of the coolest riffs I’ve heard all year.  Power Trip is good shit.

4. Witchnight- Unholy Speed Metal

Witchnight is a brand new blackened speed metal band out of Argentina but their sound, name, and overall image may as well be out of 1987.  These Argentinian shredders go straight for the jugular with their unique brand of black speed in the vein of Tormentor or demo era Destroyer 666.  The fifteen minute EP entitled Unholy Speed Metal is marked by its utter intensity, lightening fast riffage, and cool DIY production.  This is the kind of album I can imagine procuring in cassete form from a truer than thou older friend who partied with Jeff Hanneman back in the day.  The entire EP drips of blasphemy and rage.  Unholy Speed metal is Witchnight’s first EP, first anything ever.  I really hope this band succeeds.  I need more.

 

3.Bloodlust- At the Devil’s Left Hand

Three words: Australian blackened thrash.  Bloodlust is a relatively new band that has old pro chops.  At the Devil’s Left Hand is the band’s second full length release but the structure and execution of the album is so perfect you’d think Bloodlust had been at it for decades.  I could chalk this up to expertly executed D666 worship but honestly, Bloodlust bring their own unique flavor to the table. The most notable positive on this album is probably the tempo changes, which are so succinctly placed that you’re transported in a sort of thrash metal void upon listening.  Just be careful when you’re listening to AT the Devil’s Left Hand.  You might just break your neck whipping around to their paralyzing riffs.

 

2. Blood Feast- The Future State of Wicked
The blood thirst is real this year. Blood Feast are old school motherfuckers from Jersey who haven’t slowed down a lick.  The band split back in 1991 and reformed in 2007 coming back with a vengeance.  The Future State of Wicked is the band’s first full length release since reforming and it slays harder than a good majority of the youngin thrashers attempts at reviving the old school. Everything from the chilling artwork to the riffs that cut through you like chainsaw to Chris Natalini’s penetrating screams is as heavy as thrash gets.  It’s as though they reformed just to show the new horde how it’s done.  This albums just kills, plain and simple.

1. Hellripper- Coagulating Darkness

Forming only three years ago, the UK’s Hellripper has already redefined the meaning of speed with break neck riffs and blistering solos.  This is an impressive feat for a one man project.  The band’s first full length release, Coagulating Darkness is more than simply unadulterated speed though, the execution is masterfully coherent and the tracks are catchy and memorable.  This album just sounds evil.  Guitar worship reigns supreme, as it should, on Coagulating Darkness as the solos are masterfully placed and the riffs are as cool as Destruction’s.  Despite being from the UK, Hellripper’s music has an unmistakable Teutonic ambiance about that you can’t help but fall in love with.  Really great stuff.

 

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch because I missed something, remember this is opinion.  That said, if there’s anything you think I missed, please post it in the comments.  I listen to a lot of metal but I can’t listen to everything. Also note, Underworld is not interested in anything PC, so if you have a problem with one of the bands on the list keep it to yourself and off my site.  That’s all I’ve got.  Stay trve!  Hails!

Six Weird Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Extreme Metal

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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.

 

Vader- The Empire

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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

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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

Nordland- European Paganism

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Russian based record label Satanath Records has been spewing out several solid metal releases from the proverbial hellmouth since their formation back in 2012, and Nordland’s latest effort, entitled European Paganism, is no exception.  Upon first listen, I was ready to chalk this release up to sub par to above average Graveland worship.  But European Paganism is a slow burn effort that requires patience from its listeners.  Ten minutes into the first track, Mountain, the intensity begins to brew and the rest of the track continues on an upward trajectory of frostbitten beauty.  In an epic 27 minutes, Mountain projects listeners into an ice capped, Northern journey, paying homage to everyone from Bathory to Immortal to Dissection along to way.

Nordland hails from Northern England and is the ambitious solo endeavour of multi-instrumentalist, Vohr.  Despite being a one man project, Nordland maintains a full and atmospheric ambiance, expansive in nature.  The production on European Paganism is clear and devoid of lo-fi pretentiousness, which creates a more grandiose aura signature to folk and pagan metal.

Since releasing his self titled debut in 2012, Vorh has incorporated more and more Viking elements into his writing and European Paganism is an embodiment of this stylistic progression.  The straightforward album title and artwork show Vorh makes no apologies for his gradual immersion into the Viking genre.  That’s not to say his prior works didn’t have Viking elements.  But Vorh’s earlier releases had an ambiance similar to Drudkh or Ygg and weaved depressive elements into the sound.  Every album since his debut has gotten more folky and European Paganism reaches its climax.

Is the latest release an impovement on prior releases?  I wouldn’t necessarily say so. European Paganism simply harnesses a different creative energy; more epic and alive. There were, notably, parts on the album that dragged a bit, but the progressions throughout were, on the whole, masterfully executed, which helped me keep interest. “A Burning of Idols” is arguably the most emotionally captivating song on the album with its frequents bursts into atmospheric bliss.

This is truly guitar driven black metal, stripped to its bones while remaining burly.  Nordland doesn’t play orthodox black metal in a predictable way, he adds a heroic kind of power to the feel.  As I said earlier, this album is extremely remiscent of Immortal “At the Heart of Winter” era, or even Graveland.   Overall, I would say that Vorh is putting England on the map for Viking inspired black metal.  This is a solid release.

7.5/10

https://satanath.bandcamp.com/album/sat167-nordland-european-paganism-2017

Viles Vitae- IV

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There’s been some hype surrounding the Portugese trio’s Viles Vitae debut release on
Caverna Abismal Records, and for legitimately good reason.  The EP is entitled IV in representation of the four cardinal elements and the music itself is intended to be ceremonial for the black magician.  This kind of camp mystic is something that is missing in a lot of modern black metal that, quite frankly, takes itself too seriously.  This is the kind of dark esotericism that drew me to black metal as a teenager.  Viles Vitae is doing it right with their dark image, kvlt album artwork, and occult focus.

The image is for nothing, however, if they don’t have the music to back it up. Fortunately, Viles Vitae brings it hard with their debut, which is a formidable work of dissonant, hate-filled art.  Lacking a bass player, IV is treble heavy, reminiscent of the old school second wave.  I wonder if the addition of a bass line would fill out the somewhat thin sound in some areas of the album.  This transgression is minor, however, and Viles Vitae seems to do just fine without a bass player.  The polishing of the production is limited, giving the EP a raw and hungry feel.

What stuck out to me were Vulturius’ vocals.  They have a tortured aura to them that feels genuine.  No screeching, Vulturius’ tone is more of an afflicted, emotion inducing wail.  The riffs are somewhat formulaic in parts and lacking in true originality, but they’re so expertly executed that their predictability is forgivable.  I really love the atmosphere this band creates.  Combining the melodic nature of their riffs with long intervals of nature inspired feedback really helped bring to life the ritualistic experience the band was striving for.

Each track on this album could stand alone.  The two tracks that stuck for me were Sunless Redeemer and Theory of Deconstruction, with their emotional atmosphere and captivating progressions.  Overall, Viles Vitae has a promising future playing orthodox black metal and this debut is a testament to that.  I’m excited for what’s to come from this band.

8/10

Vomit of Doom- Magnus Cruelty

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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

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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.

-New Primitive!

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!