Death Metal Underground

Judas Priest guitarist invents solution to the unknown local band problem

May 31, 2013 –

k_k_downing-birminghamK.K. Downing, one half of the legendary guitar team from NWOBHM band Judas Priest, is launching “The Future of Heavy Metal,” a business dedicated to showcasing new bands and helping them get discovered. Along with longtime promoter Dave Coleman, his new venture is essentially a mini-tour that collects promising local bands and delivers them to clubs in exchange for a fair payment to the band.

“In the past when you had some interest from managers or record companies you could get advances. Record companies would give an advance to buy instruments or make a record. That’s not happening any more,” said Downing. “It’s going from bad to worse too and bands are actually being asked to pay to buy onto a tour which goes against the grain. But to find the money to pay as a guest is not do-able unless they have got rich parents.”

The first crop of bands being showcased include Midland acts Hostile, Under Blackened Skies and Fury, along with French band Moray Firth. According to an article in his local paper, Downing considers Birmingham and the Black Country in the Midlands to be the spiritual home of heavy metal, and accordingly, is helping perpetuate the movement into the future.

International Day of Slayer becomes a yearly holiday

May 30, 2013 –

international_day_of_slayerOn June 6, 2006, a new holiday was born in commemoration of the 6/6/6 of the date. Inspired by the American political movement National Day of Prayer, this new holiday was dedicated to the most extreme of metal and was called the “National Day of Slayer.” Since others outside the USA wanted to participate, it soon became the Inter-National Day of Slayer, and has been celebrated enthusiastically every year since.

This year, sobering news hit: On May 2, 2013, founding guitarist and major songwriter Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died from arachnid-induced liver failure. While Slayer re-camps and tries to figure out this situation, the International Day of Slayer team decided to recognize the obvious: Slayer is an emblem of metal just like metal is a symbol for not letting your sense of reality get stolen away by social pressures. As a result, the team re-dedicated the International Day of Slayer as a generalized heavy metal holiday, focused on Slayer as a symbol.

In addition, the same group is launching a new project called the Hessian Association for Identity Legislation (H.A.I.L.) whose goal is to get heavy metal recognized as a legitimate cultural group much like most religions, ethnicities, lifestyle choices and national cultures. We are metalheads, and we are legion worldwide, and we are a culture separate from both the mainstream and the counter-stream. We are going our own way… the most intense way, the way of reality and the way of METAL!

“Hessian” is old-school California thrasher slang for headbangers, metalheads, metal fans, threshers, heshers, etc. It’s derived from the Hessian mercenaries who came over to fight for the British during the Revolutionary War and were both feared and known for their long hair and wild eyed combat tactics. Someone — probably a cynical history teacher — saw the similarity and the name has stuck ever since.

Check out the H.A.I.L. website at www.hailmetal.org and visit the International Day of Slayer while you’re at it. Keep the horns high and the celebration loud, and we could have our own Hessian nation spread out across the globe in no time at all.

Autopsy sticks to form on new material

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autopsy-the_headless_ritualAutopsy played a new song named “Arch Cadaver” during their set opening for Bolt Thrower at the Oakland Metro in Oakland CA on May 26,2013. Contrary to record company/band hype, no new ground is retread and laurels are rested on to some extent, namely the formula adopted on Acts of the Unspeakable, albeit this new song has much less grindcore/Nuclear Death influence.

In other words, Autopsy is treading into Exhumed territory with simple songs that use somewhat predictable structures but focus on writing killer riffs and having intensely catchy, gory choruses. The result is like a fusion of early German speed metal with gore-drenched grindcore in the Carcass and Repulsion style, making a high-energy form of music that is pure pop at the same time it is pure pus-ridden disease-laden metal for the sake of sounding extreme and creating that old school feel of being totally alienated from the sociable world.

Following a dooming intro reminiscent of “Meat” from Acts of the Unspeakable, the band go into the dark 2-beat hardcore/death metal previously explored on songs like “Dark Crusade.” It’s doubtful the band intended to reinvent the wheel with this release, and if this song is any indication, The Headless Ritual will be the “crowd pleasing” Mental Funeral and Acts of the Unspeakable admixture fans were hoping for.

Drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert opined in a recent interview, “Expect nothing less than the monstrous brutality that Autopsy has been known to offer. Laurels will not be rested upon, trends will not be followed and mercy will not be shown. Mark your calendars for June and pick out a coffin to lie down and die in. Darkness and death await…”

Autopsy have begun selling the album and related merchandise through their label, Peaceville. Click below for the live song on YouTube video, or the stream of the studio version of the same song.

The first Hessian event: Heavy Metal Day (May 29, 1983)

heavy_metal_day_1983_u_s_festivalI wasn’t old enough to have figured it out at the time, but according to this entertaining report, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame cobbled together a festival in 1983 whose goal was to showcase new styles of music, and in the process, showcased metal blowing away the willowy music of the previous ten years.

This isn’t to say I dislike New Wave or any of those other styles. They have their place. But in 1983, metal was raging to take over. The Cold War was in full nuclear terror of instant radioactive death, the world was unstable and conservative, and as a result most people were getting ready to go into full kumbaya mode. Metal to the rescue, with warfare, doom, death, disease, horror and hedonism!

Heavy Metal Day featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, Triumph, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne raging across a massive stage with spectacular amplification. In short, it was the MTV metal of the day, or the stuff you’d see on the then-new invention of MTV with its music video channels, and that meant it wasn’t as extreme as what we have now, but for then, it was like a giant backlash against the gradual creeping “love will save us” mentality of 1970s music. With metal, war was back, and it was angry!

The ever-pointed Vine Neil of Motley Crue told one reporter that the significance of Heavy Metal Day was that “It was the day new wave died and rock ‘n’ roll took over.” 670,000 people attended the event, but over half of them came for Heavy Metal Day alone. The power of metal was established, and would only rise from this point onward as the world waited for the wavebreak of Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, and Hellhammer which was about to come crashing down about its ears.

Perhaps May 29 should be remembered as the day metal rose up in power and struck down the opposition to assert itself.

Interview with Duke Hagin from Southern Decay on Stench Radio

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duke haginInternet radio access is usually available on a global scale. With a little webcasting know-how someone can connect their computer to a server and stream a full-fledged internet radio station. I would imagine that marketing the station to build an audience might be more difficult than devising the station itself. I stumbled upon Duke Hagin’s show Southern Decay on Stench Radio. It was great to see that his program consisted mostly of underground metal and classical music which reached thousands of people. Duke agreed to an interview after I was interested to see how his program came to be.

Howdy Duke Hagin! Thank you for taking the time to have the Death Metal Underground inquire about your exploits. What inspired you to get into internet radio?

Just to put this into perspective, as of this interview I am 24.  Around the time I was 10 or 11, Limp Bizkit and Korn became a huge part of my life.  I often recognize these shitty “nu-metal” bands as my gateway to a taste in finer music, despite being well aware of bands like Metallica and Slayer.  I was in marching band in high school and I was largely a loner, but I did have a small group of friends I would float around to and expose new music to.  Some people might be surprised to find out, considering the type of music I play on my show, that Rammstein is amongst my favorite bands.  I exposed friends to Rammstein, Korpiklaani, and other bands and in turn I was exposed to bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Venom, Immolation, Dimmu Borgir…the list goes on and on.  During these times my friends and I would hang out on various IRC channels and stream music for each other.  This is what largely got me interested in broadcasting to the masses.  I enjoy exposing people to things they’ve probably never heard before.  Obviously my preferences in music, Rammstein and Korpiklaani aside, have drastically changed and I hope that my work is allowing people to enjoy something new to them.

Stench Radio is owned by Stig Stench. How did you get into contact with him? Was it easy to convince him to let you have your own show?

How I met Stig has nothing to do with music.  When I was a senior in high school, I was very much (and still am) involved in professional wrestling.  Stig was a manager for a group of various wrestlers and I would volunteer for a locally based wrestling promotion.  When I found out Stig was a fan of black metal, we hit it off.  He eventually persuaded me to get involved in the actual show and became a mentor of sorts to me.  We lost touch for a while after I graduated high school and moved on to college but we got back in touch a bit after Stench Radio was launched over three years ago.  One month I’d ask for a 30 minute show and it wouldn’t happen.  The next month I’d ask for a one hour show and it would never come to fruition.  Honestly, I begged for almost three years to have a show and he was gracious enough to give me a three hour time slot.  I consider Stig a great friend and although we may not agree on a lot of things philosophically, he is very near and dear to me.

Your show Southern Decay on Stench Radio is different than most of the other programs on there. Why did you decide to bring extreme metal to a punk oriented radio station?

Stench Radio has a large audience.  I mean no disrespect to the other DJs by saying this, but you can only hear so much Black Flag and Sham 69 and no on-air personality before you get tired of it.  If I wanted to listen to robots play music, I’d put on Spotify or something.  Stench Radio has attitude and that’s why I wanted Stench Radio to have a show that is complete chaos.  I do my best to be personable and have fun with it.  When I first started the show, I was incredibly nervous.  Over time I think I’ve found my style and the audience has been more and more responsive each week.  I hope to continue to learn from my listeners and learn more about myself as this experience presses on.

Most of the shows on Stench Radio reach thousands of listeners in over 40 countries. Was there marketing involved to help build the audience? Has your show been well-received?

Stig has connections everywhere.  The man has built an underground empire from nothing and what’s great about it is that it is a tight nit community with a very loyal fan base.  Marketing has mostly been through promoting shows locally in Austin, TX and via social networking.  The network is completely listener supported and nobody is making a dime off of this.  As far as my show being well-received, there was some initial backlash from the guys who want to hear nothing but punk 24/7 but I’ve grown on a lot of people I hope that trend continues.  It’s been getting more and more exciting to do a show each week, especially when I get to conduct interviews.  My interviews so far have not been great on my side but that is something I am definitely working to improve on.

Being that you’re based in Texas and sometimes feature Texan bands on your program, do you feel that it’s a duty to support your local scene through your program?

I regularly play tracks by Hod, Plutonian Shore, The Black Moriah, Id, and Morgengrau.  I hope to keep that list growing.  I wouldn’t say it is my duty to support these bands.  It is an obligation.  They pour everything they have to make the scene in Texas what it is and I refuse to be a leech.  I want these bands to succeed and I want Texas to be a hotbed for metal.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason this state can’t have something on the level of Maryland Deathfest.  Rites of Darkness (bullshit aside) and Sacrifice of the Nazarene Child were magnificent fests but there needs to be a stronger foundation.  There are a few smaller fests that mainly feature local acts that pop up here and there but there needs to be something stronger.  This needs to reach out further.  I mean no disrespect to any promoter in this state, but I feel that by exposing these bands to a large audience I can help break ground on something big.  I don’t know what that something big is quite yet, but I hope that one day, in some city in Texas, we can shut down a street or park or fairground and bathe in the glory of what these bands do with thousands of other people.  “Big things have small beginnings.”

You also feature Classical Music on your program. Why?

There is a very simple answer to this question.  You must pay tribute to your kings.  Without the old, there is no new.

What are your favorite bands?

I’ve already embarrassed myself and declared myself false by admitting that I like Rammstein and Korpiklaani, so I hope to salvage some “cred” with this answer.

I love Midnight.  I open every show with a Midnight track and I close with Saint Vitus’ “Blessed Night”.  I’ve also recently gained a great deal of respect for Revenge, especially after seeing them at Maryland Deathfest this year.  Antaeus and Aosoth are great.  Marduk is up there along with Wodensthrone, Embrace of Thorns, Pseudogod, Immolation, Katharsis, Desolate Shrine, Adversarial, Nosvrolok, Profanatica, Beherit………….

Since your show is still fairly new, do you have any special plans for it in the future? Theme based shows?

I have interviews coming up with Humut Tabal and Plutonian Shore.  As far as themed based shows go, the only one I’ve done so far was the show that aired on April 20th, for obvious reasons.  I played a lot of classic rock, doom, sludge, and “stoner” metal that day.  This Saturday (6/1/13) I am doing a live show from Chaos in Tejas.  The Chaos in Tejas show will largely feature bands playing that festival such as Absu, Manilla Road, Satan’s Satyrs, Speedwolf, and much more.

Thank you for your time. Please share any last words and resources for our readers to check out.

My show airs on Stench Radio from 3PM to 6PM CST every Saturday.  Again, Stench Radio is completely listener supported. Donations are appreciated to cover server and equipment costs.  I am in the process of having a series of patches made as well so keep an eye out for those.  You can reach me personally on Facebook as well. Keep your hammers high and support your local scene, no matter where you are.

Groovy Commercialism

May 29, 2013 –

who wants a hugThis morning I was flipping through the book Choosing Death and landed on an interview with commerce queen Angela Gossow detailing her opinion on Cannibal Corpse:

“I loved Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life, because it was so extreme at the time when I was a kid, but I didn’t sing along with those lyrics.” Gossow admits. “It’s somehow just a bit intimidating. It’s so much about violence against women. It’s not a guy who’s being totally shredded—it’s always a woman. It’s usually a sexual thing too, like rape, then murder, and I don’t think you should promote that. You don’t wanna have your girlfriend raped, strangled and ripped apart when she was pregnant. I still don’t get it when so many of the people out there sing about that [subject matter] have girlfriends—I just don’t know how they can justify that.”

While she does have a valid point from a woman’s perspective, the dots didn’t connect that the main factor to their popularity is shock value. Cannibal Corpse have become the most popular death metal band for outraging people in a cartoonish manner. Most of their lyrics are so farfetched in its violence, sex and gore that it defies a sensible reality. They found a commercially viable formula and cater to people that seek music that doesn’t delve farther than the surface level. I can easily envision a teenager sitting at the dinner table wearing a Cannibal Corpse shirt for one sole purpose: to repudiate his parents and be “rebellious”.

Cheese: The nineteen nineties were besieged by an onslaught of second rate bands that were inspired by the shock value of Cannibal Corpse and took the concept even further. One such band that accelerated to popularity more than the others for being more extreme was Devourment. Instead of deriving their lyrical themes from fantasy and outlandish gore, they sought to bring a more shocking element by advocating the murder of babies. Their song Baby Killer quickly became a classic among those that needed something more edgy than their prized Cannibal Corpse.

Relapse Records recently picked up Devourment to cash in on this concept. Knowing that it wouldn’t be profitable advocating baby death, Devourment went the Cannibal Corpse route and devised their lyrical themes to be cartoons. Their popularity has already grown. The era of Cartoon Death Metal is overshadowing those who approach the genre as an art form.

 

Death Melodies Series (Beethoven)

The Death Melodies Series (DMS) continues with pioneering Romanticist composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

BeethovenQuite possibly the most well known composer to ever walk this planet, Ludwig van Beethoven’s music has inspired the world for two centuries. Beethoven ushered in the Romanticist Period after he was under the guidance of Joseph Haydn in which he studied and performed works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His Mozartean mastery furthered his reputation as a performer and when Beethoven sought to compose, he started out with heavy influences from his Classical Period contemporaries.

Romanticism: Some time around 1804, Beethoven grew weary of the state of music and decided that he was going to pave a new way. Inspired somewhat by the glimpses of Romanticism that Mozart hinted at during his later years, Beethoven presented a fully formed Romanticist style that would be extended throughout the 19th century in Classical Music. This period of Beethoven’s career is known as the ‘Heroic Period’. The most notable musical work from this time is his Third Symphony in which the second movement is a Funeral March for the then-still-alive Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven was originally going to make the symphony a tribute to Napoleon’s role in the French Revolution, but he was rather disgusted by Napoleon proclaiming himself the Emperor of France, so Beethoven instead insulted Napoleon with a Funeral March.

Beethoven’s hearing started to deteriorate around the age of 26. As his condition worsened he isolated himself and had thoughts of suicide. His art overrode his depression and he was striven to live his life through his works. He kept hammering out innovative and groundbreaking compositions of epic portions that would forever change the course of Classical Music. Ludwig van Beethoven immortalized himself through his art.

Dead Horse plotting its return

May 28, 2013 –
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dead_horse-horsecore_revivalSuccess in life often comes down to timing. Some of metal’s best bands, by virtue of being ahead of the curve, simply get there too fast and go too far to be as noticed as the others who plod along and thus are right about where their audience expects them to be, thus understands them and thus can appreciate them.

It reminds me of the friend of mine who wrote an English paper in high school that the teacher dismissed as nonsense; when he handed it in at college, he got an A. He was just too far out ahead of the curve. In the same way, Houston’s Dead Horse were just too ahead in too many ways at once for most people to grasp. Thrash is a hybrid between punk songs and metal riffs, so named because of its popularity with thrashers or skaters. Thrash bands like DRI (also from Houston), COC, Cryptic Slaughter, MDC and Fearless Iranians From Hell (from San Antonio) were famous for short intense songs of social commentary that was more existential and practical than political. Dead Horse took it even further to a nearly literary level.

After producing a series of demos that were well-received in the underground and even among “normals,” Dead Horse recorded and self-released their first album, Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming. After that, they gigged like maniacs and finally got on a larger label to release their second album, Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers, at which time a death metal and progressive metal influence was flowering in their music. But after that, they never really got a handle on things again, despite releasing a pair of well-received EPs. As often happens in Texas, the local scene swallowed them, in equal parts of taking them for granted and resenting them for rising so far so fast.

Fast-forward to last year. Most of Dead Horse is now gallivanting around in Pasadena Napalm Division, while original frontman Mike Haaga makes his living making oddball soundtracks and performing live. Like many talented people in metal, he left it behind, probably outraged at the simple inability of metalheads to unite to do anything, a self-defeating practice that delights their detractors (what’s better than an opponent who commits suicide?). But the other band members have continued on and played a show in Houston which was memorialized in their Making a Dead Horse Live DVD.

According to most recent reports, the band is returning for a live performance at Fitzgerald’s this Saturday, possibly with Kurt Brecht of DRI making an appearance. It’s good to see this legend rise again, and this time, perhaps stay in flight.

Speed metal history through sound

cliff_burton-metallicaHere at the DMU, one of our goals is chronicling the history of metal, from its dual origins in hard rock & classical music up to its current form of diverse genres. The Heavy Metal FAQ is the definitive tome of metal knowledge; however, one of the best time-tested methods for communicating this information is simply through listening.

Last month, Australian radio program Burning Bitumen presented a 2 hour long aural history of speed metal, from its humble beginnings in ’70s hard rock, to the ’80s NWOBHM, up to the current state of speed metal which attempts to amalgamate the influences of the past while still striving to innovate.

For those who are new to the genre, those who would rather experience sound than read about it, or those who just want to listen to a couple hours of solid metal; this is an excellent place to begin.

University offers degree in heavy metal, and not all are thrilled

May 27, 2013 –

heavy_metal_foundation_degreeNew College Nottingham in the UK have recently announced that from September this year they will be offering students a foundation degree in Heavy Metal.

“We’ve created this pioneering course in response to student demand and Nottingham’s growing music and creative economy. At its heart is music performance so students will be forming bands, gigging and promoting, while academically delving into what makes metal such a music phenomenon. Applicants will be auditioned and will need to demonstrate an ability to play or sing up to Rock School, ABRSM or Trinity Grade 5 standard and have knowledge of music theory at ABRSM Grade 5,” the school announced in its class syllabus.

Further, New College opined, “Due to the largely unstructured nature of the music industry, the FdA in Music Performance (Heavy Metal) places a strong emphasis on the development of entrepreneurial skills designed to allow the students to work confidently on a self-employed basis.”

As supportive as I am of the growing area of metal studies in academia, this course sounds like a terrible idea – unless of course it consists of 21 hours a week forced listening to and analysis of Demilich’s Nespithe, in which case it’s worth every penny.

A budding metal musician would be much better off getting a degree in music – whether at a predominantly classical or jazz institute, they will get a much broader grounding in the theory and history of western music, and thereby understand better which bands and ideas are good and which are garbage. By the way, for those that don’t know, Grade 5 Rock School is not a very high benchmark for musicianship at all.

I’m sure that the college believe they are helping facilitate people into a niche and commercially lively area of the economy, but I wouldn’t be as optimistic as they are.

Its been a long time since the UK produced a viable classic metal band that could draw in a consistent crowd (let alone produced a noteworthy scene or movement), so its hard to think of a stable, growing sector in the UK metal economy other than Iron Maiden’s stage crew. Remember also that most metal musicians the world over will at least have to supplement their income with other work, if not wholly support their music through a day job. It’s also not as though, when business is slow, you can go play a few weddings or open mics when your stock repertoire consists of Slayer songs and originals that are probably only Slayer rip-offs.

I could of course be completely wrong about it; but if it were my kid choosing their degree — £7,000 a year for something that will only look bad on their CV — I don’t think I’d be too quick to let them test out the possibility of me being mistaken.

No quality metal band before now ever required this qualification to propel their career in the right direction or provide them with worthy scene credentials, and that will probably remain the case.