Above you can view the trailer for Metalhead, a new film from Icelandic film director Ragnar Bragason (Children, Parents) about what happens when a tragic event and adults’ inability to talk honestly about it causes an adolescent explosion into heavy metal.
The film follows Hera, who witnesses the accidental death of a beloved brother. He was a metalhead, and in the process of mourning, Hera re-makes herself in his image — wearing his clothes, and listening to and playing music at earshredding volumes — as a method of channeling her grief, rage and doubt.
As the movie goes on, Hera explores greater extremity as her previous acts of rebellion fail to discharge whatever dark psychic spectre haunts her. Metalhead views her without judgment and with compassion, probing deeper into the paradox of grief and the frustration of an inability to express it.
Those who have been around the death metal scene will remember the name Jill Girardi. Originally a founder of maverick label Razorback Records, she now runs Dead Beat Shop in Malaysia, where she continues to keep death metal strong. We were fortunate to get in a few words about Dead Beat Shop and Jill’s own history in music.
I understand you run your business from Penang, Malaysia. How’s the metal scene there?
Yes, that’s right. I’ve been living in Malaysia for about four and a half years now. I’m originally from New York! For such a small country, the metal scene here is very big. New bands are forming all the time. In the past, it seemed like bands took a great deal of time to release demos and albums, if at all.
But now there seems to be a new crop of bands coming up such as Humiliation, Succubus, Nonserviam and others, that have an unusual work ethic for this part of the world and work hard to get at least one release out every year, if not more. More bands are starting to take note of this and follow suit, which can only be good for the scene in the long run.
As far as shows go, the size of the crowd really depends on the band that is playing and the scene politics here are much the same as they were in the States.
Can you tell us a bit about your personal history, and how this came to be your path?
Well basically I was a lonely kid and metal was the only thing in my life that made me feel better. Most kids discovered metal because the had an older brother, relative or friend into it, but I found my way to Metal all by my lonesome nine-year-old self.
I started a zine and record label called Mortal Coil in the early 90s with Jay Lipitz from the band Insatanity. That lasted a few years with a few releases, and then folded. I then formed Razorback Records with another partner which was very successful, although I quit the label in 2009 and moved here to be with my fiance (now husband), who is Malaysian.
I was going to quit the music business, but I found there was no other work I could really do, having been doing this for most of my life. So my husband and I opened a metal shop and a new label.. to make a very long story short, Dead Beat Media! haha
What sorts of metal does Deadbeat specialize in, if any? Why do you choose this style(s) over others?
We specialize mainly in death metal as I always wanted to stay true to my “first love”, so to speak. Death Metal has been my life for so many years, I don’t think I could change it now even if I wanted to.
I’m not averse to releasing other styles of extreme music, and in fact I have. But Death Metal is the music I’ve always been passionate about ever since I discovered it. I’m sure you understand what I mean…
This band has heart. They love what they do and they truly enjoy playing Death Metal. And I think that shows in the music. The obvious way to promote them is to compare them to Bolt Thrower and Benediction but there are other elements in there as well, a little bit of Cannibal Corpse and also a little bit of a punk influence.
I enjoy the mid-paced songs that will suddenly break into a crushing, catchy riff that hits you like a hammer, and the unique vocals. I’ve released probably something near 100 CDs in my time in the scene, and some of them were sheer embarrassments, haha. But this is a respectable CD I can stand behind and be proud of having released.
If someone wanted to get into old school metal today, what would be your advice to them?
Take suggestions from your friends and peers. There is a reason why the classic old bands are still talked about today. Find out who they are, buy their CDs and explore the genre.
But remember to make up your own mind.. don’t just listen to what other people say or what the critics say. Don’t be afraid to disagree with others’ opinions. Trust your own judgment, and your ability to decide for yourself if a band is good or not.
DEAD BEAT SHOP [ email ]
LOT 2B-04-05 4th Floor
KOMPLEKS TUN ABDUL RAZAK (KOMTAR)
Underground Never Dies! fills a void in the literature about metal so far, which is the “why” behind the underground. We know the facts from other sources, but facts are deceiving because they take on a life of their own. Underground Never Dies! knits the facts together with a narrative of the reasons people expressed for joining the underground.
Angling toward its topic matter from a zine-based perspective, Underground Never Dies! describes the informal network of fans, bands, labels and writers who stayed connected through postal mail and xeroxed 50-page fanzines. This substituted for the huge media network and financial power of the major labels, who soon found themselves wishing they had an underground also.
The reason for this is that, as any advertiser can tell you, the most effective force in marketing is word of mouth. It takes ten TV ads about how awesome Altars of Madness is to be equal — possibly — to one friend telling you about “the most intense album ever.” Zines were a personal connection by people who threw out the false objectivity of mainstream media, and instead focused on presenting what they found meaningful.
Underground Never Dies! unites several threads while explaining this phenomenon. On one hand, this book is an incredible treasure trove of images and words from the past, reproduced exactly as they appeared in the original zines, flyers and letters. Looking more deeply, it’s an exploration of what it means to have the underground mentality through the words of those who participated and distinguished themselves, including luminaries like Fenriz of Darkthrone and musicians from At the Gates.
What makes this book exceptional is that it takes the same approach a zine would, which makes sense seeing how the author Andrés Padilla is editor of Chilean zine Grinder Magazine. Using his practiced approach, he goes for a metal version of Hunter S. Thompson’s “gonzo journalism” and discards the pretense of objectivity, instead looking at the scene as a personal experience with shared objective components between a select group who actually did notable things back in the day.
Parts of this book will take your breath away as you realize you are looking at historical objects reproduced as if in a museum, and that these objects represent the time and place where movements that are with us to this day were launched. From demo covers of bands that were later genre-defining to classic interviews where bands explained their motivation, even extending to lost promotional photos of bands 30 years ago, Underground Never Dies! is like an inverted periscope into the deep and murky world of underground extreme metal.
What makes this book more than a souvenir is its intense exploration of the why, however. Personal statements from notable scene personalities, including Alan Moses of Glorious Times fame, as well as clear articulations from zines in the day about what motivated the participants, line these pages and show us how the underground wasn’t just a musical movement, but a social movement, if not a separate society entirely.
The first 500 copies of the book come with a LP recording of unreleased classic metal tracks from back in the day. You can peruse the tracklist here, or listen to the live soundstream that follows this article. The CD/LP will be sold separately in addition to the book, but it’s hard to imagine wanting one without the other since both are essentially archives of rare information.
As the years have churned by, interest in underground metal has grown as metal fans have become more experienced and come to want more complete assessments of the music of their youth, and as outsiders and new fans discover this field. To support this, a fleet of books have been launched to cover it.
A recent addition is Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), by Salva Rubio, a writer in Spain. Rubio holds a degree in art history and works as a screenwriter and writer in his native Spain. Right now, the book is only available in Spanish, but it’s possible that a translation to English and other languages will follow.
According to the website for Extreme Metal: 30 Years of Darkness (1981-2011), the book “includes essays about the ethical and aesthetic nature of Extreme Metal, a formal account of what distinguishes each style and how they are meant to be played, a chronological, style-by-style story of how each kind of Extreme Metal evolved.”
The book has a Facebook site in an effort to build some community behind the release.
Swedish band Wan recently released Enjoy the Filth on Carnal Records, creating an album that’s most similar to 1998-faire like Impaled Nazarene Latex Cult and Disfear Soul Scars.
As Wan is trying to break in to the post-modern metal scene, where outside genres often get disguised as metal for the sake of riding the coattails of black metal’s 1990s notoriety, they are emphasizing their metal nature and associating with black metal.
We were fortunate to be able to catch a few words with Wan, who write to us from the darkened winter wilderness of Sweden.
When did Wan form, and what influenced you at the time?
As the song “Day of Reckoning” suggests, we formed in July 2009 with the aim to celebrate the oldschool metal scene. The influences are as obvious as they are filthy. Bands like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost have a deep impact in our minds and in our tunes.
Are the members of Wan metalheads of long standing, or is this a recent discovery?
We are four old bastards who have been breathing, eating and crapping metal for ages!
What other types of music do you or have you in the past listened to?
Some of us emerged from the early punk I guess. Personally I enjoyed different types of music as a youngster. Depeche Mode was a band that I liked a lot, and I still think some of their earlier stuff is great.
Coming from Sweden, which is a tiny country from which many important metal bands come, it seems it might be difficult to get known, like the bar is higher. How do you hope to overcome this?
As you say, there’s a lot of quality bands hailing from our dark regions. To be honest there’s even more shitty bands as well that, in my opinion, never should have been! So yeah, there’s quite a competition in the scene, but we’re not going to do anything other than to let our music speak for itself. Some people will enjoy our filth, some will be ignorant bastards.
Were the members of Wan active in other bands or artistic activities before Wan? Can you tell us about these?
We have all been in numerous bands and acts throughout the years. The list would be long and bore your readers out of their minds! It has been various styles anyway, but always metal or dark music in one way or another. Also at the present time we keep ourselves busy by playing in other bands. Not gonna ramble any names though… If you’re interested you’ll find out.
This is an awkward question, but I must ask: why do you classify Enjoy the Filth as black metal when it sounds more like late-period hardcore? Do you know of any other black metal releases that sound
like this, and how do you separate them from hardcore bands like Driller Killer, Disfear, etc?
Hmm… we obviously don’t share the same musical references. There’s a lot of punk influences within our music, but all in all I’d say that we sound a whole lot like Venom, classic Bathory and Darkthrone. Rock ‘n’ roll blackmetal that fuck bands like those you mention in the ass!
Enjoy the Filth inspired me because it seems very deliberate; there are no random riffs or bits out of place. How do you write songs, and what’s your “quality control” process?
The songwriting is more like a beerswinging metal process. We just meet up and create our songs more or less spontaneously. This is who we are and the kind of filth we have inside of us, so it comes rather naturally.
How does Enjoy the Filth differ from your earlier release, Wolves of the North?
It differs in the sense of production and that the drum-machine thankfully got a knee in the crotch, and Dimman did one hell of a job! Music and lyricwise it don’t alter that much.
Do you think as a practical matter that a black metal scene still exists, or has it been absorbed by other forms of music?
The underground scene as it once was doesn’t exist today. Still there’s a big metal scene in Sweden even if the focus lies elsewhere these days. The genuine music and minds involved will never be absorbed or replaced by any other forms, and will forever stand strong!
What’s next for Wan? Will you tour on Enjoy the Filth, and/or write more music?
We sure hope and aim to go out on some live performances. A few organizers has showed interest. And perhaps we’ll get together and spit out some new material in the inspiration of the approaching dark cold winter.
If someone wanted to understand Wan, what bands and albums would you recommend they understand first?
Early Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost as mentioned before. If you would prefer some more “up to date” bands, I’d recommend you to torture your ears with acts like Aura Noir and Styggelse.
A new occultist extreme music entity composed of members of Electric Hellfire Club and Kult ov Azazel, Wolfpack44 has begun to record and release material, starting with the professional “Rituale Romanum.”
This song combines the heavy metal stylings of Dissection with raw black metal and pounding industrial, creating an entity that cycles between different moods like an initiate traversing different rooms in an ancient temple. It moves from elegant acoustics to blanching punk hardcore/black metal/industrial hybrid verses that sound like the ranting of the propaganda of hell, and then finds mediate ground in black metal riffs with heavy metal flourishes.
Probably destined to be known as much for its members’ thoughtful and practical approach to the occult, Wolfpack44 nevertheless makes good on the disorganized underground by taking a middle path, and then upgrading it to higher levels of professionalism. This song fits together tightly and leaves a lasting impression, which is more than we can say for the flood of black metal generics.
Further, this style shows a better way to incorporate the melodic side of black metal, best exhibited in Dissection who were primarily an Iron Maiden-styled heavy metal band, than by making the entire song melodic. Instead, melody is used as one more technique in a palette and thus gains intensity where otherwise it wears out its welcome.
“Rituale Romanum” is from upcoming Wolfpack 44 album The Scourge which is being recorded by Ricktor Ravensbruck, guitarist for Electric Hellfire Club, Wolfen Society and Acheron, along with Julian Xes of Kult ov Azazel, with guest appearances by Jinx Dawson (Coven), Reverend Thomas Thorn (Electric Hellfire Club), Dana Duffey (Demonic Christ) and members of Dark Funeral.
As zines return to importance because the internet has overburdened us with facts and options, but depleted our share of sensible opinions about them, more people are returning to reading zines and buying CDs and vinyl as opposed to a download-happy culture that floods their lives with mediocre music and leaves them with few lasting impressions. Codex Obscurum is part of the wave re-vitalizing the metal zine community.
Pestilence avoids controversy poorly. After the legendary Consvming Impvlse, the band went on to produce a series of albums culminating in the synth-sounding jazz-heavy Spheres, which remains one of metal’s most divisive albums: people either love it or hate it, with few in the middle gray areas.
Then after years apart, Pestilence returned in 2009 with Resurrection Macabre followed two years later by Doctrine. These albums showed Pestilence trying more for a contemporary style of modern technical metalcore (sometimes called “tek-deth”) without as much of the crazy instrumental embellishment of past albums. Now, possibly from a better state of balance within the band, Pestilence unleash Obsideo.
Obsideo returns to a long-running controversy in this band which is not metal-versus-jazz as many would think, but among two types of metal. Specifically, the album Malleus Maleficarum showed Pestilence reining back the death metal of their later demos, and trying for a death metal infused with American-style speed metal. Think Kreator covered Megadeth and you have roughly the same style, although in Pestilence’s case this revealing a longstanding tendency with the band: eschewing the phrase-based riffs of death metal for more rhythmic variations on chord progressions in the speed metal style, then filling in the space with leads.
But if we were to extrapolate Malleus Maleficarum into the present, updating its 1980s speed metal on the cusp of death metal with the metalcore-inspired insistence on variety and riffs that ride a vocal rhythm on the nose, we might find the blueprint for Obsideo. It’s more repetitive and confrontational, simpler and less nuanced, and reflects more of the industrial and hardcore influence into metal of the late 1990s. In addition, songs have fewer fireworks in terms of song structure, but more in lead guitar, which is often used as transitional material in song or for kinds of extended fills to denote layering in riff motif.
Fortunately the space-age jazz-fusion guitar of Spheres has returned in the lead guitar department. While not every lead is quite as distant from normalcy as those, these are more confident, both proficient and playful, showing these musicians at a point where they’ve absorbed the changes in their own ability and can put them to better use. Often a song will snowball with power chord riffs but flesh out its mood with leads, and then fade out into the use of similar themes in the lead to take over the direction of the song.
Production sounds like a chunkier, bassier version of Spheres but doesn’t have the compressed and blasted feel of the two comeback albums. This album shows metal at an interesting place as it tries to recap the thirty years of growth since heavy metal transitioned to speed metal, but on the whole, Pestilence have done a good job of it. This is more listenable than their last two, seems more compelling and personal, but also brings musicianship back into the mix in a way that coincides with these musicians’ instrumental focus.
Of all the newer school bands out there, Oblivion struck us here at deathmetal HQ as one of the more imaginative ones.
It is clearly of the modern metal model, following the “great contrast” approach in riffing rather than the integrative nature of the old school, but it displays intense creativity and technical mastery. In addition, Oblivion seem to know how to make a song out of a musical idea and not devolve into randomness like so many of their contemporaries.
Other aspects of Called to Rise impressed us as well. There’s experimentation with sound on these tracks, a willingness to corrupt the metalcore “great contrast” riffing with some integrative ideas, and an adoption of classical forms, songs and approaches that pushes this album over the top.
Oblivion is a modern metal metal band to watch, and Call to Rise is an album that will surely stimulate some depth of discussion. We are thus fortunate here at DeathMetal.org to be able to both stream this album live, and present our interview with Oblivion’s Nick Vasallo:
What got you into metal?
I resisted Metal as long as I could. I was more of a punk rocker as a teenager, but I realized the awesomeness of Metallica’s “One” when it came out. During the double bass, palm-muted, open-E breakdown I was a secret admirer of metal. Seeing a band from Oakland called Eldopa (1332) sealed the deal. Then my good friend at the time (Ben Orum, who is now in Oblivion), turned me onto Death Metal. For this reason I still think Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding and Deicide’s Legion are the best albums from this genre.
As you grew into metal, what brought you to your current form? How did you all come together, and what types of music and ideas were influencing you at the time?
I formed Antagony with Ben, our best friend Carlos Saldana, and our late friend Jody Handy. We just wanted to create the heaviest, darkest music possible. We ended up creating something that was, in hindsight, very influential to other bands that came after us. I stepped away from music for a while, but had the urge to come back and write music that was more technically demanding on the musician and listener.
You’ve outlined a clear relationship between classical music and metal on this CD, with three string orchestra pieces and a cover of “Canon in E Minor.” What inspired you to write and cover these pieces?
I wanted listeners to hear that there is a direct parallel between these two musics. For instance, when the song “Multiverse” is initially presented it is a metal song because it is played by a metal band. In context we are stuck to this association. But when the song is reprised it is performed by a strong orchestra and we perceive it differently. Perhaps the complexities emerge because we now listen to it and look at it through a different lens.
Do you think metal and classical share anything in common?
Where did you guys get your technical chops? Are you professionally trained musicians?
I don’t like the term “professionally” trained. There are some musicians I know that have never taken up formal music training, but can play better than someone that has been trained since they were a toddler. Every musician picks up something from another. That is how music was taught originally. But to answer the question, yes – Luis and I have been trained academically. Everyone else has either taken guitar lessons with a talented musician and/or learned in from playing with a multitude of other talented musicians.
Can you tell us how you got the distortion on your guitars? Are you using pedals, processors, virtual amps, amplifier settings or a combination of the above?
We use tube amps with distortion. Ted is sponsored by Rhodes, Ben by ENGL.
Do you think metal is evolving? Where do you think it’s going?
Yes, Metal is evolving. And it better evolve or it will stagnate and die! Most bands stagnate and eventually die. Movement is necessary to encourage growth and progress. I don’t know where Metal is going. If it follows the same pattern, it will continue to find avenues of transgression. Only to revert back to its fundamentals one day, searching for truth.
What’s next for Oblivion? Will you be touring, and/or writing new material?
Begin writing our second album.
If you could ask fans to do one thing in order to understand your music, what would it be?
Put your phone away, put your internet away, and give your undivided attention. Listen carefully…
Do you think metal fans are open-minded or closed-minded or somewhere in between?
A paradox of open minded close-mindedness.
Now that you’ve completed this massive work of complex metal, what’s the next challenge for you as songwriters?
If you bought Immortal’s Pure Holocaust the day it was released, and conceived a child in the ensuing fury, that child would be entering college age today.
Our review, written in the year of this CD’s release, captures much of what makes this album great. There are two levels to its greatness, stylistic and content, and while related they cannot be made equivalent.
Stylistically, Immortal on their second album saw the ambient and atmospheric tendencies of black metal and developed them. First, they used lightning fast chaotic drumming that quickly reduced the drums to a background timekeeper, allowing riffs to change phrase freely without being trapped by a specific rhythmic pattern. Second, they upgraded the speed of their guitars and level of reverbed distortion to create a sonic tunnel of sound that from a distance, sounds more like a synthesizer with heavy sustain than a guitar.
In content, Immortal focused what it was to be black metal: naturalism. Like the creatures of nature, or its mercurial winds and storms, black metal is not “rational” and “moral” in the human way, but practical in a way that humans — even non-Christian ones — are often afraid to understand. However, it is a method that a forest creature or great tree would understand, a cross between Zen buddhism and the feral antagonism of a wandering predator. Incorporating previous themes of occultism, tribalism, cosmicism and warfare, Immortal fused the ideas of black metal into a singular concept. As such, this album defies all categories of logic or music, at least the human ones. To a wolf or jaguar, it would make perfect sense.
The result was a blaze of noise and musical terror that swept black metal into its second age. Pure Holocaust, along with Transilvanian Hunger (Darkthrone) the following year, moved black metal beyond the framework established by its 1980s origins in Bathory and Celtic Frost. Now it was something new, something emotional without being self-pitying, some cold and element floating above the clouds. Something that could not be tamed.
While most popular entertainment fades away after only a few years, and with good reason, Pure Holocaust remains strong two decades later. Without having heard it, or any black metal, a music listener can take this off the rack and throw it on the player — even if that means double-clicking — and be lost in an entirely different world, and inspired to try to create that here on modern earth.