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.

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Interview with Duke Hagin from Southern Decay on Stench Radio

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.

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Groovy Commercialism

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjX7tXu_XQ4

 

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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmfLIerVubk

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Dead Horse plotting its return

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.

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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.

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

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.

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Interview: Varg Vikernes

varg_vikernes-sol_austan_mani_vestanAmong metal’s legions are many for whom society is not a fit. Society tries to find rules to make everyone get along; metalheads, who “think outside of the box,” tend to look toward what they see as right, not socially compatible. As a result there are many in metal who stand above the crowd and are impossibly iconic for their unique worldviews. One such man is Burzum’s Varg Vikernes.

After creating in the course of four early albums an impressive body of art that essentially ended black metal as it was by raising the bar beyond what others could easily participate in, Vikernes was imprisoned for sixteen years for his alleged role in church arson and murder. During the time he was in prison, he put out two more impressive keyboard-based albums and several books’ worth of writings before falling silent around the turn of the millennium.

Upon his release, he didn’t slack off, either, but pushed out two new albums influenced by the rising drone-NSBM trend from Eastern Europe, and has released a film, is currently working on a role-playing game, and continues to produce numerous writings and a new theory of history. Since he is an object of interest as well as such a strong personality that he cannot escape notice, he has continued to use interviews and other public talking points to advance his ideas.

Whether we agree or disagree with the man, it’s hard to argue that his back catalog is anything but on the whole impressive, or that he isn’t articulate and forceful about his beliefs. Recently, he released his first post-prison ambient album, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which in the words of our review is a “vivid journey from start to finish…Vikernes has returned, and has found his natural voice.”

Deathmetal.org was fortunate to catch Mr. Vikernes in a rare un-busy moment between his many projects, where he answered a few of our questions.

With Sôl austan, Mâni vestan you have left metal behind, and yet this work has as much identifiable personality as your earliest works. What do you think makes this style so adapted to where you are now, and what you want to express?

This type of music has always been a part of Burzum, from the very first album and all the way to Umskiptar, so I think those who appreciated the old non-metal music will perfectly well be able to appreciate this non-metal music as well. In a sense I keep making music in the same style, only I have left out the metal parts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the influences on this album? Were these influences instrumental to achieving this new sound?

I know where you want to go, but the truth is that I didn’t listen to any other music whilst making this whatsoever; I didn’t seek inspiration in any other music and I did not even think of any particular music whilst making this. However, upon completion I did think it reminded me a bit of a calm version of Tangerine Dream.

This album is made for the ForeBears film, and I guess it is correct to say that I was inspired by the concept of that film.

In your writing on Thulean Perspective called “Shadows of the Mind,” you mention how black metal can be a gateway to the Divine Light. What is the Divine Light?

That question is best answered with a link.

Your work seems to have been guided since its earliest forms by a sense of the “poetry” of existence, and a purpose to the human experience, while others were busy disclaiming this. What shaped your thoughts in this regard?

I think it is simply due to the fact that I knew instinctively that it was better before. I missed what once was. I longed for the past that I felt was better. I dreamt of things that had been but were no longer.

After Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, where do you see yourself going artistically? Will you continue to make albums in this ambient style, or re-invent music in another form?

I can dream of the past, but I never make artistic plans for the future. I just follow where my spirits takes me, so to speak.

What is the purpose of art? What habits or activities do you find most crucial to the spirit that drives your art?

It’s the spirit of the past trying to break free and influence the world we live in today. That’s the purpose and driving force too.

What do you think black metal had to contribute? Do you think your earlier aggressive work, and your newer more mellow work, come from the same place?

They do, and I think black metal is just a expression and (for fans) appreciation of the despair most men feel from living in a world that is not built for them. When you grow up, so to speak, or perhaps just grow wiser (many young men are wise too), you move on and instead of whining about the world we live in you do something about it instead. Black metal has woken up many good anti-Jewish Pagan Europeans and has thus lead them on the right course.

The lyrics to “Dunkelheit” suggest a natural mysticism to your work. Do you see this in the ancients as well? Do you think this knowledge changes people in such a way that they cannot be part of modern society? How do you see this as different from the Christian spirituality?

Christian spirituality? They have none.

I think the natural mysticism will wake up Europeans; the Pagan spirit is like embers waiting under the ashes. All it needs is some dry wood and it will turn into a flaming fire again, burning, warming and lighting up. Natural mysticism is, amongst other things, that dry wood.

Do you think history is cyclic, meaning that similar events lead to similar outcomes and thus, people eventually return to the same eternal truths? What do you imagine those would be? Is there a way to express such truths in art?

Yes, similar events lead to similar outcomes, and truth prevails in the end, always, so when they are blurred, distorted, hidden or spat upon they will always return to glory. There is no unversal truth in this context, becuase man is not universal, just like animals are not. I am part of the European species, and the eternal truth to us is Honour, and we will return to that for sure.

Is there a way to express such truths in art?

Yes, but it might not be understood by all.

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Dead Hills – Purgatory / Winds of Time

dead_hills-purgatory_winds_of_timeThis recording starts off with great promise: unlike almost all of the bands to experiment in this style, Dead Hills knows how to make the riffs of a good Burzum-style sweeping dark and morbid black metal romp work. For example, a standard song will work itself up to intensity through an excellent use of the “Burzumic sweep” and dark meandering riffs, creating an excellent dark and ancient atmosphere. The vibe is perfect.

After that, it’s harder to know where to go. Dead Hills fill the space with mixed elements from Nordic and Finnish black metal, which provides a highly musical and entertaining resolution to the album but radically changes each track from its Burzumic beginnings to something more like second-wave black metal. It will often revert to its atmospheric voice, creating a divide where some of this music sounds like conversation, and other parts sound like walking through twilit hills.

Although sometimes songs lose their center and wander, and thus become purely musical questions and remove themselves from the representative art of black metal, on the whole this release keeps up the energy and unlike almost every black metal band in the last fifteen years, produces an experience in which the listener can lose himself or herself. With that in mind, this is a promising start and a rare complete experience from Australia, which normally produces chaotic bands.

Weighing in at an hour and a half, this release may overwhelm some listeners but it also offers a good chance to really lose yourself in the sound and distance all other input, like a meditative course. The enemy of highly interrelated music like black metal is the standard lick, in which patterns that conveniently unite familiar riffs become relied on too much; where most bands have instead gone full into that mode, Dead Hills has tried to find its own voice before adapting riffs to that, and the result is noticeably clearer and more emotionally compelling.

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De Arma – Lost, Alien and Forlorn

de_arma-lost_alien_forlornA post-black metal project finally does what many of us have encouraged for some time, which is to drop the extraneous black metal and to bridge directly to the type of music they want to play. This is a Gothic/indie hybrid straight out of the early 1980s, complete with open-phrase drumming and soulful vocals. If you liked the darker side of 1980s pop like Sisters of Mercy, Dead Can Dance and Joy Division, you’ll like this detour into outspokenly emotional and catchy music.

Composed of Andreas Pettersson (Armagedda, Lönndom), Frank Allain (Fen) and percussionist Johan Marklund, De Arma (Swedish for “the poor”) previously recorded a well-acclaimed split EP. This album will hit the streets on July 2 of this year, and while it’s being marketed as depressive and dark, a better way to describe it is having the same melancholistic spirit as Burzum’s Filosofem but within the context of 1980s Gothic rock. Since black metal and indie of this nature share a similar open-chord cascading-strum style, the transition was easy, but there’s very little black metal (or dark) in this. It’s just good darkside pop.

As the inaugural release on what is presumably a post-metal indie/Gothic label Trollmusic,Lost, Alien and Forlorn will appeal to a new decade of listeners who will find exactly what made this type of music appealing in the 1980s. As essentially pleasant pop music, but which acknowledges a sense of doubt and decay about the modern world, De Arma offer a gentle transition from the bubble-world of mass consciousness to the underground of semi-realists below.

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