Article by Corey M. Apparently, our staff ate too many tacos this weekend.
More mass murder of the unworthy.
Article by Gonzalo Gallina.
In 1996, Spanish rock band Mago de Oz released their most acclaimed latin-rock-underground albums, Jesus de Chamberi. Like most things coming from modern Latin countries, it has difficulty defining itself. Representative of the modern cultural confusion of Hispania, Mago de Oz presents the audience with a mixed bag of rock ala Dio, reggae, and eighties bar heavy rock, while borrowing some metal riffs and melodic leads here and there, and ocassionally overlaying folky tunes on a violin.
Article by Johan P.
The stylistically inclusive nature of progressive rock allows quite a lot of stretching of the genre’s musical boundaries. This part of Death Metal Underground’s 1970s Progressive Rock for Hessians series looks into the early, classic period of the English group Hawkwind – a group of sonic shaman-warriors who transgressed more than one genre border right from their inception. Well, almost. Their unconvincing 1970 self-titled debut album can rightfully be dismissed as a failed attempt at improvisational psychedelic folk rock, with songs that sound too much like flawed byproducts of the flower power era. Luckily, the following years saw the band re-forge their sound on In Search of Space (1971), articulate it on Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) and finally push their newfound style to its limits on Space Ritual (1973).
This band is a pretty decent Bolt Thrower clone, with two caveats: their riff-writing relies on Pantera-blockhead phrases based purely in rhythmic expectation, and their songs are extremely simple in form in part because they are based around tropes borrowed from albums by that English band.
A few weeks ago I conducted a short interview with Brian Tatler (center), the guitarist and primary songwriter of Diamond Head. Their new self-titled album was released on April 7th and will be reviewed on Death Metal Underground shortly. Marred by technical difficulties, here is an edited transcript:
Hi Brian, I’m Daniel from Death Metal Underground. I understand Diamond Head has a new album coming out this spring?
Yes we do. Diamond Head comes out April 7th.
Did you try to hearken back to your early work or go in a more commercial direction?
In a way. We took a look at everything we’ve done over the years. This album should sound like Diamond Head. We took a very Diamond Head approach.
Did you modernize your music? Use digital production and all that?
Well it’s still the old Diamond Head sound. I used a Diesel amp and we recorded into Pro-Tools too. We wouldn’t have been able to get that sound back in 1982. Writing is the main thing. We try to capture the magic in the rehearsal room.
Songwriting is the most important thing.
So much modern metal is just one cool guitar riff and then chugging along until the next part that has no relation to the first.
You still need to write a song.
Who are your songwriting inspirations?
Well, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, those sorts of bands. I don’t listen to that modern sort of stuff that much. Some say we write the same songs over and over. That’s the way that stuff is. Diamond Head sounds like Diamond Head. The most influential records were the first few Led Zeppelin, Sad Wings of Destiny, Machine Head.
How do you feel about your influence on the metal and the more extreme sub-genres? Inspiring bands like Metallica, Celtic Frost, and Darkthrone who sometimes copied directly from you?
It’s easy to get deep into the stuff from your youth. You watch these bands play, get a tape from across the ocean a thousand miles a way, and after a few months of playing and writing your own material, what do you know? You have the same riff that’s on the tape! It’s nice to be influential. It makes the band feel important; justifies what we were doing. It’s been said Diamond Head were a musicians’ band: a band that other bands liked. We never sold that many records.
Even things like “Search and Destroy” having the same riff as “Sucking My Love” in a different key?
“Dead Reckoning”. It’s not the same; it’s slightly different. It’s flattering. I’ve got my own stuff from somewhere. Bits of Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Diamond Head were a stepping stone between thrash and them.
I noticed on songs like “The Prince”, you have tempo and rhythm changes in the drums uncommon for metal of the time.
Well we moved the drums around to get more out of each section. We had to get it as good as it had to be. No nudging through
“Am I Evil?” is perfect.
“Am I Evil?” took a while. It took a while to do it. The intro, lots of verses, the last section to the ending, and then going back to the main riff, and testing it out live.
So many bands never have the opportunity to play live now. How important was that?
We tested out everything live to see what songs and verses did work. What would work up a crowd. Some songs didn’t work. This one worked.
Did you start playing live early on?
We formed in ’76 and played our first show in February of ’77.
In local venues like pubs?
Lots of venues. Some not local. One in Birmingham. We started playing in pubs. No clubs. We would put on our own gigs.
Sabbath were from Birmingham. Was that a big deal?
We felt we were following in their footsteps: Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. It’s the second biggest city in the UK. Birmingham had so many bands. Always did too…
How much pressure did Diamond Head feel to become more mainstream and commercial rock?
A bit of pressure. We signed to MCA in 1982. Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and all UK bands appeared on Top of the Pops with their singles. Our long songs prevented that: “Sucking My Love” is 9 minutes long; “Am I Evil?” is 7:40 even. Not a comfortable fit. MCA wanted us to be more like Led Zeppelin except we had no PR, no real touring support with good lineups , nor a huge studio budget. Being managed by our singer Sean Harris’s mother didn’t help. We were dropped from MCA as she wouldn’t agree to a change in management.
Was it a Manowar type situation where he lived with his parents?
He lived with her then. I believe he still lives in the same place but on his own.
The Manowar singer still lives in his parents’ basement in upstate New York.
Any upcoming touring plans?
Lots of dates across Europe. We’re playing Hard Rock Hell and some dates in Germany, the UK, and Ireland.
Diamond Head were who Metallica and Megadeth desperately wanted to be. A seventeen-year-old Lars Urlich famously flew to London to see them play after buying their debut from a magazine ad. Celtic Frost owed their career to the Holst-opened classic “Am I Evil?” Lightning to the Nations, is the “the missing link” between the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal and later speed metal.
The guitarwork and songwriting are excellent throughout. Driving Motorhead-style rhythm riffs served by pounding pickup beats and groovy bass lines progress power chords into solos that Blackmore and Tipton wish they had written. These extended leads serve not only as climaxes but continue building tension, alleviated only when the original verse riff (or a variation thereof) returns. Clever variations in the extended riff phrasing enable verses to wind and flow freely around catchy choruses, continuing effectively long after lesser groups would have ran them their course.
Yes, Lightning to the Nations is bluesy with many influences from the riff-based hard rock of the seventies. The vocalist even multi-tracked himself on “Sucking My Love” in imitation of Robert Plant. None of these rock roots serve to lessen the force and creativity present in the music. The atrocious keyboards and reverb mixed into the 1993 Metal Blade reissue do. Stick with the original LP and the 2011 “Deluxe Edition” CD remaster from the original tapes.
One of our targets is coming to the United States. Ghost has repeatedly made their way into our Sadistic Metal Reviews for Meliora alone, but their retro rock/metal sound and vaguely clerical aesthetic has won them a lot of fans. Thusly, they’re making their way to the United States. This tour loosely coincides with the upcoming Grammy Awards in February, giving the band many an opportunity to further boost their commercial success. While it’s not necessarily to our fans’ interest, maybe someone could visit a concert and give us a writeup? I’m sure it’d make for interesting reading; we’ve had success with the concept in the past.
Christianity as an ‘attack’ on metal might not be as trendy as it used to be, but Stryper never got the message. They reformed in 2003, and someone out there has to be buying their albums, right? The Billboard 200 seems to think so, and the existence of Fallen means, at the very least, that there is still an audience of Christian evangelists that a shrewd marketer can take advantage of. Add to that a more technically skilled visual artist for your cover and some minor updates to your image to make you trendy for this decade, and you get a more religiously acceptable way to listen to some modern pop music and then quickly forget about it.
Make no mistake about it – Stryper is certainly Christian propaganda. I don’t think anyone goes to Stryper looking for an intelligent portrayal of Christianity’s tenets (as opposed to said propaganda), but I could be mistaken about this. They certainly won’t succeed, because Fallen sticks to a fairly basic set of lyrical/ideological templates. A couple of songs here are simple retellings of scriptural events. A few others are songs of victimhood and impending eternal salvation, which are also theologically shallow. Like many other Christian musicians, Stryper also falls victim to the tendency to write thinly disguised secular love songs, but that’s hardly a selling point. I wasn’t expecting otherwise from this band, but given how many anti-Christian bands fall through the DMU meat grinder, it’s occasionally interesting to see another side’s agitprop in comparison to their rough equivalent here, like generic simplified Satanic or nationalist themes.
Backing this up is a fairly generic hard rock band that admittedly trends more pompous and theatrical than average for the style. This is likely a throwback to the band’s “glam” past, but it makes for an understandably vocal heavy experience. Michael Sweet is a reasonably talented singer, but he seems to obsess with multitracking his voice, especially during Fallen‘s multitude of Big Dumb Choruses™. Besides the vox, there really isn’t much to latch onto here. It’s possible that more traditional metal technique has crept back into Stryper’s sound since their halcyon days of commercial success in the 1980s, but with 30 years of production wizardry in the mean time, it can be hard to tell. The band also throws in a cover of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever” for what are presumably lyrical reasons, and even in its more vocally bombastic form here, it outdoes Fallen‘s originals in mood and organization. It does not bode well for you to be outdone by your choice of covers.
In the long run, Stryper is too inoffensive to draw my hatred, but I am certain the local community will be more than willing to savage this album.