Chilean / Belgian band King Heavy is set to release its self-titled debut full length on September 4 in Europe and September 19 in the U.S. King Heavy was formed in 2009 by ex-Procession founder Daniel Perez Saa and Luce Vee, known for being the vocalist of Dutch Doom Metal act Hooded Priest. Shortly thereafter guitarist Matias Aguirre and drummer Miguel Canessa were added to the line up and in 2014 the bandself-released an EP entitled Horror Absoluto, which was later repressed on split-vinyl by French label Emanes Records.
The terms bardic or minstrel metal have often been used to describe bands that usually sing in a clear voice and with anthemic overtones, often imitate medievalesque motifs and write lyrics in the manner of romanticized ancient legends. Generally, the metal subgenre most readily associated with bardic expression is power metal because they advertise themselves as modern-day minstrels and theirs is the kind of catchy and upbeat music most people can latch on to most easily. The bardic spirit along with the culture it transmits, however, requires a sturdier medium that is able to etch its runes indelibly without detracting from the importance of their message.
Power metal could be described as a blend of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden mixed with the energy of speed metal. The influence of Ritchie Blackmore cannot be overstated either. In time, they developed their own tropes and particular voices that set them apart from their Briton godfathers. Bands making music in this style are known for an overt expression and presentation that falls just a little short from that of the despicable glam metal. More often than not, these theatrical habits and indulgences overshadow both the content of the music and the words, both of which come close to becoming only an excuse for narcissistic expression. The persona takes precedence over the message.
A sensible division of terms would be advisable here since the words bard and minstrel actually denote two very similar but different traditions. The bard was said to be an itinerant poet who, with the help of music, kept traditions and values alive through stories and legends written in meter. The minstrel made its most significant appearances in courts. Its main job was to entertain the nobility. The latter job’s description often overlaps with that of a jester whose curriculum included clownish acts like juggling. Here is where we find the most apt description for bands like Helloween or Blind Guardian, who willingly and naively took the latter term for themselves.
In lieu of this minstrel metal, a bardic one, with enduring power to carry and transmit the word by giving it the place of honor, is needed. Firstly, any musical tradition with this aim must achieve an optimal balance between being both evocative and submerging yet enveloping the words so that these are propelled forward, emphasized, given contour and colour. Secondly, this is metal. And as proper metal, the riff must lead.
Xendra was a heavy metal project from the Central American country, Honduras. Rumor has it that their only album was recorded within one week around the turn of the century. The simplicity of the production would never put this into doubt as it is just barely satisfies the requirements of the music to be listenable.
As Brett Stevens said in a previous article, one could make the experiment of imagining music played through a primitive or simple device or format like a midi output and then see how interesting the music becomes then as a measure of the actual resulting power of the composition. It is in this respect that the barely satisfactory production in this album becomes a test for the music. Despite the production, the compositions’ musical qualities shine through, modest as they admittedly are in the very-large scale of music appreciation.
Xendra’s brand of late heavy metal also takes on speed metal characteristics with melodic tendencies. This is a typical 1990s mid-paced, simple melodic heavy/speed amalgam that is exemplified today by Cruxiter. Most of the most iconic and prominent Central American metal bands played in this style. Its raw yet singable character being particularly apt to work as a channel for a kind of urban folk style. I often use a word callejero(“of the street”) to describe the particular brand of heavy metal that developed in Central and northern South America. It is a folk heavy metal not because it makes use of old aboriginal melodies for motifs, but rather because it is the language of the young people in touch with the crudest reality of their modern countries. As such it tends to be be full of socio-political protest, prone to melancholic bouts and occult visionary prophecies. We should stress that the latter is appropriate and perhaps even mandatory for any respectable underground metal genre. As a kind of folk music, a few simpler songs in verse chorus manner are sparkled throughout the sixteen tracks of the album. These do not sound pandering as indulging themselves or the singer but are veritable laments voiced impersonally.
Claiming to be influenced from the more mainstream rock and hard rock progressive outfits like Rush and Dream Theater, someone listening in a slightly distracted manner would miss where and how Xendra makes these influences manifest. While we hear Dream Theater making technical acrobatics and the contrasts from one section of the music to the next the main point of the music, a more sensible and humble band like Xendra uses them in key points as tools towards smooth expansion or creative and beautiful articulation between sections. The rendition of the heavy metal callejero as presented in 2000’s Xendra is one of the best of its kind. Displaying elegant songwriting, subtlety and the restraint of talented instrumentalists using their technical abilities where the music needs them, rather than when their ego fancies it.
Q: Do you keep tabs on new developments within heavy music at all? A: No, not really. I listen to music all the time, but I guess I’m the first to admit that I’m living in the past. When it comes to heavy music I really only listen to the old stuff. Occasionally someone will play me something by a contemporary band, and sometimes it’s something that’s quite impressive, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything lately that I would say makes me want to go out and buy the album, listen to it at home, or be inspired by it for new music. It’s just a personal taste thing, because I know there’s other people out there who are equally passionate about that music, but for them it’s all about what’s happening now, and the next thing. So it’s just down to the way your brain works, and what turns you on musically.
To many of us, this gives an interesting insight into Carcass stylistic changes throughout their discography. Many point their fingers at Michael Amott for the change in Carcass’ music towards their third album. But Bill Steer’s declaration is revealing of what his band is about regardless of Amott’s contributions.
Michael Amott’s previous work with Carnage revealed someone more in touch with the developments of death metal. Of course, the eventual paths each of these artists took with Arch Enemy and Carcass both show a penchant for 1980s heavy metal. But Stigmata still shows a more forward vision than the infamous Swansong.
While staying in touch with your roots, or any roots, for that matter, is important for convincing artistic development to occur, there is no development without looking forward towards a new horizon. By its very nature, music that attempts only to emulate what was is doomed to be an empty husk.
Heavy-Doom Metal, as I like to call everything that is merely slowed down heavy metal, is not known for being fertile ground for originality. It is a rather narrow sub-genre (more like sub-subgenre) which gives its adherents a very specific and rather primitive set of tools to work with and is at this point a retro-worship of classic and original acts like Candlemass. Hailing from Pennsylvania, USA, Crypt Sermon make no attempt to break off from this role of obvious emulation.
Out of the Garden should by no means be simply reduced to Candlemass-worship, but the influence is unmistakable. This is encouraging as one listens to the album for the first time and finds all the bells and whistles in the right places. The big, epic, long-drawn choruses, the guitar melodies, the climatic solos. It all harks back to the “catchy” selling points of Candlemass.
Once the brume has dissipated as the winds of repeated listens blow in, one realizes that this is everything Out of the Garden has to offer. This makes it a great release for those who want Candlemass without the trouble of having to digest all the meat of acts like Atlantean Kodex. The casual fan of epic heavy metal will have a blast with this new release.
Late model black metal features many of these entries: as much borrowed from the days of speed metal as black metal, keeping a constant “jazzercise” style constant tempo and intensity, and while there are some sweet riffs, they are marooned in a sea of throwaway budget riffs and patterns from 1987 Exodus clones. Infernus has great rasping vocals but essentially, doom their album with highly predictable note progressions in the riffs and a constant, incessant droning style of composition. Many heavy metal touches pervade this album, suggesting that like early Gehennah and Nifelheim, this is heavy metal dressing up as black metal and equalizing all of its riffs to the same speed to hide their hard rock, speed metal and heavy metal origins. While the fans of the band will defend it on the basis of irony or some nostalgia, the result is musical tedium because of a failure to come to point. This is like watching the 5,000 slides of the vacation your neighbor just took, except that now the slides are old riffs and old tropes.
Based on my research, back in the 1980s this video caused quite a stir. Back then, America wanted to be a Christian and socially conservative country, although it leaned toward right-wing foreign policy and left-wing social policy. Neurotic, perhaps, but that was the political fad at the time. As the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and others saw this video, it represented the intrusion of wild bohemian values that would disrupt a socially conservative nation.
Fast forward to the age of #metalgate: now we are a socially liberal nation, where most people believe in great 1960s stuff like gay marriage, legal pot and socialized healthcare. What a change! The guys who were The EstablishmentTM back then are now The (tame) Opposition, and the guys who were the radicals are now in charge. Back then, this video was bad because it offended conservative morals; now, it’s bad because it offends liberal morals.
If you aren’t laughing at our joke of a society by now, you’re not paying attention.
What makes this interesting is that we are in a time of historical cross-over. Back in the 1980s, the Reagan conservatives were the hardline authoritarians trying to keep us from enjoying our music. Now, the hippie liberal SJWs — and government, and media, and wow, big corporations too — are the authoritarians trying to keep us from enjoying our music. The sides have flip-flopped because a different side is in power, and this offends them for different reasons.
This does not change the fact that their reasons for opposing this video are wrong.
In the 1980s, heavy metal was a scapegoat. The real problem was most likely rising divorce, social instability, the Cold War and a nation which basically lost its purpose and goals. In the 1990s, it is also a scapegoat: SJWs blame metal because it is convenient for them to have an enemy which justifies their takeover of the genre, and they intend to use guilt to force you to get out of the way or — watch out! — the witch hunt will come for you.
Some opine that it is unimportant that SJWs are invading metal. “Just listen to what you like!” they say. They would not say that if government were censoring metal, but SJWs are censoring it, too; they have just changed tactics from the ineffective government means of the 1980s to the highly effective method of organized boycott. No business wants to be considered racist, sexist, anti-homosexual or otherwise inegalitarian, just like no citizen in Revolutionary France wanted to be seen as a Royalist. Your business and life will be destroyed and government will do nothing to protect you, because it approves of that act of censorship. Government gets to reap the rewards without taking on the risk of doing the censoring itself.
It is sexist to oppose this video. In fact, sexism itself is sexist. Men are men and women are women, just like every species known to humankind has sexes, and they have differences. To oppose “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” is to deny what men are: we are angry beasts that make war, make love and raise hell. We like to fight, fuck and otherwise demonstrate competence. This is how we know we are men. We also appreciate beautiful women.
On the flip side of this, and part of the same outlook, we also see ourselves as protectors of wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. If the guys from W.A.S.P. showed up and wanted to put a female member of my family into this video, I would punch them in the nuts and probably show them some real intolerance they never would forget. But the women in this video apparently do not have dads or brothers and chose to be involved of their own free will, in exchange for buckets of money. Why should I oppress them by claiming their choice is bad?
SJWs have confused the word for the deed and the tool for the goal. Instead of trying to make women, minorities and gays/transsexuals safer, they have scapegoated not just men but masculinity itself as the source of all their problems. They do not want “equality”; they want to destroy anyone who is not as unequal as they are. We have a term for that: bigotry. And until you call the SJWs on their bigotry, they will continue to invade your genre and re-write history to hide everything they have scapegoated.
In the dying days of black metal, people imitate it from the outside-in by adopting its techniques but not understanding its inner core. Peste Noire combines heavy metal and indie rock with black metal stylings and produces a demi-opus of distracted listening: if attended to with half a brain, as when watching television, socializing or working, it seems fine and hits the right spots of black metal nostalgia. When listened to intently, it reveals itself as having relatively random structure and imitation of tropes that go nowhere.
The surface influence on this work that immediately comes to mind is Graveland, with a side dish of the more desolate Nords like early Gorgoroth and Immortal, but as an experienced listener of metal might guess, the closer one comes to self-pity music (depressive, doom) the lower quality of music becomes. A typical Peste Noire song begins with a black metal riff which it repeats in a cycle, ending in a chord progression reminiscent of bittersweet neurotically happy and sad at the same time indie rock, then drops into heavy metal tropes like the chaotic solo extending into a lead rhythm guide to a bounding riff.
Initial aspects of this album appear favorable: instrumental prowess, deliberate production, a study of black metal. At its heart it is disunified first by lack of purpose except egotistic lamentation, and second by a refusal to structure songs around anything but a visual perspective that hides itself by constant interruption (sort of like the “disruptive” trend in business). What remains, after the listener filters through appearance and randomness, could not fill the teacup of a black metal fan.
Seminal heavy metal/doom metal band Paradise Lost will release The Plague Within on June 1, 2015 in Europe (June 2 in USA) through Century Media Records. During the early 1990s, this band inspired death metal and black metal bands to experiment with layered melodic lead rhythm guitar over distorted power chords, and to this day holds a position both close to popular music and using underground technique.
Paradise Lost comments: “Check out the first track from our new album ‘The Plague Within’. ‘No Hope In Sight’ was one of the first tracks we wrote and it reflects a blend of styles. From death metal to gothic to classic rock. It’s like all eras of PL wrapped up into one track. We hope you all like it!”
“No Hope in Sight” follows a familiar format, which is as much Iron Maiden as Black Sabbath, using melodic hooks contrasted by slow bass-heavy chord progressions in an extended pop song format that made its debut back in the early days of MTV. The result is infectious and on the lighter side, but dark enough in spirit to attract Gothic and metal fans alike who enjoy well-composed straightforward music.
PARADISE LOST live:
29/05/2015 – Rockavaria – Munich – Germany
30/05/2015 – Rock im Revier – Gelsenkirchen – Germany
18/07/2015 – Castle Party Festival – Bolkow – Poland
15/08/2015 – Summer Breeze – Dinkelsbuhl – Germany