Sunday, May 29, 2016

Metal Metal Land: Where the Slime Lives: Heavy Metal from Florida


To some people, it's a gator-and-mosquito infested Hellscape where the moisture-thick air suffocates and cocaine addled folks do the craziest shit; to others, it's home. Rich in snakes, swamps, and senior citizens, Florida has gotten a bad rap over the years. I mean, come on... it's shaped like a dick. Despite these unfortunate circumstances-- or maybe thanks to them-- the Sunshine State held one of the most important bastions for heavy metal.

If you love death metal, it's unquestionable you fell in love with at least one band to emerge out of the Tampa metal scene. Death, Deicide, Morbid Angel, and Obituary bellowed and brutalized their ways to the front-lines in the Eighties, leaving thousands of whiplashed necks in their wake. A plethora of bands inspired by their unholy lyrics and savage riffs answered the call, including Six Feet UnderDark Sermon, Hate Eternal, Hibernus Mortis, and Acheron. On the other ends of the spectrum were progressive and power metal, often times coming together in an epic swell. Jon Oliva would put together near operatic albums through his bands Savatage and Pain. Crimson Glory pierced the thick swamp air with the soaring screams. Iced Earth charged into the fray along with Circle II Circle. Chuck Schuldiner also dabbled with prog-power in Control Denied.

As the band matured, Death found the happy middle ground between straight up death metal and prog. There was a wedding of low demonic vocals with more complex songwriting and instrumental technicality. Out of Death would emerge Cynic, and soon too would be Atheist and Nocturnus. Tech-death has gained prominence this past decade, with tons of new bands emerging across the globe, including Abiotic.
Of course there's a load of other bands of all varieties stirring things up in the Sunshine State. Going the alternative, industrial, and nu metal route, you'll have Limp Bizkit, Nonpoint, Genitorturers, Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and Marilyn Manson to choose from. Want something a bit punky? Trivium, Assück, Underoath, Poison the Well, and A Day to Remember will cover the spectrum for you. Dark Castle and Torche give you a little something to take things slow while Black Tide and Nasty Savage will speed things up for you

So what makes Florida ripe with metal? Well, you have the whole Bible-belt thing going on; the South in general is pretty religious. Economically, has one of the biggest growth disparities in the nation. Drugs have ravaged lower income areas, with a synthetic drug called Flakka being the "hip" new alternative to cocaine.

And now let's go to my favorite part: looking into the bands rockin' the bars, basements, and backyards across the great swampy state.


Orlando
Death Doom 

Tampa
Alternative Metal

 Fort Lauderdale
Progressive Metal

Miami
Latin Metalcore

Jacksonville
Black Metal

Saint Petersburg
Doom Metal

Gainesville
Death Metal

Jacksonville
Death Metal

Gainesville
Sludge Metal

 Ocala
Metalcore

South Florida
Blackened Death Metal

Bonita Springs
Progressive Gothic Metal 

Jacksonville
Blackened Death Metal

Orlando
Metalcore

Miami
Blackened Sludge Metal

Deland
Deathgrind

Crestview
Death Metal

Gainesville
Blackened Doom Metal

Miami
Blackened Crust

Miami
Progressive Black Metal

Orlando
Thrash Metal

Winter Springs
Blackened Death Metal

Tampa
Death Metal

Fort Lauderdale
Technical Thrash Metal

Winterpark
Progressive Metal
Coral Springs
Stoner Metal

Tallahassee
Post Metal

Miami
Psychedelic Tech Death

Gainesville
Symphonic Black Metal
 
Orlando
Black Metal

Sarasota
Stoner Metal

Orlando
Symphonic Black Metal

Miami
Blackened Thrash

Tampa
Death Metal

Orlando
Tech Death

Fort Lauderdale
Sludge Metal

Gainesville
Stoner Doom 

Deland
Power Metal

So yeah, a lot of pretty great stuff right here. Hope you like. I really hope to bang my head to some of these kickass bands sometime in the future. If any of the big bands are in your neck of the woods, ya gotta see them.  Keep on kickin' ass, Florida.

Stay heavy, my friends.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Buried by Dust and Time: The Controversial and Cultural Legacy of Black Metal


My relationship with black metal can best be described as "complicated".

I remember four years ago, I was just dipping my toes into the world of extreme metal. I had been in a major thrash bender, smashing my brains out to Sodom, Exodus, and Megadeth; the most played album in my roster was Testament's The Gathering. Death metal was next to worm its way into my mind, via Benediction, Cannibal Corpse, and the Black Dahlia Murder. All other sub-genres followed suit relatively quickly. However, black metal was the last genre to find a home. I was unable to get into bands like Mayhem or Darkthrone. Somehow they didn't click; I don't know if the production quality initially turned me off or what. I just didn't like it...

...that was until I was hanging out with my cousin at a family function. He found out I was into metal and we got to talking. He's a musician who has dabbled in various genres and had his own one-man black metal project (called Odz Manouk and affiliated with California's Black Twilight Circle if you're interested). He pulled it up online and let me listen. Though it still had that "recorded on a turnip" quality to it, something about it reached me. I got finally got it.

At least, I got it sonically. The rough recordings, the haunting screams... it creates this atmosphere that's just fucking chilling! Of course the really complicated part comes along once you get into the nitty gritty of the subculture. Anyone Googling black metal for their first time might drop their jaw upon learning just how brutal the history is: murders, suicides, arson, neo-Nazi...

However, this got me to thinking: black metal seems to be the most "serious" of the genres (well, as serious as you can take people covering themselves in black and white paint--and in some cases, blood and shit). It's always taken at face value while thrash and death metal are more likely to have their lyrics taken as metaphor. While it is true that many members of the black metal genre legitimately do hold xenophobic tendencies, I've wondered just how much of these sentiments are strictly for show. Could it be possible some bands-- such as Inquisition, to name a band that's caught scandal in recently years-- could be using the Nazi symbolism to show its negativity. Take Big Four thrash band Slayer for example; "Angel of Death" is not a celebration of Mengele's atrocities but acts like a horror flick. I'm sure the use of swastikas and fascistic lyrics is used by more bands convey the brutality and cruelty of such thought rather than to say "ya know who's a pretty sweet guy? Hitler".

 The target matters, as it seems more acceptable in metal to rag on Christianity than other religions. Why is Glen Benton taken with a grain of salt when he sings "Kill the Christian" but Taake causes an uproar when his lyrics offer the same inflammatory sentiment towards Muslims? I suppose that Christianity in the West is more of an authoritative presence and gives a little more credence to rebel against it. Norway might not exactly be swimming in Muslims, but if bands want to rage against a creed that has been historically used to oppress-- whether it's Islam or Christianity-- it should not be prohibited.


To understand the nationalist ideologies of some black metal artists, you need to look at its origins. In the late Eighties and Nineties, you get two schools of thought out of Norway: the classic metalheads who gravitated towards Satanic and Occult themes and those who sought to return to the old ways of the Norse. With these latter musicians, the thought was that adherence to Satan was still adherence to the Judeo-Christian ways that had ravaged the old Scandinavian way of life a thousand years prior. By taking up the old gods, these black metal artists were effectively reclaiming their heritage. Some of these artists went a step further using their songs as propaganda.

Oddly enough, the theme of tradition rears its ugly head in various internet chat rooms as fans of the genre bicker over what constitutes as "trve" black metal. For many, any deviancy from the unholy aggression of Gorgoroth, lo-fi brutality of Emperor, or even the classic aesthetic of Immortal is in itself blasphemy; people have even gone so far as to call Myrkur disingenuous on the sole fact the creative mastermind behind the art is a woman.

Personally, I find these sentiments hilariously ironic as black metal is the most tinkered with of all the sub-genres. Of course many bands still go the "tried and trve" route  their progenitors (often dubbed nowadays as "war metal"), but there is tremendous creativity that has been going on since the mid Nineties. Take baby steps and you'll find it coupled up with its predecessors, thrash and death metal, through the likes of bands like Deströyer 666 and Belphegor. Folk bands of all heritages, like Primordial, Chthonic, and Finntroll, have taken on a char blackened sound, as well as doom bands like Inter Arma. Symphonic black metal gave added bombast via bands like Dimmu Borgir. Progressive (or technical) black metal was popularized by Enslaved and continues to be popular today. In the past decade, we have seen an increase in bands pushing the envelope by combining the grim sound with ambient music and shoegaze, creating more contemplative styles; Wolves in the Throne Room and Deafheaven have garnered considerable popularity over the years. Then of course there's Kvelertak with their black 'n' roll. I myself am quite fond of blackened crust bands Iskra and Fukpig.

Black metal continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Since Mayhem, hundreds if not thousands of bands have crawled out of the woodwork. Each one has taken a different path musically and acquired grand infamy along the way, both through their musicality and through controversy. Though the time of church arsons has long passed, artists have found other ways to stir the shit, whether it's Sweden's Shining spouting lyrics promoting suicide or Gorgoroth's infamous Black Mass of Krakow performance.

I love the fact that black metal is still "dangerous", backing its bark with a bite on occasion. While I don't condone certain messages, it's refreshing to see men and women scream with such conviction. I can appreciate the artistry of projects like Burzum, but won't financially support the artists I am at odds with. But that still leaves plenty of amazing bands out there for me to indulge in: Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Anaal Nathrakh, 1349, Summoning, Negură Bunget, Mortals, Apostasy, Tsjuder, Krieg, Cobalt... the list goes on of bands that wrap their icy clutches around my heart. Black metal might never come out of the underground, but some of the best treasures are found in the deepest and darkest crevices of the Earth.


Stay heavy, my friends

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Inside the Torn Apart: On Missing a Brutally Good Experience for a Brutally Bad Experience


Ecstatic... Pumped up... Ready for some major catharsis...

That's a pretty accurate description of how I was when this tour was announced back in December. I bought the tix for one of the Troubadour shows right away-- sure, I could have caught Napalm Death and the Melvins here in SD on separate nights, but I figured I'd go all out; plus it's been a while since I've been up to LA.

Days before the show, I was chomping at the bit with excitement. I was about to see arguably two of the most influential bands in extreme music. I had nearly had the chance to see Napalm Death at Deathfest, but had opted to see some more obscure black metal instead, knowing the grind giants would be coming around eventually. The announcement of the Savage Imperial Death March (best tour name ever) gave me new hope and as May 8th drew closer, I was ready to fuckin' rage.

But then on the night of the 7th, shit went down. About 10 o'clock at night, I was suddenly overcome with a burning sensation like a molten lava was being poured down my guts. I had the urge to relieve myself, but nothing would come out. There was only pain; fire in the belly, torment with each movement, and what can only be described as an extreme ache in my genitals. Sweat poured from my forehead like Victoria Falls. It was time for the ER.

When I got in, I was in such bad shape they took me in immediately. My blood pressure was really low and I started vomiting. Nurses stuck me full of IVs to kill the pain, slid a tube up my nose and down my throat to my stomach to suck up the bile and other shit, and had me undergo a CT scan. I was told I had a blockage in my intestines. It was so bad that a part of my bowels bad basically died because it suffocated from a lack of oxygenated blood; that's pretty fuckin' metal. So the next day, I'd be going under the knife when I had hoped to be heading out on the highway for a night of crushing tunes.



The hospital is a pretty metal place. Carcass and plenty of goregrind bands can attest to that. My visit had its moments: surgical steel slicing me open, hours of mind-numbing pain, my own personal Hell of sleepless nights with no stimulation. My surgical wound was (and right now still is) left open so that it could heal on its own so every couple days when the dressing was changed I'd be staring at an eleven inch, bright red gash in my guts.

On a hilarious note, my body pulled a GG Allin during my hospital stay. My digestive system needed to reboot so I didn't have a bowel movement until five days after the surgery. Now and then, I'd feel pressure down below when I had to piss. During those times, I'd call the nurse for a bedpan but the feeling would disappear almost immediately. If my body was gonna start shitting again, it was gonna do it in a way socially unacceptable. "It has to be done," I told myself. "It's for the greater good..." And that's how you justify pooping yourself.

This whole Crohn's fiasco has been a rough business. It needs to get under control if I'm to live comfortably and-- more importantly-- pursue my metal goals. I've had nothing but joy working for Brick by Brick and am eager to prove myself and learn the business side of things. There's lots of bands I'd love to try to bring to town and have been mulling over ideas for a blackened metal fest here. It is extremely disappointing being out of commission for the next month; meeting people while flyering and meeting fellow metalheads at shows is a treasure. Pissed as all Hell I've missed out on Napalm Death again, but shit happens. There'll be another time I'll get to see these legends.


So while all this is going on, I'll try to turn my attention more to this blog. Gotta find my footing here. Definitely have some more Metal Metal Land segments in store for you as well as some other topics of discussion. We'll see what happens. Just wanna throw a question out there to my readers: any of you have any medical shit that makes enjoying shows difficult? Any stories as to why you missed out on a gig?

Stay heavy, my friends!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Metal Metal Land: Banzai: A Look at the Metal of Japan



Hey everyone! Sorry for getting this done late. If this wasn't just a hobby, I'd probably fire myself for being so lazy. A lot has been going on lately. Slowly working on getting the Crohn's in check. It still sucks, but it's not nearly as cruddy as it was a few months ago.And there's some good news: I've been interning at Brick by Brick these past couple months. Really eager to learn what's what once I've proven myself a capable worker. LOTS of wonderful shows coming up, so if you're a metalhead or punk in Southern California, this is the place to check out.

Now with niceties out of the way, let's talk Japan. Now I'm sure that as soon as you saw that country as this Metal Metal Land destination, a very specific image popped into your head. If you're a westerner, you probably envisioned anime and tentacle porn. I hate to break it to you, but what you're picturing is far from the norm.

The culture of mainstream Japan is not the culture pop culture would have you believe. After a chat with a friend-- a history major-- I've learned the the sensibilities of modern-day Japan are very similar to that of mid-twentieth century America. Tradition is deeply ingrained in the mentality of men and women. Men are supposed to work and women are supposed to take care of the home. When it comes to sex, there is a sense of repression; not only is porn censored (much to my chagrin) but the birth rate in Japan is actually dropping significantly, with many speculating because the men are working too damn much to even think about doing the nasty business.

Much like 1950s America, conformity is valued in Japan. If you stray from the path, you are an outsider. Anime and manga? They're regarded as children's activities and it's fucking weird for adults to indulge in them. Those scenes in Japanese porn where women are groped on buses? That stems from the real life problem of rapes being significantly under reported because of the stigma of rape; they're afraid to put that shame on their family. Panty-dispensing vending machines? Not really a thing. These are the things that get noticed by the West like the loudest guy in the room

TO THE MUSIC! Now, because of this repression, the younger generation of musicians feels a great need to express itself, often times in an wild way. The visual kei and J-pop are perfect examples of an the aesthetic extremity of these musicians. Dir En Grey and BabyMetal have succeeded in blending these styles with metal to form something sonically epic.


BabyMetal's explosive rise has raised the question of whether Japan will be a new hub of interesting metal acts or if this is its one shot at glory. However, the island country has been producing amazing bands from the beginning. The Flower Travellin' Band helped plant psychedelic seeds in their fertile soil so that others may sprout. Loudness and X Japan brought their brand of traditional metal to arenas while the underground gave birth to a plethora of weird and evil acts. Want something to get wrecked to? Put on some Coffins, Abigail, Gallhammer, or Sabbat. Crave something a little more brooding? How about some Sigh, Church of Misery, or Boris? Need something fun and crazy? Look no further than Sand and  Maximum the Hormone.


With so much interesting stuff going on, it's no wonder Marty Friedman moved across the Pacific! Now let's get down to it and take a look at who else the Land of the Rising Sun has to offer us...


Corrupted
Osaka
Sludge Metal

Barbatos
Tokyo
Blackened Thrash

Tokyo
Experimental Rock and Grindcore

Tokyo
Thrash Metal

Osaka
Metalcore

Tokyo
Death Doom

Tokyo
Grindcore

Kobe
Deathgrind


Osaka
Heavy Metal

Nagoya
Grindcore

Tokyo
Melodeath

Tokyo
Experimental Sludge

Nagano
Progressive Metal

Tokyo
Symphonic Metal

Tokyo
Death Metal

Tokyo
Symphonic Black Metal

Tokyo
Symphonic Power Metal

Shiga
Melodeath




Kanagawa Prefecture
Funeral Doom



Osaka
Power Metal

Tokyo
Symphonic Metal


Tokyo
Heavy Metal

Nagoya
Stoner Doom

Osaka
Electronic Melodeath


I gotta say this was one of my favorite Metal Metal Lands to do. Some really wonderful stuff in here I hope you'll enjoy. While some them I find quite aesthetically goofy looking, the sheer talent of some of these bands is a real slap in the face; all are serious contenders that I wish would get some loving on this side of the Pacific. If I have any Japanese readers looking at this, let me know if I missed anyone important or totally screwed up my analysis on metal over there.

Have fun perusing this list, ladies and djent-lemen. I'll try to not to make my next posting like three months late.

Stay heavy, my friends.