Social, political, cultural, random and rambling opinions, musings, diatribes and rants from the mind of a disturbed individual with too much free time and unlimited internet access.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
This is why I love death metal, grindcore and whatever else you want to call it.
I've always been into extreme music. I remember when I was a kid and bands like Black Sabbath almost scared the crap out of me, like a really good horror movie, but that scariness was addicting! I couldn't get enough of loud, angry, scary music that evoked emotions much stronger than just the urge to get up and dance. Now, I appreciate a wide variety of music and I absolutely enjoy a good dance song or something that doesn't require you to really do anything more than tap your feet and bob your head, but I will always have a special place in my cold, black heart for extreme metal. There's just something about guttural, growling vocals over buzz saw guitars with machine gun drums blasting away in the back and a bass line that makes you want to poop yourself a little bit, like in the above clip for Walking Corpse by Brutal Truth. You just can't get that from any other style of music.
I remember when I first heard Dead by Dawn by Deicide. It was shortly after the album was released, in 1990, on Z-Rock when they had the show "Headbanger's Heaven" hosted by "Crazy" Mike Pain. At the time, I was in a metal band and we were trying to find a sound that was heavier and harder than what we had been listening to at the time, but we weren't really sure what that would sound like. Thanks to Headbanger's Heaven, we found the answer to that question. This was when I would first be exposed to death metal and it was both awesome and a little scary at the same time, thanks to bands like Deicide. Back then, I used to get the crap scared out of me by movies like The Exorcist, so a band who's lyrics read like outtakes from Pazuzu's dialog script was pretty damn freaky. However, it was that freakiness that drew me to them, and other bands in the genre.
The intro to Out of the Body by Pestilence is something I will always be able to recognize immediately. This is another song I discovered thanks to Headbanger's Heaven and it exposed me to the heaviness of European death metal bands. I'm a big fan of Pestilence and Asphyx, which was singer Martin Van Drunen's second band after leaving Pestilence. These guys were pioneers in the northern European death metal sound that would be made famous by a host of other bands, including Entombed.
Nothern European death metal, often generalized as "Swedish Death Metal", is darker, heavier and typically more Satanic in it's imagery and lyrical content than American death metal. Obviously, there were American bands like Deicide and Morbid Angel who had very Satanic lyrics and imagery, but it was much more common in the northern European bands. It makes sense, therefore, that black metal would originate in Norway, the most northern peak of northern Europe. There is a definite fascination with Satan and the occult in northern European metal, which makes for some pretty wicked music!
Grave is another dark, Satanic Swedish death metal band. I had the privilege of opening up for these guys in my own badass death metal band, Sunday Silence, back in 1992. What I remember about these guys is that they drank orange cough syrup mixed with vodka like it was kool-aid and they were shocked that we didn't have a record deal. I've often wondered why we never did, either.
Anyway, back to America! Specifically, back to Florida, which was the epicenter of American death metal during it's first heyday back in the early 90's. Morrisound studios and Scott Burns were the place and the producer for basically all the big bands back then. Burns produced Obituary, Death, Deicide, Malevolent Creation and a host of other American death metal bands. He also produced an album by a little English grindcore band from Nottingham called Napalm Death...
Napalm Death is one of the greatest extreme metal bands ever. They pioneered the grindcore genre and are still one of my favorite extreme bands to this day. I heard my first blast beat in a Napalm Death song, that was my introduction to grind and it once again raised the bar for what I wanted to do musically in my own band. The original Napalm Death lineup produced 3 great bands. The first was, of course, Napalm Death, who continued after singer Lee Dorian and guitarist Bill Steer left. The second was Cathedral, a doom metal band formed by Dorian and the third was gore-grind godfathers Carcass, formed by Bill Steer.
Carcass was the first gore-grind band who's lyrics seemed to be lifted from medical school textbooks. Using complicated medical terms for stuff like shitting until your intestines fall out and with an uncanny knack for rhyming a line like "saponified fats" with "nibbled by rats", Carcass elevated the sickness level of extreme metal to bloody new heights. While a lot of bands today, like County Medical Examiners and Exhumed (another band I got to play a show with), have taken up the reigns of writing lyrics that read like a med school exam, Carcass was the pioneers of the "What's the medical term for when your anus is infested with maggots?" genre.
Death is widely considered to be the godfathers of American death metal. Formed in 1983, Death is the most successful death metal band ever, in terms of album sales. Ironically, the amount of albums Death has sold in it's entire history - 2 million albums - would be considered a good run for a single album by acts in just about any other style of music. That's the price for playing an underground music style that has a relatively small, albeit fiercely loyal, following. The early Death albums rock, though. Not that I necessarily don't like their later stuff, but the closer the band got to the point where Chuck Shuldiner eventually renamed it Control Denied and ventured into a more prog-metal direction, the more they replaced their raw, heavy edge with polished, technical finesse. It's good stuff, I mean I dig the musicianship and talent displayed in their later recordings, but Spiritual Healing, Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore are classics.
Cannibal Corpse is the second most successful death metal band and they've actually sold more albums domestically than Death did. Eaten Back to Life is one of my favorite Cannibal Corpse albums, even though the band has gone through a pretty significant change in sound since putting it out. This is another Headbanger's Heaven song, one of the early jams that got me wanting to learn how to play blasts and pick up my double-bass speed.
Another death metal band that recorded at the infamous Morrisound, produced by Scott Burns, although hailing from New York, Suffocation was the hardest and fastest death metal band I had heard when I first listened to a copy of Effigy of the Forgotten. Drummer Mike Smith had a whole new style of blast beat drumming I'd never heard before, one that incorporated double-bass and sounded faster, harder and more brutal than anything else around at the time. Smith's style has influenced a horde of extreme metal drummers, including myself.
I'm ending this trip down extreme metal memory lane with one of my favorite grindcore bands ever, Righteous Pigs. I guess technically they might be considered more an extreme hardcore punk band than grindcore to some hyper-sensitive metal nerd, but I consider them grindcore. They're fast, hard, heavy and brutal, just like grindcore is supposed to be. I don't downgrade them just because the vocals are more punk sounding than growly. Their songs are short and sweet, their lyrics range from scathing social commentary to ridiculous rantings about hidden zits but most of all, their songs are catchy and awesomer than hell. This is due in no small part to the brilliant songwriting of guitarist Mitch Harris. Harris played in Righteous Pigs before recording a 2-man project with Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris (no relation) called Defecation. He would go on to join Napalm Death after recording the Defecation album and has been with the band ever since. Righteous Pigs is a perfect band to end this post on, they really display all the reasons why I love extreme metal - the heavy guitars, the brutal drumming, the rumbling bass and the disharmonic vocal aggression. I love this shit.