Monday, April 21, 2014

The Final Post

Alright metalheads, this is the final post of “Into the Pit.” It has been a fucking killer past couple of years, but it is time to lay this blog to rest. So what was the point? Why did I do this in the first place? Well, let me explain.

I wanted this blog to serve as a guide for all things metal for the readers and writers of ACRN. The early posts of this blog were really focused on defining the sub-genres of heavy metal. Those posts should be used by readers and writers as a means to figure out exactly what kind of metal they are listening to.

Beyond that, I wanted this blog to serve as a modern commentary on the state of heavy metal. I live and breathe this genre of music. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of heavy metal. It’s my passion and I wanted to share my expertise with you, the readers.

Before I put this blog to rest for good, I thought I would make one final top five list. These are the five songs that I consider to be the HEAVIEST OF ALL TIME. Not necessarily the best, just the heaviest. Thank you, readers, for checking out my blog over the past few years. It has been real. Now here we fucking go!

Honorable Mention: Meshuggah - "Bleed"
No one forgets the first time they hear “Bleed.” The technical precision of the track is astounding. Beyond that, there is so much power behind the song. Meshuggah are out for blood and ready to fucking kill. The song is dark and comes from a real pit of despair. This is one of Meshuggah’s finest moments and absolutely one of their heaviest.  

5. Bloodbath - "Eaten"
Everything about this song screams “HEAVY!” The band’s name, the cover art for the record it’s on, the song’s name and its subject matter all make it unbelievably fucking powerful. The song is about getting eaten by a cannibal. Gore, blood and guts are the centerpiece of the song's lyrics. The music that compliments the lyrics and is just brutal. Peter Tagtgren and pals simply nail the delivery of "Eaten," and the song’s final moments are jaw-dropping. Stop what you are doing right now and check out this absolutely monstrous tune! 

4. At the Gates - "Slaughter of the Soul"
The first riff of "Slaughter of the Soul" is bloodcurdling. It’s so powerful and so intense. The song just builds from there. Tomas Lindberg’s terrifying shrieks and poetically deadly lyrics make this song an absolute monster. "Slaughter of the Soul" is timeless and a masterpiece of heavy metal.  

3. Behemoth - "Lucifer"
This song is from another world. It thrusts listeners into the depths of hell where they await their final judgment. It’s the little touches that make this song so thrilling and so captivating. The atmosphere is so immersive and so intricately crafted. Everything about this song is built around the world the band creates. "Lucifer" is a brutal song that will terrify even the toughest of listeners. 

2. Gojira - "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe"
This song could not be more appropriately named. Gojira understand what it takes to create a heavy song. They understand this more than any other band and that is why this tune is just so blisteringly powerful. This song just takes control of its listeners and forces them to mosh. Joe Duplantier leads listeners into madness from the stage as the song calls for a pit. This song has a groove that is so intense that it is hard not to lose control. Rock out to "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe" and just try not to lose yourself in the pure fucking metal! 

1. Strapping Young Lad - "Oh My Fucking God"
Do I even need to explain why this song is the HEAVIEST OF ALL TIME? Devin Townsend and his crew are fucking mad men. This is a song that is just pure passion. It’s controlled chaos in the finest of ways. Even the song’s chorus is heavy as hell. If you have never listened to "Oh My Fucking God" before, do yourself a favor and just take a moment to get annihilated by its ferocity.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

US Summer Metal Festivals

Hey, metalheads! Summer is coming up, so this week we will talk about the few traveling metal festivals that are going to be making their annual circuits around the US in the coming months.

The big daddy of them all is the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. This festival has been around since 2008 and always boasts some of the most popular heavy metal acts around. This year the festival will take place solely in July and August. 

The Mayhem Festival will have four stages this year, giving more bands than ever before the opportunity to perform. The main stage will consist of Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Asking Alexandria and Trivium. Meanwhile the side stages will have tons of other groups, the most noteworthy ones being Cannibal Corpse, Suicide Silence, Body Count and Emmure. 

Suicide Silence and Body Count are bound to be highly anticipated since Suicide Silence hasn’t toured much since their original vocalist passed away, and Body Count hasn’t been actively touring in a long time. Those two bands alone are bound to draw hordes of fans to the ever popular music festival.

Trespass America is the second big traveling US heavy metal festival. The festival is organized by Metal Hammer and Five Finger Death Punch. FFDP always headlines the tour and brings along some other popular mainstream metal groups. The tour made its first run in 2012 and it looks to be back again this year. If you’re a fan of Five Finger Death Punch, keep on the lookout for dates and supporting acts.

If mainstream metal isn’t really your thing, Summer Slaughter is going to be the festival that you are going to want to attend. Summer Slaughter began in 2001, but wasn’t that successful. It was brought back in 2007 and has continued every year since. The tour is known for boasting popular underground metal acts that are particularly brutal. Death metal is their specialty. The bands and dates of the festival have not yet been announced for 2014. The tour’s Facebook page has been teasing bands a lot recently, though. Expect an announcement rather soon.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Melodic Death Metal Revival

This week on “Into the Pit,” we are going to discuss the ongoing revival of melodic death metal. Several of the subgenre's most popular bands have put out comeback albums recently. The most exciting record may have yet to come, though. This fall, At the Gates is planning on releasing its first album in 19 years titled At War With Reality.

The release of At the Gates' hotly anticipated new record is coming at the perfect time. Melodic death meal has seen an insane resurgence in the last couple of years. Many new melodic death metal bands have made it into the heavy metal mainstream, whereas a lot of classic melodeath bands are experiencing comebacks. 

In Flames was a precursor to this trend. In 2011, the band released Sounds of a Playground Fading. While the album wasn’t a total return to form, it was still the best record In Flames had released in years. Hints of In Flames’ old style were definitely noticeable through tracks such as “Ropes” and “A New Dawn.” In Flames is currently working on a new record, which will hopefully be even better than their last.

Last year was a huge year for melodic death metal comeback records. The biggest of those releases was Carcass’ Surgical Steel. There were a ton of fans who never thought there would ever be a new Carcass record. Once the album was announced, the hype was unbearable. The expectations of metalheads were extreme, to say the least. When Surgical Steel was finally released it totally blew everyone away. It was one of the few instances of a record actually surpassing the crazy expectations set for it. Surgical Steel was the clear indicator that melodic death metal was about to enter a new glory age.

Releases from Dark Tranquillity, Hypocrisy and Children of Bodom last year also brought some life to the subgenre. Dark Tranquillity put out Construct, the band’s most experimental release in years. The album was a roaring success that pleased both critics and fans. Construct was without a doubt the band’s most acclaimed release since Character. It was a sign that the melodic death metal standards can still be tampered with while remaining in the confines of the subgenre. 

Hypocrisy’s End of Disclosure was a highly anticipated release of 2013. The album was criticized for being more of the same from the band, but was still generally praised. Hypocrisy has been one of the few melodic death metal bands that hasn't really declined throughout the years. The band has always stayed sharp, so having another above average release from them was a pleasure last year.

While creating End of Disclosure, Hypocrisy main man Peter Tagtgren was also busy producing the newest Children of Bodom record, Halo of Blood. Upon release, Halo of Blood was seen as a return to form for Children of Bodom. While it didn’t go completely back to the band’s neoclassical metal days, it pulled from that era, and was seen as a positive hybrid of styles.

Melodic death metal bands with cult followings have even put out great new releases recently. Arsis put out Unwelcome last year, which was seen as their comeback effort. Meanwhile, Wintersun released the first part of Time in 2012, which fans had been waiting eight years to hear. Time I was positively received and the second part should be out next year.

New popular melodic death metal bands who have certainly made their presence known include Battlecross and The Resistance. Battlecross is the big name going around right now. The band is receiving a lot of acclaim for its ability to combine melodic death metal and thrash metal. The Resistance is made up of In Flames’ old guitar team, Jesper Stromblad and Glenn Ljungstrom. Also featuring The Haunted’s vocalist Marco Aro, The Resistance released a gritty melodeath debut in the form of Scars. The album has received acclaim for being a bold display of power from these aging musicians. 

With impending releases from In Flames and At the Gates this year, melodic death metal as a subgenre is in a great place. This decade will surely be seen years from now as a melodic death metal revival. Sit back and enjoy it, metalheads, because it may be gone before you know it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Tribute to Oderus Urungus

The metal community experienced a tragic loss this past week. Gwar frontman, David Brockie a.k.a. Oderus Urungus has passed away. This week on “Into the Pit,” we will take a look at Oderus’ legacy with Gwar, and talk about how he changed heavy metal forever.

Gwar is a thrash metal band that takes plenty of influence from hardcore punk. The band is legendary for its outrageousness. The band members all wear monster costumes and have developed fictional personas for themselves. Oderus has been the only constant member throughout all of Gwar’s history, though Balsac the Jaws of Death and Jizmak Da Gusha have also been longtime members of the band.

Beginning in 1984, the band has released 13 albums to date. The band’s most famous record is its second album, Scumdogs of the Universe, which all of its members consider to be the group’s defining masterpiece. Lyrically, Gwar’s music varies, but many records are based on the fictional backgrounds the band members’ have created for their personas.

Gwar fans are commonly known as “bohabs,” named after Father Bohab from the band’s beloved third album, America Must Be Destroyed. Bohab means habitually boring, and is seen in contrast to how Gwar fans typically act.

Gwar has always been known for its live performances. The band members are always dressed in costume and they all embrace Gwar’s fictional background. Oderus was always the spectacle of the show. His personality was infectious and his fantastic sense of humor ensured that all of Gwar’s fans had a great time at their concerts. 

What made Gwar so instantly special was that the band was one of the first metal groups to really mix comedy and heavy metal. Gwar has always been ballsy, too. The band has never been afraid to cross boundaries and be unconventional. Oderus had a powerful vision that he worked hard to achieve with Gwar. 

Gwar’s music has always been ambitiously fun. The group has never been musically innovative, but they have still written great, rambunctious thrash metal songs.  It’s the kind of metal that is just hard not to enjoy. 

To many unfamiliar onlookers, Gwar may seem like a gimmick, but the metal community has never thought of the band that way. The group is a riot and metalheads tend to appreciate the stupidity behind the concept of the band. Gwar is a fun group that has united fans of heavy metal music time and time again. 

Oderus’s spirit has always been the driving force behind Gwar. He will certainly be missed by metalheads everywhere. The band may continue without him, but if they do, they will never be the same. Gwar is Oderus’s baby, and he will always be the most legendary character amongst the group’s collection of lovable monsters.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Metal Producers

When making a heavy metal album, choosing a producer can be a very difficult decision. There are a lot of great audio engineers out there with a multitude of talents. This week on “Into the Pit,” we are going to take a look at ten of the finest heavy metal record producers around today.

       Kurt Ballou
Converge’s guitarist is one of the most sought after producers for underground heavy metal acts. Ballou is a well-respected musician and he is highly admired for producing some amazing albums through his studio, GodCity. He has produced work for Converge, Isis, High on Fire, Torche, Kvelertak, KEN Mode and Skeletonwitch.

      Peter Tagtgren
The main man of Hypocrisy is producing some of the most vicious heavy metal records coming out today. In the past, he has produced albums for mostly overseas bands such as Children of Bodom, Immortal, Septicflesh, Celtic Frost, Enslaved and Dimmu Borgir. 

Andy Sneap 
There is no one in the world of heavy metal who doesn’t have immense respect for Andy Sneap. The phenomenal guitarist for Sabat and Hell has produced, mixed and/or mastered awesome records for bands such as Megadeth, Testament, Exodus, Killswitch Engage, Amon Amarth, Accept, Arch Enemy, Soulfly and Napalm Death, among many others.

       Colin Richardson 
Slipknot, Trivium, Kreator, Machine Head, SikTh, Fear Factory, Carcass and Behemoth are only some of many metal acts that Richardson has worked with. The man has become a legend in the heavy metal community and everyone wants him to produce their record.

      Misha Mansoor 
Mansoor has produced all of the records for his own band, Periphery, and has also worked with Animals as Leaders, Veil of Maya and Born of Osiris. Mansoor may not have many production credits to his name, but his talents are extraordinary. His style of production is immediately noticeable, and it sounds polished and sharp. If Mansoor agrees to produce your album, it’s bound to be something special.

      Adam Dutkiewicz 
All hail the king of melodic metalcore. Dutkiewicz is the guitarist for Killswitch Engage and has produced so many popular metalcore records. He has worked with All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, Shadows Fall, Underoath, Every Time I Die and The Devil Wears Prada, just to name a few.

       Terry Date 
If I had to choose my personal favorite producers from this list they would be Sneap, Tagtgren and Date. Date is just really good at getting the best out of bands. He has worked with groups such as Pantera, White Zombie, Deftones, Slipknot, Bring Me the Horizon, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins and Metal Church. He also worked with Limp Bizkit, but I try to pretend that didn’t happen.

       Jens Bogren 
Bogren has produced a lot of my favorite heavy releases that have come out in the last couple of years. He has worked with acts such as Dark Tranquillity, The Ocean, Ihsahn, The Devin Townsend Project, Soilwork, Opeth, Symphony X and Paradise Lost. Bogren has been a major part of creating some great modern metal records, many of which are already starting to become classics. 

       Jason Suecof 
Suecof became famous for working with Trivium, but has since produced a ton of other awesome metal records. He has worked with bands including Death Angel, Battlecross, The Contortionist, The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, Job For a Cowboy and Chimaira.

        Logan Mader 
Mader quit Machine Head after putting out two records with the band in order to focus on producing records. Mader has worked with bands such as Five Finger Death Punch, Gojira, Cavalera Conspiracy, Soulfly, Divine Heresy, W.A.S.P. and Devildriver, resulting in some very heavy albums.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Five Actors/Actresses Who Are Also Metalheads

Famous people like heavy metal. It’s true. I have proof! Here are five actors and actresses who you may not know are actually metalheads.

1. Jack Black
It’s fairly common knowledge that Jack Black is a metalhead, but I still had to include him on this list. Black and his goofy pal, Kyle Gas, started a very notorious comedy metal group called Tenacious D. In case you have been living in a bubble, some of Tenacious D’s badass music is down below.

2. Nicholas Cage
Most people don’t know that Cage’s son was the singer of a black metal band called Eyes of Noctum. They aren’t a very good group, but Cage was always very supportive of his son’s musical endeavors. Cage has never talked about being a metalhead in public, but it’s natural to assume that he is one, right? Man, I hope so.

3. Jim Carrey
Who could forget the classic moment when Cannibal Corpse popped up in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? Most people don’t realize that Carey himself actually organized the band’s appearance in the film. He was a fan and wanted to give the band some exposure. If that’s not super awesome, then I don’t know what is. Mad props go out to Mr. Carrey.

4. Jada Pinkett Smith
Yeah, so around the time that nu metal was cool, Mrs. Smith thought it would be a great idea to start a metal band. Apparently she had been a fan of the genre and felt it was time to declare her taste for it to the world. Her band, Wicked Wisdom, wasn’t very good, but Smith definitely made a decent metal vocalist. She took control of the stage and went on a few tours, where she wasn’t booed off of it. So that’s an achievement, right? Anyways, recently Wicked Wisdom has shown signs of further activity by releasing a new song. My guess is that there is more to come from the band so be on the lookout for a new album or tour or something.

5. Danielle Fishel
I’m going to be honest with you all--this entire post was inspired by the girl who played Topanga on Boy Meets World. Fishel was recently spotted wearing a Lamb of God shirt. That’s right--Lamb of God. That’s a heavy band right there. Pictures also indicate that Fishel is also a Slipknot fan. With all of this evidence, one must conclude that the crush of every boy growing up in the 1990s is indeed a metalhead. How cool is that?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Metal Bands For Non-Metalheads

You heard it here first: heavy metal music isn’t just for metalheads. There are a lot of metal bands that have crossover appeal to people who prefer other genres of music. This week on “Into the Pit,” I have compiled a list of metal bands for people who don’t typically enjoy metal. These bands aren’t necessarily stylistically accessible. These bands also won’t necessarily serve as gateway bands for people who want to start listening to metal. The bands listed below are simply one-of-a-kind groups that can be taken and enjoyed at face value by fans of other styles of music.

Deafheaven - Everyone went crazy for this group last year. Deafheaven’s most recent record, Sunbather, was highly enjoyed by fans of shoegaze and post rock. The band’s harsh moments are attempts to be emotional, not heavy. Those interested in shoegaze should definitely check the band out and see what all the fuss is really about.

Deftones - If The Cure was a metal band, they would take the form of Deftones--it’s really as simple as that. The band’s music is dark and influenced by new wave, trip-hop, dream pop and shoegaze. I particularly recommend the band’s newest album, Koi No Yokan, for new listeners. The side projects of the band’s frontman (Crosses, Palms and Team Sleep) may also appeal to people who don’t typically enjoy metal as well.

Body Count - This is Ice-T’s metal band. Do I really need to say more? Fans of rap music are bound to dig this group at least a little bit. 

Converge - Fans of hardcore punk go gaga over Converge. The group basically invented metalcore and are arguably the best band in the subgenre. Converge is a very creative group and really has never put out a bad record. The band’s newest material is probably the best place to start when listening to them for the first time. Then work backwards. 

Pelican - Pelican is recommended for fans of instrumental rock music particularly, but the group will appeal to almost anyone. Not having vocals can be considered a weakness, but to Pelican it’s a strength. The band’s music is dark and sludgy, but is really captivating and compelling. The way it builds on itself is absolutely awesome.

Alcest - Alcest is a pioneer of combining metal and shoegaze. The group’s frontman and musical composer, Neige, is immensely talented and has poured his heart and soul into Alcest’s music. Now the band is straying farther and farther away from metal, making them an easy recommendation for people who enjoy music that evokes tender and dreamy fantasies. 

Diablo Swing Orchestra - Metal has always needed more trumpet, trombone and cello. Diablo Swing Orchestra plays danceable, operatic metal. Fans of danceable orchestral music are bound to have an awesome time with Diablo Swing Orchestra. 

My Dying Bride - Those who enjoy sadness and sorrow will die for My Dying Bride’s music. It’s gothic, but beautiful. My Dying Bride is one of the most melancholy bands to ever exist, and it’s a crime to ignore their tortured souls. 

Nightwish - Do you like film soundtracks? Then Nightwish is the band for you! Nightwish is a Finnish symphonic metal band that writes gloriously catchy music. The band’s most recent album, Imaginaerum, was written to go along with the band-produced film of the same name and is a great starting point for new listeners. Nightwish sweeps listeners off their feet with every song, and the band’s music is a testament to how much fun metal can be.

Boris - This is not a single person. This is a Japanese metal band that mixes sludge metal with noise rock, psychedelic rock, ambient, pop and droning music. Each album by Boris is fairly different, but if one can find the right album to suit their tastes, he or she will be instantly hooked. Check Boris out for something different and musically intriguing.