Behemoth is an influential Polish blackened death metal band. They are considered to have played one of the most important roles in establishing the Polish extreme metal underground, alongside Graveland and Sacrilegium. Until early 2000s, the band played rather classical black metal with a heathen lyrical content, but soon changed to that of occult and thelemic themes written by their lead vocalist, Nergal.
This coincided with an increase in musical craftsmanship that allowed them to expand out of the black metal underground and garnered them with some international recognition. With the 2004 release of Demigod, they had fully embraced brutal technical death metal, while retaining their own signature style characterized by the staggering drumwork of Inferno, multi-layered vocals and Nile-style middle-eastern influence. Their transition from black to death metal has made them "traitors" in the eyes of some fans, but they have become darlings of the modern death metal scene, often mentioned alongside other rising stars such as Nile (whom they have collaborated and toured with).
Saturday, October 27, 2007 | 0 Comments
Human touring line-up: Chuck, Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert, Skott Carino.
Over the course of more than a decade and seven increasingly accomplished albums, Chuck Schuldiner, the architect behind the ubiquitous
Death, became a bona fide heavy metal icon. Now widely recognized as the father of death metal (if a single candidate must be chosen, his resumé is about as good as it gets), Schuldiner's singular drive and ruthless creative vision guaranteed that Death retain a pole position at the forefront of the style's development. Indeed, while the savagely raw aggression contained in Death's first three albums proved crucial to spearheading the first generation of death, and subsequently grindcore bands, the astounding musicianship and increasingly sophisticated songwriting found on their later-day efforts may have influenced even more groups exploring the limits of extreme metal's progressive outposts. By all accounts a force to be reckoned with on-stage, Death also logged more frequent-flier miles than perhaps any other band of their extreme metal ilk, undertaking numerous far-reaching tours despite suffering from continuous and acrimonious turnover within their ranks. Throughout this long journey and drastic evolutionary curve, Chuck Schuldiner was the only constant, the effective mastermind behind Death's continually groundbreaking career, and his near-canonization at the time of his untimely passing only confirmed his unequaled stature at the top of rock's most uncompromising style.
The story of Death begins in Florida, around 1983, when vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner formed a band named Mantas with guitarist Rick Rozz and drummer Kam Lee. Although they'd yet to finish High School, the eager teens quickly set about trying to replicate the most excessive heavy metal sounds imaginable, which they often heard on tapes obtained via the bustling underground tape-trading circuit existent at the time. Many of these hailed from the U.K., where bands like Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, and Venom were riding high on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; others arrived from the West Coast, where young bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Exodus were redefining the genre by injecting it with unprecedented doses of speed and energy, thus giving birth to thrash metal. All of these developments converged to spark the young Floridian's excitement, and the newly rechristened Death spent the next few years refining their chops through endless, arduous rehearsals and sporadic live performances. Their hard work and perseverance finally paid off when a three-song demo tape called Mutilation began drawing rave reviews in the metal underground, soon convincing Bay Area-based thrash specialists Combat Records to sign the group.
Leaving his bandmates behind (they would form a band called Massacre in his absence), Schuldiner relocated to San Francisco and teamed up with drummer Chris Reifert (later of Autopsy infamy) to record Death's now legendary Scream Bloody Gore LP. Released in 1987, the album is considered death metal's first archetypal document. Possessed's proto-death classic Seven Churches may have predated it by almost two years, but the fact of the matter is that both were concurrent works from a demo perspective, and while Seven Churches represented something of a unplanned transition between thrash and death metal, Scream Bloody Gore clearly defined the new offshoot's true essence for the first time. Boiled down to the most basic terms, this transition simply entailed propelling thrash metal's sheer speed and ferocious execution into further inaccessibility with the addition of gore-obsessed lyrics delivered via often indecipherably growled vocals. Needless to say, this unprecedented level of sonic hatred went down a storm with thousands upon thousands of angry teenagers across the world.
Having set his metallic dreams (or nightmares, as it were) into motion, Schuldiner returned to Florida, where he reunited with his old chum Rick Rozz and drafted bassist Terry Butler and drummer Bill Andrews to integrate Death's first touring lineup. Between ever-increasing touring commitments, they were soon ensconced in Tampa's soon-to-be famed Morrisound Studios with soon-to-be premier death metal producer Scott Burns (a lot of "firsts" in this story) and working on 1988's Leprosy follow-up, which reprised much of the debut's successful tricks, but was somewhat marred by Rozz's subpar technical skills. He was soon unceremoniously ejected for his shortcomings (the first victim of a Spinal Tap-like game of musical chairs) and replaced by the far more gifted James Murphy, who would barely last a year himself before embarking on a journeyman existence that would take him to Obituary, Testament, and beyond, but nevertheless contributed stellar fretwork to 1990's transitional Spiritual Healing. This album found Death beginning to relinquish some of the unrelenting velocity, mindless ferocity, and often trite blood-and-gore lyrics which characterized death metal's infancy (grindcore's fast-rising legions, led by Napalm Death and Carcass, would take it from here) and diving headlong into its understandably experimental pubescent phase. In practice, this meant introducing slower rhythms, complex dynamic tempo changes, insidious melodies, and more enlightened, if no less dark and cynical subject matter that commented on society's ills and injustices.
All of these exciting developments would come to greater fruition on 1991's pivotal Human LP, but given the various organizational problems and unsatisfactory performances that had plagued the Spiritual Healing tour, it's a wonder Death survived long enough to record it. In his obsessive quest for perfection and constant evolution, Schuldiner had once again pushed his bandmembers as far as their musical abilities could take them, mandating that an entirely new group of players be cast to enact the next chapter in his grand scheme. Sure enough, the sessions for Human convened a supra-technical ensemble for the ages, namely guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert of unsigned death/fusion sensations Cynic, and fretless bass wonder Steve DiGiorgio, who was borrowed from Sadus for recording purposes only. This release, along with the even more commercially successful Arise by Brazilians Sepultura, helped ensure that 1991 should go down as the absolute apex of death metal's world domination. At least in its original form, as hordes of gifted new upstarts such as the aforementioned Cynic and the death/jazz experimentalists Atheist, to name but a few, were even then undertaking to rewrite the rule book and challenge elder statesmen like Death for genre supremacy.
Not to be outdone, Schuldiner simply upped the ante, repeatedly reinventing his band time and time again, even as he refused to compromise its brutal core values one iota. As proof, both 1993's Individual Thought Patterns and 1995's Symbolic introduced staggering advancements into the group's sound. The first exploded with the brilliant fretwork of ex-King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, whose six-string duels with Schuldiner rank among the most exciting of Death's long career; while the second benefited from the dense harmonies contributed by the less flashy, but equally effective Bobby Koelble, resulting in Death's most consistently melodic album ever. And perhaps best of all for extreme metal fans, former Dark Angel behemoth Gene Hoglan lent his inimitable percussive talents to both LPs, forging an unlikely pairing with Chuck that remains the stuff of death metal dreams to this day. Not surprisingly, this trio of albums continue to vie for fans and critics' hearts as Death's greatest achievements -- how ironic then that Schuldiner himself was beginning to grow tired of his life's work.
But come 1996, Death's chief architect was hungry for a creative outlet with which to express his more mainstream heavy metal songwriting, and citing his own voice as too limited for what he had in mind, Schuldiner shocked the heavy metal community by disbanding Death and announcing his plans for an entirely new band, to be named Control Denied. But the new project took longer than expected to get off the ground, so Schuldiner decided to backtrack and record one final album under the Death franchise, resulting in 1998's quite stellar The Sound of Perseverance. As was to be expected, he was once again backed up by an entirely new band, this time consisting of relative unknowns like guitarist Shannon Hamm, bassist Scott Clendenin, and drummer Richard Christy. Following this release, Schuldiner finally felt ready to move forward with the Control Denied concept in earnest, and the new quintet (featuring many of Chuck's old accomplices and a full-time lead vocalist in Tim Aymar) unleashed their The Fragile Art of Existence debut in the fall of 1999. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, but then tragic fate intervened.
Schuldiner was diagnosed with a malignant brain-stem tumor and immediately underwent emergency surgery in early 2000 to remove it. All musical plans were brought to a standstill as Chuck fought for his life amid ever-mounting medical bills (like most professional musicians, he had no health insurance), only a small portion of which were alleviated by the heavy metal community's outpouring of support by way of numerous benefit concerts. Over the ensuing two years, the true state of his health was often mired in mystery, and even though he was occasionally rumored to be on the path to recovery, all hopes were ultimately and cruelly dashed on December 13, 2001, when Chuck finally succumbed to cancer at the age of 33. Like any headstrong leader, Schuldiner's tyrannical monopoly over Death's brilliant career is forever guaranteed to evoke adverse opinions about his character, ranging from the resentful accusations of disgruntled former employees, to the words of loving praise of willing collaborators. It hardly matters, since whichever reputation people eventually choose to believe in, Schuldiner's recorded legacy will forever remain inextricably linked, synonymous even, with the death metal genre
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 | 0 Comments
Absu is a black metal/thrash metal band from Plano, Texas, USA. Their early work leaned towards a death metal sound, but more recently they have incorporated a black and thrash metal sound with some celtic and folk music (which they call "Mythological Occult Metal"). Their lyrical themes are esoteric, ranging from Celtic myths and legends, Sumerian myths and legends, magic, weaponry, and sorcery.
Absu was formed in 1991 by Equitant Ifernain (Guitars, Bass, Lyrics) and Shaftiel (Guitars, Vocals). Shortly after that, they were joined by Proscriptor McGovern (Drums, Vocals, Lyrics), David Athron Mystica (Guitars), and Black Massith (Keyboards, Synth, Sequencing). The self-proclaimed "Mythological Occult Metal" has maintained a steady following in the extreme metal underground for a number of years now. After releasing their first album 'Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.' in 1993, Absu narrowed their line up to a three piece when David Athron Mystica and Black Massith left. For live performances, they recruited the help of Mezzadurus (from Philadelphia Black Thrashers, Bloodstorm) and recorded as a three piece with Shaftiel and Proscriptor sharing vocal duties and Proscriptor taking over keyboard and synth duties as well. The band stayed with this line up for some time.
In 2001, Absu recruited a new second guitarist, Kashshapxu. This was short lived as soon after that, Equitant left due to musical differences (however, he and Proscriptor still collaborate on other projects to this day). Shortly after that, Proscriptor severely injured his hand in an accident, which required surgery to repair his hand. After almost a year of healing and therapy, he was ready to play again but Shaftiel no longer had any interest in Absu and Kashshapxu had also left the band due to musical differences. Proscriptor then put Absu on hold and decided to work on other projects. During this period he auditioned for Slayer but Slayer eventually went with their original drummer Dave Lombardo. In 2005, Proscriptor and Equitant put together a collection of rare, live and unreleased Absu recordings and released it under the title 'Mythological Occult Metal: 1991-2001'.
With Absu still on hold, Proscriptor continues to work on other projects including Equimanthorn (with Equitant and members of The Soil Bleeds Black, dark ambient music), Proscriptor (his own project of neo-folk/classic rock fused music), and Starchaser Network (with Equitant and Victorious; electronic art/rock band). Additionally, he was the drummer/vocalist for Melechesh for six years (1999-2005; although still contributes lyrics and vocals) and has done session work with Judas Iscariot, Thornspawn, and Magnus Thorsen. Proscriptor also has his own record label, Tarot Productions.
In December 2006, Proscriptor announced that the new line up for Absu would be revealed sometime in 2007 as well as the re-release of Absu's first three albums on picture disc vinyl and a new live EP which were released on January 15th, 2007. In May 2007, Prosciptor finally announced the addition of Vastator Terrarum and Aethyris MacKay to the band as well as a split EP release with Demonical. Absu plan to begin recording in the latter part of 2007 (or early 2008) and plan to release their fifth full length album (simply titled Absu) in June 2008 through Osmose Productions/The End Records.
Monday, October 15, 2007 | 0 Comments
Since their humble start in 1992 as an underground band from Tumba, a suburb in southern Stockholm, AMON AMARTH have managed to establish themselves as one of Europe’s top death metal acts through hard work, relentless touring, and consistently solid albums. What has set AMON AMARTH apart from the rest of the death metal scene since the very beginning, is their use of Viking mythology and imagery in lyrics and artwork, as well as a talent for writing epic, memorable melodies, which underline their solemn yet barbaric approach to heavy music.
The band went through the usual demo recordings and line-up changes in the beginning stages, but soon made its first mark with the MCD “Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds”. A one-off affair with (of all places) Singapore’s Pulverized Records, this MCD did not only plant AMON AMARTH’s flag in the underground metal landscape, but also gained the band a multi-album deal with the renowned Metal Blade Records.
Fate of Norns
“Once Sent From The Golden Hall”, the group’s Metal Blade debut, was released in 1998, and saw the band touring with such genre greats as Deicide, Six Feet Under, and Brutal Truth. The same year, drummer Martin Lopez left the band to pursue a career with Opeth, being replaced by Fredrik Andersson (previously in A Canorous Quintet). This would be the last line-up change in the band’s career. With a steady formation and an admirable work ethic, AMON AMARTH went on to record and release the albums “The Avenger” (1999) and “The Crusher” (2001) within a time period of two years, touring the European continent extensively in support of these releases. Sharing the stage with the likes of Morbid Angel, Marduk, and Vader, and touring the US for the first time in 2002, the band developed their live act into an unstoppable force, which by now has become one of the pillars of their ever-growing popularity.
Death In Fire
In 2002, the band went into Berno Studios to record “Versus The World”, an album where all the elements that comprise the band’s style, sound, and essence fell right into place. AMON AMARTH toured incessantly to promote this album (3 American and 2 European tours, no less), the press woke up to their qualities, and legions of followers put the band on one level with those acts who had dominated the scene for years on end. This set the stage for “Fate Of Norns”, AMON AMARTH’s breakthrough album and highest charting release to date. Once again recorded at Berno Studios, “Fate Of Norns” saw the band touring Europe and America to ecstatic response from their fans, as well as conquering several new territories, such as Iceland, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, Croatia, and Norway. One of the highlights of the “Fate” touring cycle was undoubtedly when over 30,000 rabid fans gathered in front of the stage at 2AM to celebrate their heroes at Wacken Open Air 2004.
Runes To My Memory
As a tribute to their loyal following, the band released a 3 DVD set entitled “Wrath Of The Norsemen”, comprised of five full shows, in May 2005. With no less than six weeks in the German Music DVD Charts as we speak, the momentum gathered by the band by now is one that marketing strategists and industry people would kill to be able to reproduce. Talent, perseverance, and hard work do pay off after all. Which brings us to “With Oden On Our Side”…
Gods Of War Arise
In January 2006, the band started writing the follow-up to “Fate Of Norns”. Being able for the first time to concentrate 100% on the music, the sessions proved fruitful, as guitarist Olavi Mikkonen confirms: “We nailed down all ideas we had from the past year and we rehearsed 5 days a week, 9 to 5. At the end of the month we had finished a 5 song demo.” After a two-month break, the band returned to write the rest of the material: “We started up where we had left off and began working on all new ideas we had. Again 5 days a week, 9 to 5. This time around we had 4 new songs and the album was written. We had never written an album under these intense circumstances, but we found out that this was totally right for us.” The new masterpiece “With Oden On Our Side” was born.
Cry Of The Blackbirds
As if the norse deity had cast a blessing on AMON AMARTH, the band has emerged with an album that will define a “before” and “after” in their career for years to come. Recorded at Fascination Street Studios with producer Jens Bogren, the majestic riffs, thunderous drums and roaring vocals have never sounded better and more convincing. A match surely made in Valhalla, Mikkonen comments on the collaboration as follows: “We had never worked with a producer before the way it should be done. Jens Bogren took the band to a new level, both production- and sound-wise. Musically, this album is more worked through and, most important of all, we wrote it together as a unit.” A most fearsome and deadly unit, that is now gearing up to crush audiences the world over once again!
Valhall Awaits Me
Pursuit of Vikings
Tuesday, October 02, 2007 | 0 Comments