heavy metal

Dark, cynical roadhouses lke Bogie’s in Albany, New York have been and continue to be the proving grounds or metal. It is here that the crowds deem bands worthy, encouraging their heroes with raised glasses of ale while passing judgment on inferior act with their austere silence. The lights are low, the die-hards are out, the Sword of Damocles dangles precariously over the musician’s necks.

One of the supposed glories about the old days of being a music fan was taking a trip to the local music store, rifling through piles of albums until you found the one you wanted, and then coming home with your new acquisition and letting yourself be encapsulated by the physical experience. Holding an album in your hands is different than clicking a download button, seeing the stacks of records on a shelf isn't the same as looking at a playlist, nor is nostalgia a replacement for the fact that reality has changed.

Geoff Tate's second solo album arrives at a time that long seemed impossible. The erstwhile leader of Queensrÿche, his voice was more than synonymous with the band's legacy. To think of Queensrÿche without Tate was absurd, because no band could survive losing not only its public face, but also the member most responsible for shaping the trajectory of their career. To lose Tate, it would be assumed, would be to commit career suicide. And yet, as we have seen countless times before, life doesn't follow along with what common sense would dictate.

Witchcraft is a band borne from obscurity that has worked diligently to popularize the musical principles they idolize. Always evolving and forever toiling, Witchcraft has put their nose to the grindstone to bring to the world a nearly lost art; atmospheric, doom-influenced rock in the style of the late seventies and early eighties. We sat down bassist Ola Henriksson to talk about the band, where they've been and how they got there.

The history of heavy metal has seen bands rise from all corners of the earth, but when the numbers are crunched, the majority of bands who have achieved a degree of notoriety come from a select few regions. It all started in England, then spread to America, Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Between them, they have amassed the most numerous and most influential metal bands we have ever seen. There are countries outside of those cornerstones that have made an impact on metal, but each time a band comes from somewhere else, it's almost viewed as an accident.

There's always a drip of anticipation when putting on a record from a legendary band, even when you have no personal history with them. My Dying Bride had never entered my radar, so even though I knew of their legacy in establishing doom as we know it, my take on the album is with fresh ears. Anytime I put on an album by a band with such a pedigree, there's an understanding in the subconscious of my mind that what I'm hearing is not yet another average record.

It was, as Billy Joel famously sang, a pretty good crowd for a Saturday. Worcester, Massachusetts was enjoying the throes of the Rock and Shock Festival, a multi day event that had come down to this: Legacy of Disorder, Cancer Bats, DevilDriver and naturally, GWAR. Who else would be appropriate for such an occasion but those undisputed lords of shock and awe?

Metal Blade Records. Those three words linked together have been a hallmark in heavy metal's vanguard for thirty years. Headed by the agile mind of Brian Slagel, Metal Blade has continually kept their ear to the underground, catapulting handfuls of prominent metal bands into the public eye. GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, even the monolith that is Metallica owe some or all of their humble beginnings to Slagel and Metal Blade. They say in sports that the litmus test of a hall of fame member is if it is impossible to tell the history of that sport without mentioning that player. if that same standard holds true for metal, then Metal Blade Records and Brian Slagel are first ballot hall of famers. As his label celebrates its 30th anniversary, we spoke with the founder candidly about his legacy, the track record of his label's success and the changing industry that all labels must adapt to.

For all the talk of rebellion and freedom that metal music purports to stand for, the reality of the situation is that just like every other aspect of the world, metal music is buried as deeply in clichés as anything else. We don't like to admit it, and we try out best to point out the infinitesimal differences that allow us, in our minds, to think every band is offering something unique to the scene. But the reality is that clichés exist for a reason. There is always some truth that leads us in that direction, whether we want to admit it or not.

Okay, here’s a brief, inside look at the life of a music reviewer (dare I call myself a music journalist?) You get inundated with music. Positively deluged. So much so that you realize early on you won’t be able to get to it all, even if you have a staff of twenty writers. So, one of the skills you need to develop early on is the ability to discern what projects are worth the time you’re going to spend on them.