heavy metal

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.

Horror and heavy metal have always had a close association, one that's been accentuated by prolific artists like Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. Now, add Winds of Plague frontman Johnny Plague into that mix. He's cooked up a entire theme park with Haunted Hollywood Spots that promises thrills and chills for any attendee. I sat down with Johnny and caught up with him about his park, how it came to be, and his love of horror.

In the past twenty-five years, the word ‘goth’ has been assimilated and metamorphosed. In the lexicon of pop culture, the word has come to define things dour and dark; a catch-all for the whims, behaviors and fashions of the misunderstood.

I first heard the name Between The Buried And Me around the time “Alaska” was released. A nascent metal fan delving deeper into the waters, I read as many reviews about as many albums as I could. The words that were written about “Alaska” were rhapsodic, a level of reverent praise that demanded I pay attention to the masterpiece the band had unleashed. And so, like anyone intent on experiencing the best music out there, I listened intently. Perhaps the timing was off, or I had yet to develop an appreciation for outside-the-box thinking, but “Alaska” left me feeling cold and empty.

Steve 'Zetro' Souza remains one of the biggest names in the annals of thrash, a person without whom the story of the genre's rise to fame cannot be told. Most famously the singer for Exodus, Souza has also been part of several other successful bands, including most recently Dublin Death Patrol. His unique, high-speed vocal style has become his calling card, and it will ring again as he ushers forth his new band, Hatriot. The man and I sat down and talked about...well, damn near anything. Horror, music, the state of the business, concert promotion, retirement and a bunch of other stuff. Read on for an engaging conversation.

Meldrum is the brainchild of guitar player Michelle Meldrum, who was the driving force behind what was intended to be a female-fronted band that would take the world by storm. That was until Michelle passed away suddenly in May of 2008, the result of a growth that restricted blood flow to her brain. What had been an up and coming, promising train was suddenly derailed, with no one really knowing is anyone would ever hear the name Meldrum again.

It's one of the inherent truisms about metal that when a band needs a shot of attention, or want to prove they are more artistic than merely a group of guys bashing loud instruments, the concept album is the end result. There's something about a story set to music that piques interest in a way a regular collection of songs doesn't. The strength of a concept, hitting at just the right time, is enough to elevate a set of songs and turn them into something we will always remember, no matter what the actual merit of the music.

The downfall of extreme metal is the overemphasis on the word 'extreme'. So often, bands become obsess with making sure their music is extreme, which ends up taking it so far away from the core of songwriting that little is left but a shell of noise. Listening to those kinds of records can be exhilarating, if in the right frame of mind, but for people who don't fall into the category of angry young men, extreme metal comes off as a parody.