heavy metal

There's something about the Viking heritage that makes every bit of music that plays off it seem larger than life. No matter the genre, songs about the ancient warriors give songs a grander scope, a larger vision, the kind of epic scale that can sometimes make us forget exactly what we're listening to. I rarely doubt the sincerity of artists, but there are surely bands on the scene that know the effect that can be gleaned from a gimmick like this.

Storming out of the country-dominated southern United States, Whitechapel has been on a mission to carve themselves a niche and a name in the greater heavy metal universe. Signed to Metal Blade Records and ready to take on all comers, the band is included with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, supporting their new self-titled album. Guitarist Ben Savage took the time to answer some of our questions backstage after the band’s set.

Among the dozens of factors that can impact the effect music has on us, geography cannot be ignored. Whether its the pull of a hometown act, or the joy in discovering music you love that comes from a world away, it does matter where the music we listen to comes from. Often, the music is indistinguishable enough that its a trivial factor that gets lost amid the more important details, but there are times when the origin of the music is intrinsic to not only how we hear it, but to what it is at all.

Asking Alexandria was technically asked to open the main stage, but in reality, they were ex post facto to Anthrax, and began performing as soon as the veteran band had finished. As such, double A (not Arn Anderson,) was forced to deal with the nearly impossible task of playing to a transitory audience. They had completed “Welcome,” and were through a good portion of “Closure” before the bulk of the crowd moving from one stage to another had even had their tickets checked.

The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival is an event practically out of its time. A traveling commercial, musical carnival in the era when all merchandise is available online and every conceivable form of entertainment, from live performances to shocking freakery, can be accessed by those with a broadband connection. Beyond that, it is also one of the last of the dying breed of road-bound music festivals, surviving in the post-Ozzfest, re-created Lollapalooza era.

As the 90's drew to a close, the state of rock music was slipping into a state of decay. It was lazy to conflate all modern rock bands, sentencing them to live under the title 'post-grunge', but there was always a grain of truth to be found in the stereotype. After the grunge movement came and went, the color had been sucked from the palate, and rock music became a bland canvas where every painter assembled their art from the same template.

Testament has managed a remarkable feat; they have spent their entire career one step into the shadows. During the 80's, the natural cutoff for establishing the group of thrash bands at the top of the heap left them one step away from immortality, despite their sales success. As bands shifted their sounds in the 90's and found greater audiences, Testament went the other direction by becoming more extreme with each album, doing nothing to ride the wave created by their peers.

The world of hard rock and heavy metal is a difficult one for women to exist in. The tougher-than-thou image that overtook the music is dependent on testosterone to survive, and even when women dare enter the fray, they are looked at with a curious eye. The spots reserved for women, for the most part, are either as keyboard players in the background, or as operatic sirens with the looks of a model.

Tankard has always been the bridesmaid of German thrash. Part of the vanguard during Germany’s answer to America’s Big 4, Tankard has seen thirty years go by without a single interruption in productivity or scandalous episode. Yet, they’ve never been escorted down the aisle or asked for their hand in marriage; the tenets of super-popularity elude them.

Stoner metal has always lived in the underground, which is not a surprise, given that fame and acclaim don't mesh with the typical mindset the music carries. The drawn-out compositions, sludgy productions, and emphasis on everything other than making catchy music sentenced stoner metal to live in the shadows, a place not unfamiliar to the people making the music. But in recent years, as many stoner bands have softened their sound, and as the musical landscape has continued to fracture, stoner bands have entered a period in which they can achieve more than previously thought.