Tag Archives: Metal

A Brief History of French Metal

Skelethal

Skelethal

Before 1991, the only reason metal fans in North America turned their glance past England and over to neighboring France was because U.S. thrash titans Anthrax performed a lights-out cover of Parisian band Trust’s “Antisocial.” That song was from the band’s 1980 album Répression, which remains virtually undiscovered, while Anthrax’s English translation of the song was a standout on their 1988 album State of Euphoria, and remains a staple of their set.

Other French metal bands existed in the ‘80s, including NWOBHM-style bands like Sortilège and Satan Jokers, and a decade later, industrial thrashers Treponem Pal. Aside from the small number of North American fans who enjoyed digging through record store shelves for obscure treasures, French metal remained an underground phenomenon long after pioneering French bands—including Vulcain, Misanthrope, and Massacra—had the locals banging their heads.

The first signs that something artistically and musically viable was shaking the ground under the Arc De Triomphe came with the launch of the indie labels Osmose and Listenable (which both began in 1991) and Debemur Morti (launched in 2003). Osmose introduced death/doom outfit Phazm and black metal misanthropes Mütiilation to the public through international distribution networks. Listenable rippled global waters with industrial death/thrash band Scarve and thrash/death band Loudblast. Still, French metal was a blip on America’s radar until Listenable released Gojira’s proggy, serrated, but groove-laden third album From Mars to Sirius in 2005.

With Gojira as the catalyst, French metal spread like an epidemic, and thanks to the Internet, fans had instant access to releases that once would have been hard-to-find imports. Some of the new bands, like Hypno5e and Hacride, resembled Swedish metal extremists Meshuggah, while others took a more experimental and avant-garde path to recognition, including the cryptic electro-prog-black metal group Blut Aus Nord and the psychedelic, industrial black metal band Spektr.

Today, French metal bands vary from mainstream acts such as Blackrain to the extreme death metal assaults of Necrowretch and Deathspell Omega. If there’s one thing that many French bands (regardless of subgenre) have in common, it’s an emphasis on artistry, the sort of je ne sais quoi which only a nation that produces artists like Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, and Marie de Rabutin-Chantal can cultivate. And as they proved through the aughts, French bands could be ethereal and beautiful, or harsh and ugly. Ahead, 11 of the most significant bands to surface from the French metal scene.

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Members of Thrice, Kowloon Walled City, and Curl Up & Die Join Forces as Less Art

Less Art

The term “supergroup” is bandied about these days with little regard for the “super” part of the term. But in the case of Less Art, the term applies: Ian Miller and Jon Howell of celebrated post-metal group Kowloon Walled City join Mike Minnick of Curl Up & Die and Riley and Eddie Breckenridge of Thrice to make a post-rock outfit combining elements of sludge and noise with more than a few jangly guitars. Using the project as an outlet for their various life stressors, on their debut, Less Art tackle in-your-face issues like suicide, animal extinction, and gun control in a way only savvy veterans can.

Ahead of the release of their debut LP, we sat down with bassist Ian Miller to chat about their lifelong commitment to baseball fandom, long-standing friendships, and the importance of experience.

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Wretch Turn Tragedy Into Triumph

Wretch

Karl Simon is a survivor—both literally and figuratively. As the former mastermind of The Gates Of Slumber, the revered Indianapolis doom trio he founded in the late ’90s, Simon slogged heroically through heavy metal’s dark period of the early-to-mid 2000s, when the genre floundered, and more traditional bands like his were often considered dinosaurs from a bygone era. But doom enjoyed a revival in the late aughts, when Gates cranked out a string of critically acclaimed albums—Suffer No Guilt (2006), Conqueror (2008), and Hymns Of Blood and Thunder (2009).

In 2011, Simon and his then bandmates—bassist Jason McCash and drummer Jerry Clyde Paradis, who have both since passed away—released what would be their fifth and final album, The Wretch. Musically, Gates were at the height of their considerable powers, channeling the spirits of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus while bringing classic metal into the new American century. But behind the scenes was a different story: both McCash and Paradis were struggling with drug addiction. Paradis’s eventual replacement, Bob Fouts, had the same problem.

After years of frustration, missed practices, and a catastrophic appearance at Milwaukee’s Days Of The Doomed festival, Simon pulled the plug on The Gates Of Slumber in September 2013. “It was just a horrible, horrible performance on our part,” Simon says of the band’s final show. “We were headlining the fest, and we crashed and burned. I went to Bob and Jason at that point and said, ‘We can’t keep doing this. You guys need to get your shit straight. I’m done.’”

Today, Simon is the only member from The Wretch lineup still making music. McCash succumbed to a heroin overdose in 2014. He was 37 years old. Paradis died two years later, an apparent victim of heat stroke at age 46. (Fouts is alive, but Simon says he hasn’t spoken with the drummer in a while: “I don’t know what’s going on with Bob, but I hope he’s doing well.”) Saddened but undeterred, Simon bounced back in a big way with Wretch, the new power trio he named after the last album he recorded with his fallen comrades.

Rounded out by drummer Chris Gordon—who had previously played on an early Gates demo—and bassist Bryce Clarke, Wretch’s self-titled debut was released last year on England’s Bad Omen Records to almost unanimous raves from the underground metal press. “This is a completely different band,” Simon enthuses. “The Gates Of Slumber was a very by-the-numbers metal band, whereas Wretch comes from metal, but has a lot more rock ‘n’ roll aspects to it than I was expecting.”

Wretch

As it turns out, Simon started Wretch before McCash and Paradis passed away. As such, the band name has taken on an unintended hue—part tribute, part tragedy—that Simon was ill-prepared for. “When I originally started doing Wretch stuff with Chris, there was no bass player, because I thought that Jason would eventually get his shit together and we could start fresh,” he explains. “But he didn’t make it through to the other side. So I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t this addiction and death element hanging over my head with Wretch because of the way things fell down with Gates Of Slumber.”

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Dave Lombardo Returns to His Hardcore Roots with New Dead Cross Supergroup

Deadcross

Dead Cross is no ordinary punk band. For one thing, they’re fronted by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, who’s in top form as a vocal gymnast, spitting, squealing, harmonizing, and heaving his way through the band’s concise, intense debut album.

Supplying the quartet’s barrage of grinding bass and guitar riffs are Justin Pearson (of The Locust and Retox) and Mike Crain (also of Retox) who execute several frantic time changes per track as they sprint in tandem towards the record’s finish line.

Capping this off is the drumming prowess of none other than ex-Slayer skin-pounder Dave Lombardo. Returning to his hardcore roots, but with the added experience of knowing how to, “weed out the bullshit and focus on what’s important,” Lombardo’s peerless beats feel more urgent, brutal, and intricate than ever.

Patton, too, seems reinvigorated by the project. Given free rein to bawl his blessed lungs out about racy subjects like hookers, skinheads, and penile bleeding, Patton hasn’t sounded this stirred up and snotty since his collaboration with The Dillinger Escape Plan in 2002.

Lombardo has worked with Patton in the past, forging avant-garde metal together in the supergroup Fantômas. The drummer once said that if Pablo Picasso was a musician, he would sound like Fantômas. Dead Cross, he feels, is more like Jackson Pollock: “Very abstract, noisy, in-your-face, and complex. Some of his pictures are just like distortion on canvas and that’s how I see Dead Cross.”

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Tau Cross’s Rob Miller Forges New Paths—and Swords

Tau Cross

Rob Miller is known for two things: forging badass swords and recording kickass heavy metal. Miller first rose to prominence in the ‘70s with the Crass-approved outfit Amebix. Combining the anti-authoritarianism of anarcho-punk with the lumbering chug of heavy metal, the band created a doomy sound that roared like Motorhead, and stomped like Sabbath, while contemplating metaphysics.

But after a decade of absolute poverty, Amebix collapsed in 1987. Soon after, Miller’s personal life crumbled, and he was in a near fatal motorcycle accident that crushed his arm. With nothing left to lose, Miller left his home in England and retreated to the remote Isle of Skye in Scotland, abandoning music altogether.

In its place, he focused his creative energies on learning the ancient art of sword craft, learning the trade bit-by-bit, moldy book by moldy book. Now, after some 25 odd years of study, Miller is renowned for his blade work.

Fittingly, Miller has returned to music with his band Tau Cross, which includes heavyweights from Voivod, Misery, and War//Plague. The band is about to release their second album Pillar of Fire, so we spoke to Miller about his day job, the new album, and existence itself.

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