Tag Archives: Metal

The All-Metal Merch Table: May 2017

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Illustration by Paul Grelet

Every month, The Merch Table brings you the best and most bonkers merchandise you can find on Bandcamp. We commend bands and labels that get a little creative and think outside the tote bag. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, a piece of art, or something entirely unique, The Merch Table showcases inventive, original—and, occasionally, downright strange—stuff that you might want to get your hands on. But, sorry: the ukulele is sold out.

You can’t spell merch table without m-e-t-a-l, and we thought it was high time to dedicate an entire month of merch findings to the genre. Gothic fonts, images of death, destruction, and gore, and monochromatic color schemes are just a few of the elements that make up the very distinct metal aesthetic. And hey, it’s even made it to the mainstream thanks to the talents of Mark Riddick. Here are the darkest merch items on Bandcamp.

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Twelve Metal Bands That Put the Emphasis on Shredding

Axe Crazy

Axe Crazy

Guitar heroics have been a key part of rock music since Chuck Berry first touched the instrument, but heavy metal took fretboard pyrotechnics to the extreme. Ritchie Blackmore built bombastic melodies out of the raw material of classical and folk for Deep Purple and Rainbow. Nancy Wilson reached deep into her soul for Heart. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing sharpened dual guitar harmonies to a buzzsaw’s edge with Judas Priest. One Mr. Edward Van Halen blew up and rebuilt the entire concept of the guitar solo.

Even as punk rock and its descendants rebelled against guitar wank, the trend continued in metal through the ’80s, from the gnarliest underground thrashers to the hairiest poodle bands. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman, The Runaways’ Lita Ford, Katherine Thomas (aka The Great Kat), and Yngwie J. Malmsteen—just to name a few—refined and defined what sounds could be generated with six strings and an amplifier. Even as nu metal stripped the genre of everything appealing in the ’90s, Scandinavian death metal maestros like Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Michael Amott (Carcass/Arch Enemy), and the Björler brothers (At the Gates/The Haunted) defended the faith until all the backwards baseball caps were burned. Metalcore acts like Shadows Fall and God Forbid (and games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band) helped bring the thrill of the power chord back to prominence in the new millennium, and so-called “hipster metal” groups like The Sword made it briefly cool again.

There have always been retro-minded metal warriors, but recently there’s been another surge in bands that live by the sword and die by the guitar. It’s not just an American thing; you can find men and women from Chile to Poland burning through guitar picks. The shred mentality has survived (and thrived) because nothing else delivers pure energy and empowerment quite like it.

We’ve handpicked some of the finest practitioners of old-school metal that celebrate the least humble of instruments: the electric guitar. The playing may be flashy, but these bands won’t be flashes in the pan.

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Scene Report: Stoner Rock in Greece

1000 mods

1000 mods by Chrysa Papadopoulou.

In the summer of 2015, several hundred stoner rock artists and fans travelled to a small festival by a lake in the northern part of Greece. And though that turned out to be the Fuzztastic Planet Festival’s final year—so far, anyway—the scene’s pulse has hardly diminished. In 2016, fans headed to the Los Almiros Festival to watch their local heroes share the stage with international acts like Truckfighters.

Heavy music has been popular in Greece for decades. In the ’90s, underground black metal bands like Athens’ Rotting Christ responded to the Nordic dominance in the genre with albums that included themes from ancient Greece. In the panic and slump that followed Greece’s economic crash in 2010, scores of young people fled the country. For some of those who chose to stay, fuzzed-out rock provides an escape from the daily routine. Radio stations like Downtuned, the self-described home of the Greek heavy underground, have become a beacon of the scene, spreading the word across the globe.

Needless to say, stoner rock has very little in common with traditional Greek music—don’t expect bouzouki, Cretan lute, or Epirus clarinet here, though a handful of bands, like Villagers of Ioannina City, have managed to merge the two sounds successfully. Most of them, though, including bands like Nightstalker and Planet of Zeus, keep the focus simple: guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. If you’re a fan of groups like Kyuss or Turbonegro, there are plenty of interesting things happening in Greece to warrant your attention.

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NECRONOMIDOL and New Directions in Japanese Metal

Necronomidol

Necronomidol photos by Mari Kojima

In many ways, NECRONOMIDOL look a lot like other groups in the Japanese “female idol” genre, a corner of J-Pop in which groups of young women perform chirpy pop while dancing. The group consists of five members, ranging in age from late teens to early 20s, which is in keeping with the style’s emphasis on youth. But NECRONOMIDOL don’t perform the excessively upbeat, synth-driven numbers about friendship and crushes typical of the genre—NECRONOMIDOL are a metal group. They dabble in darkness; their associated imagery is heavy on skulls and ample violence, and their music makes ample space for industrial and the speedier varieties of metal.

But the group’s live shows are hardly typical of metal. For one thing, there are no guitars or drums on the stage; instead, a backing track plays while the five members dance in unison, sing, and occasionally deliver bloodcurdling screams. And while their presentation is atypical, they aren’t the only Japanese band seeking new sounds beyond the borders of heavy metal. They’re instead part of a scene that also includes the Osaka-based band Vampillia, Tokyo’s industrial and metal fusion rockers Legion of Andromeda, and many, many others.

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Electric Assault Records Lets the Metal Do the Talking

Electric Assault

Henry Yuan went to Norway and had an epiphany. This was back in 2011, the last year that the extreme Norwegian metal festival Hole In The Sky raised its flag over the city of Bergen. Yuan was covering the fest as a reporter for Guitar World magazine. At some point during the four-day extravaganza, he went to a listening party for the new album from a renowned Norwegian metal band that, for the purposes of this article, shall remain nameless. “I’d never been to a listening party before, but I remember thinking that we’d probably just drink beer at a bar and listen to the record,” the 27-year old Brooklyn native explains. Instead, all the journalists that the record label had invited were marched to the local aquarium. On the way, they took a detour to one of the area’s fabled fjords, where a table was set up with wine and cheese. “I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’” Yuan recalls with a laugh. “Of course, I was real young at the time, but I thought it was supposed to be this unpretentious, underground thing. It made me realize this whole business is about kissing ass.”

Before that fateful year was out, Yuan started Electric Assault Records. While celebrating the same types of metal bands that might play Hole In The Sky, its methodology is a middle finger to the wine-and-cheese way of doing business. “The whole idea of Electric Assault is that the music does the talking,” Yuan says. “Not PR agents and stock terms for bands. We want the rocking to do the talking.”

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