Archive for November, 2012

We tend to associate the word stereotype with something negative. But, that isn’t always true and stereotypes exist for a reason. While we tend to exaggerate them, there is some truth behind every stereotype. Like everything else in the world, metal in various countries tends to fall under certain stereotypes. In this post I’d like to fully embrace each countries stereotype and highlight a worthwhile band.

Germany (Power Metal) – Blind Guardian

One of my favorite bands, Blind Guardian is the stereotypical German power metal band. Power metal is characterized by a more uplifting sound, usually have anthem-like songs with fantasy-based subject matter and strong choruses. Blind Guardian fits that description to a point. Their lyrics are mostly inspired by fantasy authors such as Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien, and George R. R. Martin as well as traditional german legends . My favorite record of theirs , Nightfall in Middle Earth, is a concept album based solely on Tolkien’s “The Simarillion”. When you think of German power metal, you think Blind Guardian.

Other examples: Primal Fear, Gamma Ray

Sweden (Viking Metal) – Amon Amarth

Sweden, along with most of the rest of Scandinavia, loves their viking metal – and Amon Amarth is the premiere viking metal band. Obviously, their lyrics mostly deal with the Vikings, their mythology and their history. Amon Amarth take the idea of viking metal and run full speed – sparing no expense in their lyrics, music video and appearance. Their giant beards help add to the illusion as well. When you say Sweden, or viking metal, to a metalhead – Amon Amarth is the first thing to come to mind. Stereotypical viking metal and I love it.

Other examples: Hel, Grand Magus

United States of America (New Wave of American Heavy Metal) – Lamb of God

Chances are, if you’re a metalhead or not, you’ve probably heard the name Lamb of God tossed around somewhere. Especially after their vocalist was imprisoned in the Czech Republic earlier this year. Lamb of God, to me, is the perfect representation of American metal. Specifically, The New Wave of American Heavy Metal, which originated in the United States during the early to mid 1990s. Lamb of God have been leading the pack ever since their debut in 1999. Lamb of God play a perfect combination of European-style riffing, quick, powerful drumming and throaty vocals that define the NWOAHM movement. Traditional American metal – Lamb of God will go down in history alongside the greats like Metallica.

Other examples: Chimaira, Unearthed

Norway (Black Metal) – Immortal

I easily could have(and probably should have) gone with Mayhem for this post. But, since I spent so much time on them in the first post I figured it was only fair to talk about Immortal. Immortal posses everything stereotypical about black metal – corpse paint, depressing lyrics, and overly harsh vocals. Immortal’s lyrics are based on an overall theme, a realm called “Blashyrkh”, which is said to replicate the bands feelings of isolation living in Bergen, Norway. They created Blashyrkh to mirror those feelings. Standard black metal from the black metal capital of the world.

Other examples: Dark Throne, Mayhem


Best of 2012

I was struggling this week to think of a topic to write about so I was listening to my “Best of 2012” playlist for inspiration. As I’ve pointed out numerous times before, my library is more international that American. My “Best of 2012” playlist only supports that argument. I’d like to use this post to highlight some of my favorite albums of the year and introduce you to some international metal bands at the same time.

Carach AngrenWhere Corpses Sink Forever (Netherlands)

At first look these guys are your stereotypical black metal guys; complete with corpse-paint and satanic lyrics. Wrong. Well, halfway wrong. They do love a good corpse-paint (see: every image of them ever) but, their lyrics are not satanic. Violent, yes, but the album deals with World War II which was, well, violent.  Lyrics are amazingly cheesy and over the top – as the vocalist is literally singing about the battle formations and gun fights. “Where the Corpses Sink Forever” takes the idea of symphonic black metal to a new level by creating the equivalent of an extreme metal musical. Big fan, definitely worth a full listen.

GojiraL’enfant Sauvage (France)

Gojira is easily one of my favorite bands today and L’enfant Sauvage was one of my, if not the, most anticipated albums of 2012. The title of the album means “the wild child,” which is a reference to a famous case of a feral child being discovered in France in 1798. The guys sing in English (which is great for us Yankees), and lyrics focus, in typical Gojira fashion, on the wilderness, nature and our impact on planet earth. While I felt that this new album didn’t live up to the previous albums,  I fully believe that L’Enfant Sauvage cements Gojira’s place as one of the most inventive, unique metal bands of today. I also enjoy the odd looks I get from people when I tell them my favorite band is French!

WintersunTime I (Finland)

It is a blessing that metal fans were able to finally listen to Wintersun’s new album Time I this year. If it weren’t for a ridiculous amount of setbacks  we would have had the album over six years ago! The landscape of metal has changed significantly since their debut album eight years ago and many people complained that this album feels old. While I agree it does fee a bit old I actually think it improves the overall record. Like a blast from the past. Reminds me of Germany’s Blind Guardian.

The FacelessAutotheism (USA)

As of now I’d have to say that this is my number one pick for ‘Best Album of 2012’. I can’t explain what about it makes it so great, but it just has that ‘it’ factor.  Also, noticeably, all of my top records make use of orchestra and piano formations – something that is widely used by metal bands across the globe and something that I’m (obviously) a big fan of.

Is your ‘Best Album of 2012’ list heavy on international bands? I’m interested to know!

According to Reuters, Poland’s Supreme Court ruled that Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman for death metal act Behemoth, committed a crime when when he called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet” during the band’s September 2007 performance in Gdynia and tore up a copy of the Bible, calling it “a book of lies.” The case will now move to a lower court which will  decide if Nergal is guilty of the crime, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Let’s back up a bit…

Back in 2007, Behemoth, a well known and popular anti-christian death metal band was playing a show in Gdynia, Poland. Nergal then said some nasty things about the catholic church and ripped up a bible on stage. After the incident, Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects sued Behemoth for promoting Satanism.

Offending somebody’s religious feelings and beliefs is a criminal offense under Polish law.

Nergal argued that what he does on stage is part of artistic license and it wasn’t supposed to offend religious feelings. Bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski commented  “A Behemoth show is a Behemoth show, and Behemoth fans are coming to a Behemoth show. Behemoth fans know what Behemoth is about, know what the lyrics are about, and know at least a little of the philosophy behind the band. So, it’s kind of surprising that there are people coming to the shows and feeling offended with what we do onstage.”

The case was dragged through Polish courts for years until  2010 when it was dismissed as “the defendant’s behavior wasn’t recognized as a crime.” I’m unfamiliar with Polish law, but the case seemed to have continued to circulate for a few years. Back in August 2011, a Polish judge ruled that Nergal’s ripping up of a Bible during a show was a form of artistic expression consistent with the style of his band.

However, just this week the courts decided that yes, Nergal did commit a crime directed at the Catholic church when he tore up that bible on stage 5 years ago.

Nergal’s lawyer commented that “[The ruling] is negative and restricts the freedom of speech. The court decided that this is allowed in a democratic system. We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements.”

I have to comment that I believe people should be allowed to do whatever they like in the name of freedom of expression, so long as they’re not physically hurting anyone. It is really unfortunate that in 2012 there are laws that limit expressions like so. Also, in a situation like this context needs to be considered. If he was tearing up a bible on a popular street corner than yes, it’s probably not ‘artistic’. But, they were at a death metal show. Even audience members who testified said their religious feelings had not been hurt despite the fact they were practicing Christians.

Makes you thankful for freedoms we are allowed in the United States.

The bible tearing incident