The Nine Circles Ov… USBM

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The metal scenes in Europe and the United States have always had a symbiotic relationship. When one scene moves in a particular direction, the other one begins by emulating and then transcending that direction. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was a profound influence on the American thrash metal scene, a scene which would greatly influence musicians all over Europe (e.g. Swedish death metal), and so on. To make a (very) broad generalization: Europe tends to bring the mythology and romantic mystique; America tends to bring a more self-oriented, personal touch.

This is true of the American black metal scene as well. A good introduction to United States Black Metal (USBM) requires an appreciation for the bands that began by directly emulating the stylistic giants of Scandinavia, Switzerland and elsewhere. True, the American scene has gone in all sorts of directions since its development in the mid-to-late 1990s. But listeners should have a sense of context before moving into the specialized realms occupied by death-laden heroes like Goatwhore and Hod, along with the indie/alternative influenced sounds made famous by Wolves in the Throne Room. So with that in mind, enter the Nine Circles ov USBM. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Grave – “You’ll Never See”

Grave_-_You'll_Never_See..When it comes to classic Swedish death metal (aka, the “Sunlight” sound), everyone talks about Entombed, Dismember and Carnage. And rightly so, these bands and their classic albums are foundational to the development of the death metal genre. But more people need to recognize Grave. Additionally, more people need to recognize 1992’s You’ll Never See as a classic death metal album. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Suffocation – “Pierced From Within”

SUFFOCATION-Pierced-from-Within-LP-BLACKPierced from Within is a continuation of Suffocation’s streak of death metal classics, but was also a huge leap forward for the band. From a creative and influential standpoint, the band had long since made its mark with 1991’s Effigy of the Forgotten, and if they broke up after this they would still have the legacy of a foundational death metal act (after all, Carnage only released one album and are rightly hailed as important as well). But this record, released in 1995, saw the band achieve an even higher level of greatness in terms of songwriting and production. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Incantation – Onward to Golgotha

IncantationIncantation’s debut album, Onward to Golgotha, is a definitive death metal classic. This is not only true of its influence on countless death metal (and black metal) bands that came after, but also as a representation of the genre at it’s best. Continue reading

The Nine Circles Ov… Soundgarden

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You might find it strange to see a Soundgarden article on this website. But why is that? For many older metal fans, the term “Grunge” still holds a powerful emotional weight as the music that opened the gates for the benign, solo-less drivel of late-90s post-grunge and nu-metal. But this perception is actually deeply mistaken and unfair, as all the major Seattle bands (even Mudhoney) employed guitar solos and incorporated major metal influences into their sound. Soundgarden also seems like a puzzling choice for an extreme music site, especially for those casual listeners who are only familiar with their more widely-known works (e.g. “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” “Burden in My Hand”). And while there’s plenty to explore in Soundgarden’s more rock-oriented output, there’s a glorious, explosive quality to their heaviest songs that deserves greater attention. Though they’re known, along with Alice in Chains, as the more “metal-oriented” bands from the grunge movement, they’re even heavier than most metal fans give them credit for (or even themselves, Kim Thayil still bridles at the band being called “metal”). Continue reading