Meet Nuclear Holocausto, Sodomitic Slaughter, Black Jesus & Hellripper.
November 7, 2017 2:58 AM   Subscribe

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis anatomises the underground metal scene. This is the most enjoyable bit of music journalism I've read in some time - it has just the right tone of affectionate bemusement which this genre demands.

Here's a couple of extracts:

"Indeed, if you want a quick demonstration of how easily a band’s underground mystique can be punctured, consider Lapland’s Beherit, whose early recordings bore out their aim to play 'the most primitive, savage, hell-obsessed metal imaginable', whose members were called Nuclear Holocausto, Black Jesus and Sodomatic Slaughter, and who became embroiled in a conflict between Finnish and Norwegian bands known in metal lore as 'the Dark War'. Now type 'Beherit live 1990' into YouTube and boggle at the footage: Nuclear Holocausto, Sodomatic Slaughter and the rest look about 14 years old, and are playing outside a branch of Benetton to a crowd of visibly bored shoppers."

"There are certainly areas that cloak themselves in a kind of wilful obscurity. As Marcus Mustafa – owner of London’s solitary specialist heavy metal record shop Crypt of the Wizard – puts it: 'Bands want to maintain themselves as small. They’re like, ‘Don’t listen to this record, don’t talk about us.’ He and Crypt of the Wizard’s manager Charlie Wooley reel off examples – the legendary French black metal bands of the Légions Noires collective, who refused to release any albums or play live, preferring to circulate demos in tiny numbers among their friends, which eventually leaked on to the internet; labels such as California’s Rhinocervus, which released albums and EPs without titles, artist names or track listings; festivals that decline to inform fans who’s actually playing, “so it’s like, ‘Are you strong enough to come anyway?’”

"I talk to James McBain, marginally better known as Hellripper, a 'one-man black/speed metal band' from Aberdeen, whose self-released album Coagulating Darkness has been picking up laudatory reviews, despite being promoted largely via social media. Aside from the fact that the album features a guest appearance by his parents on vocals, the striking thing about his career is its weird combination of vast global reach (he’s played live in Romania, his stuff has been released in Colombia, Chile and the US) and the tiny pockets of audiences it finds."
posted by Paul Slade (29 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
You had me at "depressive Finnish black metal."
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:21 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


well, i had the beherit video on full screen and just played it for my daughter and she instantly said, "that's beherit"

she knows this stuff real well - as for me, i find it really weird how a lot of it sounds like surf music if you turn it down
posted by pyramid termite at 3:39 AM on November 7 [10 favorites]


i find it really weird how a lot of it sounds like surf music if you turn it down

As someone who plays/has played guitar in both surf and black metal bands, I can confirm that this is true - the major difference is whether you're drenched in distortion or reverb.
posted by Dysk at 3:57 AM on November 7 [16 favorites]


FWIW, there's a fair amount of what we might call kvlt inflätion going on in this piece.

Thus Defiled, for example, are quite tame and conventional. Nobody who's listened to ...And Justice For All with pleasure will find anything in their oeuvre the least little bit challenging.

I dig Beherit OK...but the true edge of black metal as far as I'm concerned is Zeal & Ardor, which I believe I discovered right here on MeFi.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:00 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


I definitely have the same relationship with underground heavy metal as I do with Eve Online and pro wrestling, where the stories and fanlore fascinate me and I'm glad someone gets that into it but I can't imagine putting in the effort myself. Aside from some really slow chewy droney doom stuff, extreme metal is mostly a thing I wish I could get into and not a thing I actually enjoy.

Maybe my real fandom here is metal fans themselves, who I could listen to nerd out about this stuff for hours.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:23 AM on November 7 [9 favorites]


...are playing outside a branch of Benetton to a crowd of visibly bored shoppers.

And one pumped Voivod fan
posted by NoMich at 4:25 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


The most aggressive stuff I've listened to recently is that "catastrophic noise metal" japanese band called Endon. It's like listening to a bunch a paranoid schizophrenic patients being thrown into the machine that destroys everything.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:27 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Read this on first and second passes as "...antagonises the underground metal scene." Which, by the sounds of it, it will also be for these bands now they've had their names trotted out in something as conventional as the Guardian
posted by protorp at 4:35 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I don't generally find Alexis Petridish that interesting, either in print or live when he's lobbing piss-poor questions at his interviewee, and this article seems a bit lightweight, but I'm going to read the whole series and see if it holds up...
posted by bookbook at 5:10 AM on November 7


A friend of mine recently told me that "if you look at the sheet music, black metal is progressive jazz played by very angry people" and I don't know how I'm going to recover from that.
posted by mhoye at 5:34 AM on November 7 [11 favorites]


i find it really weird how a lot of it sounds like surf music if you turn it down

This is as good a combination of death metal and surf as you're likely to find.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:35 AM on November 7


Underground metal demands a lot of mining to find a rich vein.
posted by fairmettle at 5:41 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


i find it really weird how a lot of it sounds like surf music if you turn it down

Metal without distortion
Surf music with distortion
posted by thelonius at 5:42 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


i find it really weird how a lot of it sounds like surf music if you turn it down

Slayer's Kerry King once described what he does as "Dick Dale with distortion".
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:57 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Thanks to this article I have discovered that my quiet colleague is in this fantastically logoed band.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 6:34 AM on November 7 [9 favorites]


I've never heard a note of Party Cannon, and already they're my new favourite band.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:55 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Man, I was listening to this stuff before they all sold out...
posted by Samizdata at 8:23 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


And went mainstream.
posted by Samizdata at 8:33 AM on November 7


zomg! Party Cannon! They're my new Weekend Nachos!
posted by NoMich at 8:37 AM on November 7


> the legendary French black metal bands of the Légions Noires collective, who refused to release any albums or play live, preferring to circulate demos in tiny numbers among their friends, which eventually leaked on to the internet

They are fame-hungry to an unseemly degree. By contrast, my band Nutrionally-Complete Omnivores has no songs and has never rehearsed because none of the other members are real, but bootleg cassettes of the only demo recording would be trading for up to $30,000 apiece if they existed.
posted by ardgedee at 8:49 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


Ah, Party Cannon - who are now also my number one fave death metal band, because none more metal than that logo - are from Fife, which explains everything.

Last weekend, for example, a refrigeration failure in an ethylene cracking plant meant it had to burn off gas in a flare that lit up the county like the Eye of Sauron for several days. When your night sky looks like this, you're not going to put on the Sound of Music...
posted by Devonian at 8:55 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


By contrast, my band Nutrionally-Complete Omnivores has no songs and has never rehearsed because none of the other members are real, but bootleg cassettes of the only demo recording would be trading for up to $30,000 apiece if they existed.

That's more or less the plot of the song The Late Greats by Wilco (complete with fake band names):

The greatest lost track of all time
The Late Greats' "Turpentine"
You can't hear it on the radio
You can't hear it anywhere you go

The best band will never get signed
K-Settes starring Butcher's Blind
So good, you won't ever know
They never even played a show
You can't hear them on the radio
posted by kersplunk at 9:25 AM on November 7


Eh, this was quite the surface-level skim of the structure of the underground. This was probably the truest sentence in the whole thing:
“It’s got to be a hobby,” says Marek Steven. “Most of the bands are happy just to get a record label to pay for printing their album, get a percentage of sales or get given 50 or 100 copies to sell on the road. You’re paying for rehearsals every week, you’ve got to buy equipment. Touring in the UK’s a nightmare – you’re sleeping on floors, and lucky if you sell some T-shirts and break even. It’s very DIY. People do it because they just want to play.”
There's no money in it. It's just the art.

As I've gotten older the more problematic aspects of the underground have turned me off; there's a lot of misogyny (particularly in the pornogrind sub-subgenre, ugh) and white nationalism burbling down there. But if you dig you can still find some great stuff. Give me some good leftist crust or noise rock!
posted by Existential Dread at 9:42 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


There's a lot more opportunity to play in the US than over here - house shows are just not really possible over here at all, because of noise complaints and the tightly-packed poorly-built nature of especially affordable housing. Scenes look pretty different as a result.
posted by Dysk at 9:54 AM on November 7


I played in a short-lived death metal band in a Midwest college town, and yeah house shows are a critical component to scenes like the Michigan metal scene. One frat house was locally known as the "Metal Frat" because they hosted so many local metal shows. It was disgusting (like most frats) but damn it was a great lynchpin of the scene.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:00 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


By contrast, my band Nutrionally-Complete Omnivores has no songs and has never rehearsed because none of the other members are real.

Anyone who would stoop to the blatantly commercial tactic of giving their band a name has already sold out in my book.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:42 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


That's more or less the plot of the song The Late Greats by Wilco (complete with fake band names):

Also, Spearmint's Sweeping The Nation, though that's obviously university-town UK indie bands of the 80s/90s rather than underground metal. Still, obscurantism is obscurantism.
posted by acb at 2:26 PM on November 7


thelonius

I don't know anything anymore, please don't destroy hardcore for me next.
posted by Max Power at 4:31 PM on November 7


That's more or less the plot of the song The Late Greats by Wilco

And to be slightly more specific in time and place, Todd Snider's Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.

Of course, the "lowercase" genre is also now a thing so maybe it all came true. I'm pretty sure we're all just living in a world the KLF made up for us thirty years ago, so relax and enjoy the ride.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:41 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


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