Archive for the underground metal Category
For those who have been following the musical work of Howie Bentley, it has been eight long years we have heard anything new…but there is some good news: the wait is finally over. Many who were familiar with Howie Betley’s former band, Cauldron Born, will be thrilled to know that he is back to writing music with his new metal project, Briton Rites, and they have recently released an album, entitled “For Mircalla.” The album features Phil Swanson on vocals, singer for the doom metal act Hour of 13, and Corbin King on drums, who actually is the guitarist for Vainglory.
Click here to order the album.
There is not much of a point in comparing Briton Rites to Cauldron Born, because they are two different styles of metal. One comparison I will make, however, is that the style of Briton Rites is much more primitive in many ways than Cauldron Born, as Cauldron Born featured more complex and technical song structures. Briton Rites is more of a nod to early, traditional doom and British Heavy metal, particularly in the vein of Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General, and maybe early Candlemass. The end product here is a more primitive, but aggressive and fierce, dark and commanding work of metal music. Phil Swanson’s singing in particular adds to the commanding nature of the music, as his vocals compliment Howie’s songwriting very well, reminding one to some extent of Ozzy’s vocals in the early Black Sabbath material. Don’t be fooled, however—Phil’s vocals are very unique in their own right and he is no Ozzy clone at all—but his vocals are nonetheless reminiscent of early Sabbath, as is the music of Briton Rites in some ways. Truthfully, however, the music of Briton Rites is more aggressive, and most of the songs are a little faster than early Sabbath. The same can be said for Witchfinder General’s music…there are some similarities, but Briton Rites is heavier and a little faster for the most part. The guitars are tuned a bit lower, which gives it a heavier, more crushing sound in the vein of early Candlemass, particularly their Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Tales of Creation albums, though the guitar tone is a bit thicker with richer distortion and less reverb.
Though you can find a bit of similarity in these bands to Briton Rites, Briton Rites is its own animal, with its own unique character. It could only have come from the person and mind of Howie Bentley. The music of Briton Rites sounds influenced by all of these bands in some ways, but it really sounds like none of these bands. Though the song structure is relatively simple, the solos are pretty intense and wicked sounding, and even a bit technical at times. Howie even uses the wah effect on a couple of solos on the album, which actually fits very well, adding to their intensity. The drums are pretty simple and straightforward, as are the song structures, generally speaking. Howie Bentley really is a great musician, and while for the most part he has tried to produce a metal album that is more simple and straightforward, at some points the technical guitar genius in him comes out in his soloing. I would say that this is the biggest similarity between Briton Rites and Cauldron Born, probably the most legitimate form of comparison between the two, as Howie has a certain signature sound to his guitar wizardry. Some of the solos on this album are just wicked, with my favorite solo being the one in the Exorcism of Tanith. Howie also plays all of the bass parts, and a lot of times when the guitars are just chugging away at some simple power chords, you hear the bass guitar coming through and doing some fancy leads and fills, which in some ways reminds me of Geezer Butler, but a bit more technical. While Howie really has attempted to simplify things by writing metal music of a more primitive nature (as opposed to the more technical nature of Cauldron Born), he still finds ways to kick some technical ass with Briton Rites. It is just in his nature to show out a bit, I believe. That is what makes his music so special—he plays the music that he loves first and foremost, instead of writing catchy hooks and riffs that sound trendy and cool, or trying to clone other peoples’ music.
Though Phil Swanson is a fantastic singer, I have to say that one of my favorite songs on the album is probably Karnstein Castle. Howie sings on this song instead of Phil, and it is probably the slowest paced song on the album, much more ominous and probably the most “doom metal” song on the album. Even though Phil is a better singer, I like the mood that Howie’s vocals create…they are very dark and ominous, and while he is not the most technically proficient singer, there is a lot of character that comes through in his voice, and I think that it uniquely captures the mood of his lyrics.
One thing that I have not really touched upon is the subject matter of the album. The first song, Carmilla, is based on the story of Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu which was later made into a movie, and is about a female vampire who preys on female victims. The second song is probably one of the most creative lyrically, as it draws heavily upon the short story Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, combining this influence with the influence of H.P. Lovecraft –it essentially is like Young Goodman Brown meets Lovecraft. As if the Hawthorne short story was not dark enough, Howie found a way to darken it up a bit. The end product here is a pretty wicked tale which captures the imagination, though it is not for the fainthearted.
The next song, Vampire Hunter, 1600 actually is written from the perspective of a holy man who is also a vampire hunter. Vampires are a huge subject of the lyrical content of this album, with three songs about the subject, and if the songs don’t feature vampires, they at least feature succubae and lamiae. The only exception here is the song “All-Hallowed Vengeance,” in which Howie actually takes a Richard Tierney poem and sets it to music. This is a good song to follow up the previous song, Exorcism of Tanith, as both songs are sort of a departure from the vampire theme that is prevalent in this album. The songs are purposefully arranged in the order that they appear, as the album sort of flows together when it is listened to straight through. This album is recommended for all serious metal fans, particularly those who are fans of early British metal or doom metal. As mentioned earlier, however, it is not for the fainthearted. If you’re not much of a horror movie fan, you probably will not be able to appreciate much of the subject matter—however, at least you might be able to appreciate the music. Briton Rites masterfully has combined heavy metal and the horror movie genre in a way that ought to appeal to fans of both.
Truthfully, there is only one band that comes to my mind when I think of Christian Metal, and it’s these guys. Most bands today that are labeled Christian metal are not even metal at all, but far from it. Such bands may be heavy, they may employ double bass drumming, or some metal style riffing. But they are not real metal bands at all, but instead, the bastard offspring of metal. Hell, even Stryper is more metal than a lot of these new bands, and Stryper sucks (not to mention they are not metal).
There have been other Christian metal bands in the past that have been decent, such as Deliverance and Believer, but those bands (to my knowledge) are not around anymore. There was also Barren Cross, but those guys seemed like such Iron Maiden rip-offs that I hesitate to give them much credit. Iron Maiden was and is a great band, but the problem with a lot of Christian bands in general is that they try to mimic what is popular, rather than being original. A lot of groups in the Christian music scene are just cookie cutter versions of secular bands with pop-Christianity sprinkled on top. Temple of Blood, however, is not really part of the Christian music scene, especially not the current “Christian metal” scene…they are just a bunch of guys playing the music they love, writing songs about what they believe. That, in my opinion, is what makes their music so noteworthy and sincere among the metal underground.
So how would I describe the music of Temple of Blood? Top notch thrash metal, worthy of comparison with the best thrash metal bands out there. You can certainly hear influences such as Slayer, Forbidden, Annihilator, Helstar, and even Agent Steel in their music–which is characterized by ripping guitar solos, commanding vocals, and crushing (not to mention fast) drumming. On their latest release, Overlord (2008), they even tip their hat to thrash metal greats Forbidden by recording a cover of the song Forbidden Evil. Forbidden Evil was a favorite album of mine growing up, so it was awesome to hear these guys cover their music–and they do it well.
Temple of Blood currently has two albums under their belt, but the band has recently parted ways with guitarist Jim Lewis. Hopefully this won’t deter these guys from writing new music…because the metal world needs more bands like them. There are so many bands out there who simply do not know how to be original and choose to play a form of metal because it is cool, not because they really believe in it. These guys believe in it, however. And they also believe Jesus is the son of God. Weird huh? They are certainly not afraid to let their beliefs come through in their lyrics. From songs about the final Judgment to songs of redemption, these guys don’t pull any punches. The song Fearsome Warrior, on their latest album, retells the Old Testament story of Samson and his struggles against the Philistines, culminating in Samson bringing the roof down on his own and three thousand Philistines’ heads.
I have always thought that some of the Old Testament stories would make for good metal lyrics, and its good to see that these guys thought so too.
Even if you feel a bit skeptical upon hearing that these guys are Christians, do yourself a favor and check out their music. They are the real deal, and it is obvious that they are genuine fans of metal, rather than simply playing metal only as a means to an end–as a way of converting the unbelieving masses, for example. On their first album, they do a cover of the song “Deliver Us From Evil,” by Deadly Blessing. And even better–they get the singer from Deadly Blessing to appear on the song!!! This is certainly a treat for die hard metal fans who are familiar with Deadly Blessing, who are underground cult metal legends. Check out both of their albums if you can…and do yourself a favor and order their latest album, Overlord, while there are still copies available.
You can check out samples of their music on the Temple of Blood Myspace page as well.
Last night I checked out Skeleton Witch in concert here at the Jinx, located downtown Savannah. I had listened to them on their Myspace, so I knew they were pretty good. Musically, they remind me of old school thrash akin to Exodus and Testament, with maybe a little Destruction thrown in the mix. Vocally, however, they were more death/black metal influenced, with the singer reminding me a little of Abbath from Immortal. Very good show. Outstanding show, both for the band and for the crowd…I really couldn’t believe the turnout and the crowd response considering this was a metal show. By the end of Skeleton Witch’s set, everyone had their fists raised in the air in agreement–so much energy in the place. At one point, the singer asked the crowd “I just wanna know….is Savannah still considered part of the Bible Belt?” Very good question indeed–metal has not always gotten a great reception in the Southeast United States, but it is certainly encouraging to see that there is hope.
Another surprising highlight of the show were Texas metallers, Iron Age. I had a feeling they might be good since the singer had a Candlemass shirt on…good influences usually make for good music. And they didn’t disappoint. They also had an old school metal sound, reminding me at times of Kill ’em All era Metallica, Possessed, Death, and some other earlier bands with a thrash metal/early black metal sound almost. And they actually sounded better live than they do on their Myspace page. At times, the vocals on their recorded material remind me of Chuck Schuldiner from Death, especially on the song “The Way is Narrow.” Live, however, I guess he still sounded a bit like Schuldiner, but his vocals were way more piercing…bordering on Black Metal vocals almost–like maybe Chuck Shuldiner meets the singer of Possessed. Tremendous stage presence. At one point it looked like the guitarist did a sign of a cross with his guitar…and looking at their song titles (“The Way is Narrow,” “777,” “We’re Dust,” “A Younger Earth”?) I couldn’t help but wonder if they were a Christian band. Regardless of whether this is the case, they rocked just as hard as any other metal band…if not harder. It would be funny if this were the case, with the comment that Skeleton Witch’s singer made about the Bible Belt…plus some guy in the crowd kept yelling “hail Satan”…apparently he was a big fan. I don’t know if that was a complement to either band’s playing, however, since neither of them were Satan. This guy definitely seemed to be more excited about Satan than Skeleton Witch or Iron Age, since he kept saying it over and over.
Anyway, tremendous sets by Iron Age and Skeleton Witch, tremendous show. Skeleton Witch and Iron Age were the real deal. There was another band that opened, called Howl, but they played sludge metal, something I’m not a big fan of. Plus, the other two bands were just way better. I still cannot get over the idea that we actually had some metal bands come to Savannah…for a night, stepping into the Jinx actually felt like being in another country, or stepping into a time warp–it just seemed so strange to be attending a metal show in Savannah, where people were dressed in leather and spikes and had their jackets with patches of bands’ logos all over them, and people wearing Candlemass t-shirts. A glorious night indeed.
Maybe they’ll come back around again…and maybe we’ll actually start getting some other metal bands to play here.