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Bandcamp Explorer - Metal

  by Mark Rowland

published: 12 / 4 / 2022

Bandcamp Explorer - Metal


Mark Rowland in 'Bandcamp Explorer' examines the best releases on Bandcamp of recent metal recordings.

I’ve been threatening to do metal for quite some time, though we have touched on it in previous columns. As musical genres go, it’s one of the more Marmite ones, but it’s also extremely diverse. You don’t get more subgenres than metal has in any other musical style. Power metal has very little in common with black metal, which is nothing like groove metal, and the less said about nu metal, the better. The through-line throughout all metal is volume and a taste for the theatrical. It is not cool in any way, it’s often unfairly (and on rare occasions fairly) vilified. It will always be an underdog, despite its devoted fanbase. And I love an underdog. Rather than stick to one of the many subgenres of metal, I decided to see what I could find that was really pushing the envelope of metal – sometimes in sublime ways, others just plain bizarre. Take, for example, ‘Birdhouse By the Cemetery’ by Hatebeak and Boar Glue, two death metal bands fronted by a Congo African grey parrot called Waldo and three Guinea pigs called Tico, Taco and Sugar, respectively. The Hatebeak puts Waldo’s vocal dexterity front and centre, pairing it with chugging riffs and occasional jazzy passages. Boar Glue are chuggier, with shared vocals from Tico, Taco and Sugar hitting a higher register than Waldo. All songs are dead short. Yours for a bargain $1.99. Hypermortal pushes the musical boundaries further, taking a base classic 1970s sound and adding elements of psychedelic funk, jazz, prog rock and doom metal. Is it indulgent? Of course. Sometimes the noodling gets a bit much on latest album ‘Mysteries of time’. But when they hit a groove, it’s pretty great. There’s definitely a King Crimson comparison to be made. Great for fans of funky, fuzzy, psychedelic cheese. The black metal subgenre has thankfully managed to leave its ugly, church burning past behind it, and in recent years has become a rich source of innovation in the metal world. Bands such as Deafheaven, for example, mixed black metal with shoegaze to create something simultaneously emotional, melodic and abrasive. Panopticon, the brainchild of Austin Lunn, combines black metal with country and folk music. The band’s latest self-titled release, is about as emotional as black metal gets. Opening with full-on country folk on the title track, it shifts into long, languid songs that have a lot in common with post-rock as well; atmospheric slow burns that explode into bursts of dramatic noise. The album uses pedal and lap steel guitars, banjo, mandolin, violin and cello alongside the guitars and thumping drums. Lunn describes his battles with mental illness in the liner notes, and his pain can certainly be felt on the record. Zeal and Ardor takes a similar genre-mashing approach; Manuel Gagneux, looking for inspiration, asked users of 4Chan for two genres to combine. This gave him the idea to combine black metal with black spiritual music. Self-recorded debut ‘Devil is Fine’ is almost a concept album: what if black slaves in the pre-civil war US worshipped Satan instead of Jesus? Gagneaux, who has African American and Swiss heritage, has used the project to take aim at US racism, both in its past and its present. The band’s third, self-titled album icameout on 11 February, building further on the band’s sound, which incorporates several styles of metal with soul, gospel, blues, jazz, industrial and electronic music. Zeal and Ardor’s star is very much on the rise, and I’m a big fan already. Hope Gagneux and others like him will keep pushing the envelope of what metal can be.

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Bandcamp Explorer - Metal

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