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R.I.P. Country Star Mindy McCready

Tragic news this morning, as we have recently learned Country songstress Mindy McCready died yesterday at the age of 37.

McCready, known mostly for her strong of hits in the mid-90s, reportedly shot and killed herself last night at her Arkansas home; her body was found on her front porch by local authorities. She is survived by two children, Zander and Zayne.

More information on McCready’s death can be found on PopDust.

Losing a member of the music community at any age is hard, especially when there is children involved. Please join us in honoring McCready’s career by clicking below and enjoy her hit, “Guys Do It All The Time.” (more…)

Metal Monday: Metalcore, Grindcore, Deathcore – What's the Difference?

Metal as a community”made up of bands and their fans” is a tight-knit population, but that does not mean this happy family is without its schisms. With the somewhat recent rise of deathcore into the mainstream, many death metal and grindcore acts have drawn a line in the sand to separate themselves from this sub genre of metal. The same can be said for metalcore, which at one point in the early 2000s had a major surge within mainstream music and was ostracized by many metal sub genres. You see, if someone isn’t raised in the metal scene, then they may not be able to tell the minor differences between these sub genres. Add to this the large number of bands  spilling over and changing sides between sub genres, and you’ve got a recipe for a giant mess.

Grindcore, metalcore, deathcore”they all came from very distinct roots: death metal and hardcore (scenes ultimately born from punk). Death metal is known for its heavy and constant nature, taken to an extreme level. Lots of bands fit this bill and have had the “death metal” label slapped onto them, but the essence of death metal lies in bands like Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Suffocation and Decapitated. Change anything the classic death metal  formula and you’ve probably found yourself wandering into sub genre land”bands like Necrophagist are known as “technical death metal” but to the inexperienced listener are really not much different. For a good example of death metal, you can check out this video for Cannibal Corpse’s “Death Walking Terror”:

Early in the death metal days, grindcore was born”taking the heaviness of death metal bands of the time along with the avant-garde nature of post-rock, the frenetic rhythms and breakdowns of hardcore punk and an extra splash of craziness to create a totally new sub genre of music. The more famous grindcore acts include Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Check out this music video for Brutal Truth’s “Sugar Daddy” to hear a good example of  grindcore:

The late 1990s witnessed the next offshoot: metalcore. Though its beginngs lie in early 90s bands like Converge and Zao, its current style was brought about by bands such as Unearth, God Forbid and Shadows Fall. Taking a lot of influence from trash, the metalcore tag may be a bit misleading, as the only real element taken from hardcore is the style of breakdown used. Most of the stylistic choices lie in heavy thrash, and the vocals often feature big melodic lines evident in heavy metal bands like Armored Saint. The most famous example of more modern metalcore is All That Remains‘ “This Calling”:

Soon after metalcore’s rise, deathcore began to brew. Take out the melodic vocals, make the sound a bit heavier and use more extreme breakdowns and you’ve transformed regular metalcore into deathcore. Bands such as The Acacia Strain, Caliban, The Red Chord, Animosity and Job For a Cowboy are known as some of the first true deathcore bands. To get a taste of an archetypal deathcore song, check out The Acacia Strain’s “Angry Mob Justice”:

Nowadays, though, bands are breaking these boundaries. Act such as The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Cephalic Carnage, Job For a Cowboy and Brain Drill have completely shattered the mold for these genres. This has been a much needed change for the metal scene since many separate sub-genres began drawing lines in the sand because, really, many of these bands aren’t that different at their core”they’re all just looking to have a good time by making extreme music people want to move to.

METAL MONDAY: SUMMER FESTIVAL OVERVIEW

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Everyone knows that summertime is festival season, and whenever people think of music festivals, they think of events like SXSW and Bonnaroo. Unless they are metalheads. For hardcore rockers, popular summer festivals include Wacken and Hellfest. But, most of the time when music journalists or bloggers write about the summer touring and festival season, metal does not get its due. Sure, metal bands are in on some of these festivals, like Bonnaroo, but they certainly are not the focal point of the events. So, here is a nice summer festival overview for all you metal junkies out there:

Wacken Open Air – Wacken, Germany

Arguably the most famous and premier event in the history of metal festivals, this past Wacken Open Air celebrated its 20th birthday. Mí¶torhead reportedly put on one of the best shows in recent memory, and all the other old school metal rockers followed suit. Among these great performances were the band formerly known as Black Sabbath (Heaven & Hell) as well as Saxon. Beyond the seasoned veteran bands, word is that doom metal troop Cathedral really won the crowd over (unsurprising, since the band is led by ex-Napalm Death vocalist Lee Dorrian).

Hellfest Open Air – Clisson, France

The second-most famous metal festival on the globe, Hellfest shared only a couple acts with Wacken this year”notably Heaven & Hell who again wowed the crowd. The fest’s the buzz bands seemed to be Brutal Truth and the loudest band on Earth Manowar, with Manowar having a slight edge (despite reports that Brutal Truth could be heard over Manowar’s set at times). Strangely, little was said about hometown giants Gojira, though there were sparse mentions of a solid set.

Bloodstock Open Air – Catton, UK

Rounding out the big three for metal festivals, this year’s Bloodstock was fodder for great stories. None more awesome than the hilarious/horrible bottling of Cradle of Filth in which the band stopped their set and left the stage without finishing the set. Blind Guardian, Carcass, Amon Amarth and the thrash bands garnered the most props for absolutely bringing it on stage.

MetalCamp – Tolmin, Slovenia

As usual, the bands who headlined this festival are the same bands that headlined the other big festivals. That’s just the way these things work. After scouring the ˜net for any opinions or reports of the festival, I only came to the conclusion that there was no real standout performances, though people were largely unenthusiastic about the lineup as a whole (Mind-boggling, really, since Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon and more were on the bill). The disappointment might have been due to the lack of great underground bands (beyond the huge names), as well as the completely unknown acts from the second stage”except Warbringer, who played before a band with only 1,000 MySpace friends. For shame.

Download Festival – Donington Park, UK

Download Festival, the least metal of all the summer metal festivals, was filled with the nu metal acts of yesteryear and all the things the kids dig today. So there was a huge variety of musical styles on this bill. No band got as much credit as Faith No More, who put on a performance referred to as brilliant by most attendees. Mí¶tley Crüe, Slipknot and Steel Panther also received favorable reviews. On the opposite side of things, a lot of festival goers hated Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit, Attack! Attack!, Pendulum and Parkway Drive. Unsurprisingly there was little said about the more extreme bands there like Suicide Silence, Meshuggah and God Forbid”the bill did not exactly cater to those fans. What is surprising is that I have found nothing about Opeth and Dream Theater’s sets.

In case you did not make it out to any festivals this summer, or just want to know what is coming up for metal festivals in the near future, here are two of the bigger events on the list:

New England Deathfest – Providence, RI

While not the biggest metal festival, New England Deathfest is having some of the most legendary Death Metal bands headline this year: Neuraxis, Cephalic Carnage and Quo Vadis. Also on the bill is Revocation, touted by many as the next big thing in metal and recently signed to Relapse Records. If you’re in the New England area, $50 for this weekend filled with death is well worth it.

Ilha Do Ermal Festival – Viera do Hinho, Portugal

Because I don’t speak Portuguese, it is hard to say much about this festival other than the fact that Blind Guardian is headlining it, which is almost enough reason to go regardless of who else is playing. The fact that Sepultura, Obituary, Firewind, Textures and Hatesphere are also on the bill certainly does not hurt. At 60€ ($85.35), that is a great price for three days of pure metal goodness.

METAL MONDAY: TWENTY YEARS OF METAL

Twenty years is a long time. Two whole decades. Many things can change in that amount of time, but few styles of music went through as many changes as metal.

"The flute is a very heavy, metal instrument." - Ian Anderson

"The flute is a very heavy, metal instrument." - Ian Anderson

1989 was the tipping point that steered metal into the state we know it now. The thankful decline of the hair metal plague was in full-effect, death metal was on the rise and thrash metal was still going strong. This was the year of the infamous Jethro Tull upset over Metallica for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental in the first ever Heavy Metal Grammy (much to the dismay of the metal community and rightfully so”Jethro Tull is not even close to metal). Tipper Gore and her PMRC was bringing the hammer down on metal with their censorship threats, and Guns N’ Roses had taken over the mainstream metal territory. Metal was under fire from all angles. For the greater good of metal, however, all of these things were ultimately great. The core die hard metal community decided they had enough, and were going to take a stand by pushing metal styles to the extreme.

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Dream Theater, Stratovarius and Obituary are the most notable bands who released debut albums in 1989, all of which saw moderate success, and who later came to shape their genres for the next two decades. 1989 also saw the formation of many new bands, such as Dark Tranquillity and Cannibal Corpse, who helped shape the metal world over the last twenty years. Even with the huge successes these bands saw in the 90’s, they were still not able to overcome the hip hop and grunge onslaught throughout the decade and break into the mainstream ” unless you were Anthrax and did a collaboration with Public Enemy (which ultimately led to the rap metal fiasco of the late 90’s). I’m not talking about the popular bastardized offshoots of metal (e.g. Limp Bizkit, Nine Inch Nails, Korn, Disturbed, Deftones, etc.) that developed in the 90’s. I’m talking the real metal of the 90’s”Blind Guardian, At The Gates, In Flames, Symphony X, Suffocation”none of these bands got as much mainstream exposure in the 90’s as they deserved. Instead, the less abrasive grunge style took over. The mainstream was tired of the aggression-fueled style that metal brought and grunge stepped up to the plate, switching the anger for angst which hit home for the flannel-clad teenagers of the 90s.

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, of Cannibal Corpse

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, of Cannibal Corpse

Ultimately, metal being a subterranean music style throughout the 90’s was for the betterment of all metal genres. Everyone saw what happened in the 80’s when metal broke into the mainstream (yes, hair metal). The same thing happens to most genres of music”evolution happens when the genre is not in the spotlight (which means grunge is directly responsible for the black sheep that is Nickleback). Without the 90’s era of metal, we could still have things like the horrid pop-punk and boy bands of the early 2000’s (we can actually thank hip hop for helping to rid of that nuisance). Slowly but surely, metal is making its way back into the mainstream. There are 14 metal albums in the Billboard Top 200 as I write this, one of which debuted at #6” Black Clouds & Silver Linings by our progressive pals Dream Theater. Metal is stronger than ever, and looks as though it is still on the rise. Lookout, mainstream media, we are storming your beaches, and about to take over your cities. Yes, those ones that were built on rock and roll.