Like Fan Like Band: How Fanbase Can Affect Artist Reputation

How many times have you written off a band or an artist because of their fans? I’m sure many of us are either unwilling to admit it or simply have not realized this subconscious process of ruling out, but it happens all the time.

Regardless of the quality of the music, it is very easy for potential new listeners to be deterred because of the reputation created by a band’s fanbase. For example, what comes to mind when I mention the name Slipknot? For many of you—especially those who are not very familiar with them—my guess is that you thought of the types of people you might associate with that band; mean, dumb, meathead psychos (Sorry, Maggots. No offense!). However, while this may be true for some of their fans, this doesn’t mean you should curse the band all together. The problem is that too many people apply this stigma to the band, assuming the music is unsophisticated, dumb, mindless, or perhaps untalented. However, those who are familiar with and open to the idea of Slipknot, fan or not, know that they are a very hardworking group of extremely talented musicians. It might not be your cup of tea, but at least give them that.

Okay, so maybe the guys in Slipknot bring it upon themselves with their terrifying masks and generally offensive demeanor, but how about Tool? They have a similar demographic as Slipknot, but many listeners might find their sound to be a little “easier to swallow.” However, they often get lumped in with the same sort of crowd that makes outsiders assume the music is terrible, while in fact, tool has written some of the most interesting, progressive, and influential songs in nu metal.

Too often do people overlook a band just because of the fanbase they seem to attract. Of course, that’s not totally unreasonable. If you do not like or do not relate to a certain type of person, and that type of person likes a certain type of music, then by the transitive property, it seems safe to assume that you will probably dislike that type of music too. However, this isn’t always the case. We all have “guilty pleasures,” but why are they guilty? Because we’re embarrassed to admit when we like something outside of our own self-ascribed reputation? Are we that proud of our “taste?” (more…)

Metal Monday: Katatonia's Dead End Kings

In Katatonia‘s 21 year career, they’ve managed to avoid putting out a single subpar album; even with a slowly rotating cast of members ” vocalist Jonas Renske and guitarist Anders Nystrí¶m seem to be the only permanent members. On their new Dead End Kings, they’ve even played without Fredrik and Mattias Norrman (yes, they’re brothers) for the first time in about 13 years. It would appear that the supporting cast for Renske and Nystrí¶m isn’t of much consequence, as they haven’t skipped a beat with their followup to 2009’s Night Is The New Day.

On recent albums, Katatonia developed a truly unique sound, a perfect blend of sulking heaviness and shimmering beauty. Combining the thick, heavy riffs and chords of Nystrí¶m with the clear, haunting vocals of Renske, Katatonia create deeply emotional soundscapes on just about every track of Dead End Kings. Frank Default contributes a lot to the atmospheres and textures that coat many sections of the album, adding some sparse percussion, keyboards, and strings. As on Night Is The New Day, producer David Castillo aptly handles the mixing and production of the album, and the overall sound is second to none.

Perhaps the biggest difference for Katatonia on this record is the songwriting. While the album is not at all a sonic departure, many of the songs on Dead End Kings feature elements that Katatonia have shied away from on their last few releases. The most obvious changes, as heard on the lead single “Dead Letters,” are the inclusion of more groovy riffs (likely to the extreme pleasure of Tool fans). But it’s not just heavier, groovier parts they’ve added, either (granted, it doesn’t get much more heavy and groovy than “Forsaker“). Songs such as “The Racing Heart” and “Leech” show us that Katatonia are also quite capable of moody, somber passages.

Ultimately, Katatonia aren’t adding anything particularly new to the mix, but rather are refining and perfecting what they’d already achieved on Night Is The New Day and The Great Cold Distance. In 21 years, they’ve managed to very slowly evolve into something uniquely their own in all the right ways. When you’re so far ahead of the curve, does it really matter if you’re not constantly making massively different music? I’m not so sure it does. I’ll be happy if Katatonia keep making only slight tweaks to their current formula, as they’re already in a league of their own. One listen to Dead End Kings further drives this point home.

Dead End Kings comes out at the end of August worldwide. You can grab your copy from Peaceville Records’ online shop. Get a taste of the new album below with the lead single from the album, “Dead Letters.”

Metal Monday: Bassists Are Important Too!

Before you say anything about the title of this post, hear me out. I know it’s weird to give that much credit to bassists, but they’re pretty important”and I’m not just talking about the Geddy Lees, Les Claypools and Cliff Burtons of the world, either. When a guitarist is off wandering around his fretboard during a solo, who do you think is holding down the fort? Yeah, okay, probably a rhythm guitarist too, but the answer I’m going with is the bassist. Many things go into being a really great bassist. Sometimes it’s an unprecedented technical proficiency with the bass (as illustrated by Stephan Fimmers on Necrophagist’s “Stabwound”), or the ability to sink a great feel into numerous different grooves (as evidenced by Geezer Butler in pretty much every Black Sabbath song ever written). Maybe you’re like Justin Chancellor or Paul D’Amour and help shape the very sound and identity of your band. Unfortunately, it’s not always so obvious when a bassist is really holding it down, but we’re here to help rectify the situation. We’ve collected eight really solid bass performances from the deepest reaches of the OurStage Metal Channel” you just have to listen along and maybe slappa da bass right along with them.


Metal Monday: Intronaut Q&A

How many bands can you name that would be a perfect opener for Tool? Was Intronaut on your list? Well, they should be (if they weren’t, shame on you). Intronaut has been plugging away on tour since their release of Valley of Smoke in 2010, and now they’re about to head out on the road to open for Tool on the first leg of their 2012 North American tour. The band has some plans in the works immediately following the tour, so we got in touch with Sacha Dunable to find out more.

OS: Intronaut has toured with some serious bands since releasing Valley of Smoke, and you’re about to tour with Tool for the first leg of their upcoming tour. How would you describe things in Intronaut since Valley of Smoke?

SD: Obviously a lot of cool things have happened to us. I think that has been the same throughout our existence, it has sort of been like that where things come up and it gets cooler and cool. And that definitely motivates us too keep moving. Keeps morale high.
OS: What sort of things do you think will be the biggest takeaways from this short tour with Tool, especially since you’ve not really done many dates of this size/caliber before?

SD: We pretty much never have. I think that obviously one part of it is that it’s opening for a band that we’re totally into. I mean, opening for Tool is something you never expect to have happen when you start a band, so just on a personal level, I think that’s a pretty cool accomplishment. Then obviously playing in front of a bunch of people, hopefully maybe some of them like your band and you gain some new fans that way. I think we’re really just looking to go out and enjoy the whole experience. I can’t really see anything negative coming from it. All of the positive things that happen are just an added bonus.

OS: What of your stuff that you plan on playing do you think of will go over best with people who might not know Intronaut?

SD: We’re just picking a set that we think represents us best. Sort of a general representation, so we’re playing a lot of stuff from Valley of Smoke since that’s the most current release, as well as a few old songs. Songs that probably won’t get drowned out in a big arena, and songs we just like personally.

OS: In an interview with Lambgoat from December 23, you mentioned that after this tour with Tool that you’re going to take time to write the new album. What has your progress been so far in coming up with material for this album?

SD: There’s like five or six sort of rough drafts of songs where we have some ideas and some riffs put together as a song that we will get together in a room and refine and polish and iron out. So that’s where we’re at. We’ve got some ground work laid definitely, but there’s still plenty of work to do so we probably won’t be recording until after the summer I think.

OS: Could you tell us a bit about how Intronaut’s writing process usually works, both as a band and you personally?

SD: It happens a variety of ways. It can either come from us jamming in a room and having some ideas to work with, or one person’s little idea to build or sometimes going so far as demoing all of the semi-complete songs for the whole band to build on. So, it’s collaboration either way¦

OS: Where does the band’s heavy world music influence stem from?

SD: Everybody in the band is just into all kinds of music. Dave and Joe especially have some education, or have at least immersed themselves in, certain other types of, I guess, world music; Indian Classical stuff, and a lot of African stuff. So that will just come out and it’s fun to just try to integrate that stuff into a hard rock or heavy metal environment.

OS: Similarly, where did the ideas for “The Reptilian Brain” / “Valley of Smoke” come from?

SD: Before Dave even joined the band, he had been studying tabla for a few years so¦we were definitely like “We should have that in our music somewhere”. So yeah, The Reptilian Brain that was Dave and Joe, at least the beginning. The first part of that song was them, they wrote that together. All the percussive stuff that you’re hearing, especially the polyrhythmic stuff, that’s definitely a lot of Dave’s influence on the band.

OS: What are the chances of Intronaut including more stuff like that with the new material?

SD: Probably pretty good. I don’t really think there’s anything like that written yet, but it always finds its way in there.

OS: Who writes most of the lyrics for Intronaut, and where does the lyrical or thematic influence from?

SD: Most recently it’s been Dave. For the last record, all the songs are about a different historical tidbit or fact or event about Los Angeles, which is where we’re from. He and I researched some stuff that we would write the songs on. It’s sort of a loose concept album, but really more of a themed album. There’s no consistent story going through the whole thing. We just researched some pretty deep shit about LA, and I tried to go for things that people, even if they’re from here, wouldn’t really know about. We picked different topics for each song, and he sort of shrouded it in metaphors and whatnot, and made it into heavy metal songs lyrics.

OS: How about an example of what one of these songs is about?

SD: Sure, the song Above is about”I can’t say exactly when it happened, I think some time during World War II, shortly after Pearl Harbor”a military airplane deployment into the sky above LA to shoot down some mysterious something-or-other¦they didn’t know if it was Japanese planes¦or if was some UFO. There was also some speculation that it was some sort of weather balloon”but there was definitely some air combat going on over LA that sort of never got talked about, but it was in some papers and got swept under the rug.

The song Elegy is about when they were building one of the oil refineries down in Carson I think, which is south LA County, they dug up a mass grave that [had] probably like 100 people [in it], which was probably some tribe from like hundreds of years ago that were just demolished by something. Obviously we don’t know because it was a few hundred years ago, but people were just broken in half and shit and just thrown into a bit pit and buried, then uncovered a few hundred years later. So, you know, things like that, fun little happy events about LA.

Catch Intronaut on tour, buy their albums, all that jazz. At the very least, enjoy the video for “Elegy” below:


Metal Monday: Looking Forward to 2012

Last week we covered the things we want most from the metal world in the coming year, some of which were things we already know are going to happen”we just hope it’s not for the worst (except Axl Rose, poor guy). Outside of the metal Christmas list, there are some happenings in the coming year that we’re especially amped for, and now we’re going to tell you all about them so you can be excited too!

First, the whale-loving Francophones Gojira will be releasing their follow-up to The Way Of All Flesh”one of our absolute favorite metal records of 2008. Over the last decade Gojira have steadily built a fanbase with their unique brand of rhythmic and forceful metal. The band really got their big break opening for Metallica a few years ago, and just recently signed to Roadrunner Records. If you didn’t already know who Gojira were, you certainly will now. There is a good chance this record will see itself in a lot of top album lists for 2012 if the band’s previous sucess is any indication of things to come.

Obviously, Gojira aren’t the only band releasing a highly-anticipated album in 2012. Perhaps the most anticipated metal album of 2012 is the upcoming Black Sabbath album. We briefly covered this in last week’s metal Christmas list, but let’s think a bit more about it.  Ozzy Osbourne released an album called Scream in 2010, which was okay. More importantly, Ozzy didn’t sound like total garbage on the recordings and this gives fans hope for the upcoming album. Now, can you remember the last album that the other 3/4 of Sabbath put out? Under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the Dio version of Black Sabbath released an album called The Devil You Know and it was fantastic. Who knows if they’ll be able to play well at live shows at this point, but there’s reason to believe that the album the band records will be at least “pretty good.”


Metal Monday: Paul D'Amour Returns With A Fearsome Engine

Where does one draw the line for what is or is not considered metal? Can music be metal by association?  The line seems incredibly wide and blurry so these questions may never have official answers. Still, one band that’s always straddled this line rather precariously is Tool, especially since the days after í†nima when Paul D’Amour parted ways with the band. Just recently Paul entered the grey area between prog rock and prog metal with his latest project, Feersum Ennjin, who released their self-titled album on November 22nd via Dissociated Press Records.

While the album doesn’t bare a striking resemblance to Tool directly out of the gate, it’s quite apparent once you hear the second song, “Fishing Grounds”, which begins with the unmistakably Tool-esque bass lick and drum pattern (even the tone is nearly spot-on). Thankfully Tool is a pretty unique and fantastic band, otherwise the influence spilling over onto this new project may appear stale and out dated. Of course, it seems not only natural, but somewhat expected that the two projects would be stylistically linked due to D’Amour’s prominence in both. Interestingly enough, however, “The Fourth” (the one track that features Danny Carey, Paul’s former Tool bandmate) doesn’t sound anything like what Tool has done musically.


Metal Monday: VOLA

Typically most of the Metal Monday content”whether it’s interviews, reviews, playlists, etc.”is primarily focused on the most metal of bands. Sometimes, however, a band comes along that’s so good it almost doesn’t matter just how “metal” they. Danish band VOLA falls right in line with this thought. They’ve got a few heavy jams, some not-so-heavy jams and all sorts of stuff in between. Having multiple Top 10 finishes in both metal and hard rock, as well as making it into the Best Of Top 20 for rock, it’s safe to say that VOLA know how to play hard.

It’s really difficult to find an accurate box to place VOLA into, even ones as broad as “rock” and “metal” because they don’t ever seem content to stick with one style. Take “Glasswork” for example: The first portion of the song is an ambient rock piece, and then about halfway through you can feel the heavy surging until you get some hard riffage for a couple of minutes as the song fades back to ambient rock. Their song “Golden Lighthouse Failure” is almost the exact opposite, starting off with a gnarly opening riff and moving through all sorts of different styles of rock and metal.

Even though their songs feature a wide array of styles and switches between said styles, they manage to avoid a disjunct sound and feel, even when the contrast between styles is stark and fast. It’s truly remarkable how well their transitions work, and lend themselves to lengthy songs”nearly all of the songs they’ve uploaded to OurStage are over five minutes, and a couple even reach the six minute mark.

VOLA recently added a new drummer to the band and are working on a new EP that will be recorded this summer, perhaps released this summer as well (though the update the band posted to YouTube didn’t really specify that). If you’re a fan of rock, metal, progressive and/or awesome, VOLA is a band you should definitely be aware of. Check out some of their fantastic tunes below:

Metal Monday: Metal Preview 2011

While providing some solid albums, 2010 was a fairly lackluster year in metal. Given only the short list of albums slated to come out in the first three months of 2011, it could very well eclipse all of 2010 in just a couple months. Many 2011 albums have been announced, but many of them have tentative or inexact release dates. First, let’s take a look at albums we know release dates for:

StratovariusElysium [January 12]
CrowbarSever The Wicked Hand [February 8]
CauldronBurning Fortune [February 14]
NeuraxisAsylon [February 15]
DeicideTo Hell With God [February 15]
DevilDriverBeast [February 22]
Darkest HourThe Human Romance [February 22]
Amon AmarthSurtur Rising [March 29]

It looks as though, at least early on in 2011, death metal will be reigning supreme with releases from Neuraxis and Deicide” two of the most well-renowned artists in death metal’s history. Crowbar’s Sever The Wicked Hand should also be a monster record, as they’re one of the most legendary sludge metal bands ever.

In terms of anticipated releases with little to no detail and no cemented release date, there are also some heavyweight releases anticipated in the first quarter of 2011: Anthrax, Obscura, The Faceless, Symphony X, Textures, Born of Osiris and Protest The Hero.

Licking your chops yet? This is shaping up to be quite the year if the first quarter is an indication what the rest of the year will look like. And if that isn’t quite enough, there are also rumors of albums from All Shall Perish, Sanctity Opeth (which is most likely happening late 2011), In Flames, Tool (though it’s never easy to know with these guys), Unearth and Hammerfall.

Know any albums that slipped under my radar? I’d love to find out what other metal albums to look out for in early 2011!

Metal Monday: 1990, A Great Year In Metal

Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.

For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.

Candidate for most metal artwork ever

The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.

That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut“both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.

Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.

Less serious, but plenty awesome

In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990” list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.

The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.


osblog_metalmondays_01No matter what the genre, each music scene seems to have a band notorious for its overly obsessive fans. For the jam band crowd, Phish gets this accolade; for college rock, Dispatch might get the bid. In metal, there is no doubt that Tool gets the honor (or is it dishonor?) of having fans who have unhealthy obsessions with their music. Perhaps it is because of the mystery involved with the band member’s personas, or the intricacy and vagueness of Tool’s lyrics. Whatever it is, few people seem to be able to ween themselves off of it once they have had a taste. Numerous destinations on the web are devoted to Tool, one of which is a forum with close to 35,000 registered users”all there to talk about the band.

Tool 1As an act known for mocking its fans’ lemming’s lack of defiance, Tool managed to garner quite a following. Maynard James Keenan is a well-known advocate of forward and original thinking, and naturally denounces any sort of gossip or bandwagons that his fans latch onto. In an interview with Alternative Press back in March of 1997, Keenan is quoted as saying I get resentful and upset when people don’t use their heads about stuff. It upsets me when people are selling themselves short or letting themselves down, whether it’s education or information.

Keenan’s actions are somewhat paradoxical at times, because there are a lot of free-thinkers among the Tool Army. A shining example of this would be the idea of Tool’s Holy Gift in which an anonymous Tool fan discovered a way to rearrange the tracks from Tool’s most famous release, Lateralus, that corresponds with the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.). How is that for open-minded? Another great, but lesser-known, idea spawned from Tool obsession is overlaying three tracks from their most recent album, 10,000 Days (dubbed as 10,000 Days Synchronicity around the Internet), placing “Vigniti Tres” and “Wings for Marei (Pt. 1)” end to end on top of “Wings for Marie (Pt. 2)” to make an entirely new song. Regardless of whether or not these ideas and theories are correct, they are certainly forward-thinking (after scouring the Internet, any legitimate thoughts or comments by the band about these theories are not available).

Tool 2Being largely hidden from the public eye can only lead to speculation. The fact that Keenan (as well as the other members the band to a certain degree) does not have large public personas only adds to the intrigue of Tool as an entity, something that has stirred many a rumor about the band over the years. In the end, all of this seems to help the band’s popularity and notoriety. Complex music about complex themes that the fans can make mean whatever they like. While Keenan has dismissed most of the assumptions about their music and themes as false, from time to time some ideas are confirmed as true (which only feeds the fans to keep the speculation up).

So why do Tool fans adore the band so much? Appreciation from the band is not the only thing that can give you fans. It is the malleability of the song meanings, it is the dismissal bandwagon thinking, and the freedom that you get with making the music personal to you. It is their stunning live show. It is the power given to the listener by the band and the music Tool makes. It is the thought of I get it, you don’t. It is the feeling of belonging to something bigger than you, me, or the band itself. Tool fans understand, the members of Tool do too. It may sound cheesy, but there is no other way to describe it. The facts are the facts, but they do not make up the entire story.

Tool 3

Photos courtesy of Ryan Mastro