Best Of: Global Metal

As in everything, the trajectory of global culture has affected the ways in which we perceive and consume metal. While we won’t have the time to go in depth on concepts like “the West”, “globalism” and “cultural appropriation”, it’s safe to say that metal is too often viewed with a Western-tinged lens. Thus, Europe (western/northern Europe, that is) and the US are often viewed as the focal points of the community and, sometimes, as the only grounds in which events worth consider occur. However, the reality is far from that and is much more positive: metal, like any cultural community which has, is or will one day thrive, is a global phenomenon.

Thus, there are metal bands creating music from all over the world. Their “peripheral” status is both a weakness and a strength. On one hand, it means they might be starved of recognition, existing far away from notable venues, outlets and crowds. On the other, however, their distance from the center allows them to experiment with their music, their aesthetic and their fanbase in ways which would be impossible for more “central” bands. Looking at these at bands and shinning a bright light on them is a worthy first step in correcting the imbalance and making sure that their voices are heard. While this list is modest and, to be honest, we could have included twice or thrice the number of bands on it, look at it as a beginning, a first exploration. We might return to this classifcation in the future; tell us who we missed in the comments below!

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When you think of progressive metal, you think of Europe or of the USA. Plenty of the bands who have come to dominate the scene, and plenty others alongside it, hail from those countries. However, once sparks are lit there is no way to know where their fire might land. One such place has been Andorra, where Persefone work, one of the freshest, most cohesive progressive death metal bands today.

Without assigning an overly important role to their locality in relation to their music, we can still safely say that there is something peripheral to the way in which they approach their music. The blend between the clean and harsh vocals for example is very non-traditional, perhaps leaning towards a holistic approach to these elements rather than to a contrasted one. This more harmonic approach to the different elements of Persefone’s sound is what enables to shine so bright in the otherwise somewhat drab fields of European or American progressive metal.

Perhaps coming from a non-traditional area for the world in which metal is made enables Persefone to look from the outside in and change what they see fit. Or, perhaps, it has the opposite result and drives them to want to innovate in order to fit in, in order to make their mark on the dominant center. Whichever is the answer, they are without a doubt one of the most promising bands around and, with an album coming in 2017, it would be a big mistake to write them out simply on account of their locality.

 

-Eden Kupermintz

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Formed way back in 1997, SERDCE started out playing a thrash/death hybrid reminiscent of the late 80s and early 90s, with a few progressive elements thrown in for good measure. Their debut album didn’t see the light of day until 2002, whilst it wasn’t until they released their third record The Alchemy of Harmony in 2009 that they started to gain some traction. By that stage they had evolved into the progressive death metal unit they are today; however, it was only a sign of things to come. Fast forward to 2014 and the world was gifted Timelessness, a masterpiece of progressive death metal. They polished their sound and delivered an album which rivals anything Cynic and Atheist ever produced. Technical playing? Check. Jazzy, yet Death-inspired riffs? Check. Lovely fretless bass tone? Check. Inclusion of non-standard metal instruments like a middle-eastern wind instrument, xylophone, piano, saxophone and more? Check. All the good stuff is in here. Throw in their heartfelt vocals and penchant for Dream Theater-esque instrumental breaks with guitars and keyboards playing off one another and we have a brilliant progressive record which deserves your attention. Listen to it, love it, and then spread the word. Go!

 

-Karlo Doroc

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오필리아 (Ophelia) is an atmospheric progressive metal band from South Korea, and singing entirely in Korean! Their only album,
당신의 환상올 동정하라 (Do Sympathy with Your Fantasy), came out in 2010 and consists of thirteen songs based on the twelve months of the year and a fictive thirteenth one, “Undecimber.” The songs are also grouped in three movements: 序 (“Introduction”), 本 (“Body”) and 結 (“Conclusion”). Vocalist Yui sings effortlessly in a soaring and soothing voice, and is at times accompanied by bassist Chelwoo for harsh sections and spoken word, and others for harmony and guest vocals. Some songs are pretty long, going up to 11:35 on 월 (“November”) –
동상이몽 (“Same Moment, Different Dream”), and give the project its progressive qualificative. If you can’t imagine traditional Korean music, shoegaze, doom metal and some atmospheric post-rock play together seamlessly and make something coherent together, then I suggest you listen to this album and get a taste of it. I really like this album for the journey it takes you on. I managed to grab a physical copy a year or two ago, but the thing is pretty rare, so I suggest keeping your eyes on used CD websites, because this album really deserves it.

-Dave Tremblay

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Mongolia’s Tengger Cavalry have become somewhat of a sensation in the last year or so, at least for a band who plays music that could be considered more than somewhat niche. Combining chunky, galloping metallic riffs with traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing doesn’t sound like a winning formula on paper, at least initially, but the music is so well composed it’s able to stand on it’s own and avoid the pitfalls of being labeled a gimmick. Originally a one man band, band leader Nature Ganganbaigal eventually recruited a full lineup and took the band on tour, with a recent North American tour and acoustic show in New York City drawing impressive crowds for what was a relatively unknown act six months previously.

Tengger Cavalry write music that’s both fun to listen to and interesting compositionally, featuring a diverse array of folk instruments and, at least to this writer’s knowledge, the only use of throat singing in metal. With several albums and EP’s under their belt, they’re set to see even greater success.

 

-Colin Kauffman

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Australia isn’t exactly known to be experiencing a dearth of metal bands; frankly, the amount of musical output from the Outback is nothing short of astounding. But the island state of Tasmania is another story, with hardly a prominent metal scene to write home about — yet somehow giving rise to the tech death legends that are Psycroptic, seemingly out of nowhere. Propelled forward by the synchronized musical genius of brothers Dave and Joe Haley (on drums and guitars respectively) Psycroptic’s sound has consistently been characterized by blazing fast speeds and spastic rhythmic trickery, all throughout its different iterations over the past decade and a half. Joe is notably the only guitar player in the band, which is rather unusual as far as tech death bands go, but his riffing ability is nearly unparalleled: suffice it to say, he can very easily come up with guitar parts on his own that are convoluted enough that one may yet assume the presence of a second guitarist. Although the departure of original vocalist Matthew ‘Chalky’ Chalk signalled a shift in Psycroptic’s sound, with the band transitioning from spastic and unpredictable tech to a more refined, almost groove metal sound, it remains plainly apparent that they are almost incomparable as far as death metal goes, and have already cemented an immense legacy for themselves.

 

-Ahmed Hasan

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Working in their native tongue and flowing, beautiful English prose, The Nietzche are the best band from Ukraine. Best. Chaotic, coarse and catastrophically catchy at the same time, this group of misfits inject hardcore with the most morose, desperate vocals heard in any language. There’s plenty of wacky riffs and jarring genre leaps too. Drawing from the mayhem orchestrated by The Chariot and Every Time I Die, The Nietzsche possess a distinct sound in a genre full of acts all desperately trying to be the most brash and unpredictable.

Across a few releases they make the Norma Jean’s of the world look significantly bland. And that’s coming from a big Norma Jean fan. The band’s use of literary figures in both their lyrics and titles isn’t just a wild stab at sounding smart either. No, The Nietzsche match the emotive overflowing of distressed hardcore with some truly beautiful wordplay. This is playful, aggressive and wild. Music to shotgun a beer to….during an exam.

 

-Matt MacLenan

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Speaking from a sociological sense, Al-Namrood could easily be labeled the apotheosis of black metal. Because of the anti-religious themes in their music, they are criminals in their native country, fulfilling black metal’s desire to be labeled as an antagonist to the social setting against which exists, and, as another consequence, cannot divulge their real names and must remain exclusively known by their pseudonyms, embodying the genre’s ideal of total anonymity. Truly, they live by the black metal code that so has been set down, and for that, major props are due.

Their music speaks to long-running themes in black metal as well: a sense of folky, pagan sincerity has a strong home in the music of Al-Namrood, but instead of pulling from the European playbook, they opt for a grander sound that is more authentic to their origins, using traditional Middle Eastern instruments and melodies to flavor their melodic-ish brand of deathy black metal. If you’ve been looking for a band that joins together the raw, powerful aggression of groups like Taake and Behemoth with the more ‘worldly’ sound of Arabian folk music, look no further: Al-Namrood present themselves to you.

 

-Simon Handmaker