If the purpose of Stepping Stone is to shine a spotlight on the bands and artists which started us on our way to metal, then Ronnie James Dio is one of the biggest stones in our path. Whether just by listening to his music at an early age or being influenced by his vocal style, the number of artists who have owe a debt to Dio is immeasurable. He is one of the largest names in a scene obsessed with the cult of personality, with plenty of drama and lore to back that figure (Ozzy vs. Dio, the “horns” and more). But I’d like to focus on a different story for this Stepping Stone, on mine rather than on the grandiose depiction of grand narratives within our scene and community. I’d like to take you back to the days when I was jut discovering metal and the power it had and what that power meant for the teenage version of Eden.
Is there anything more enjoyable than the current revival of traditional heavy metal? To be honest, I don’t think so; I’m listening to four or five albums from this movement currently and it’s a damn joy. Beyond the nostalgia value, there’s this unrestrained and straightforward quality to heavy metal that…
What I like about progressive stoner is that it melds groove and intricacy with the distortion coated vibes of stoner metal. It keeps things interesting, helping the often bogged down genres surrounding doom and stoner remember dynamism and variety. Which is exactly what Stonebirds are all about; these guys play a version of progressive stoner which relies on big guitar tones, thick bass and a drawl on the vocals reminiscent more Chris Cornell than Ozzy Osbourne. Their recently released Only Time, while not a trendsetter per se, an interesting take on the track structure that often becomes too stale even in this, more diverse, version of stoner. Check out “Sacrifice” below as an example.
Last week on Voices of The Void, we discussed the idea of fachs in the metal world. If you haven’t read up on the Dio fach, do yourself a favor and get caught up. After Dio established his voice as uniquely metal, new personalities quickly hit the scene with new vocal ideas. The next big metal voice was Rob Halford, frontman of legendary metal gods, Judas Priest. For this segment about him, you can follow along with our nifty Spotify playlist at the end.
Djent had an explosive entrance into the world of heavy music, around the start of the decade. It was a truly exciting occurrence, with first-wave acts like Periphery, Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker filtering the technically-driven progressive sound of acts like Meshuggah, Sikth, and those of the budding “Sumeriancore” movement, into something altogether more accessible, while still retaining much of their forebears’ technical and progressive edge. Yet, like most new sub-genres, djent quickly devolved into pastiche and gave way to over saturation—perhaps a little bit quicker than most. Djent, it seems, has had a propperly ballistic trajectory, and—in 2017—as its momentum trails off, it’s hard to get excited about this once-promising phenomenon.
Long before I started watching wrestling in the mid-’90s, it was synonymous with metal. Whether it was dude’s with long hair who were evident fans of the genre, the theme rockin’ theme music they used or performances by bands at the shows, metal and wrestling have always been bedfellows that go together like spaghetti and meatballs, Beavis and Butthead and Nicki Minaj and terrible music. Given the long-standing relationship between each medium, we here at Heavy Blog thought it would be fun to examine their similarities and the components which connect them to establish why it is they’ve remained so interconnected throughout the years. Now, without further ado, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!
The story of metal is not linear. We didn’t arrive at the mayhem lurking in our Spotify playlists through a measured progression of technique, style, and genre. Rather, the evolution came in leaps and bounds, with dead ends and bursts of growth and pockets of innovation. To continue the evolutionary metaphor: the Cambrian Explosion of metal shot off in the mid 1980’s, as subgenres and geniuses and success combined into a specimen closely resembling much of modern metal. But the growth, although frantic, wasn’t instantaneous; rather, it seemed to expand exponentially from a single source, a catalyst in a chain reaction. That incipient band, the patient zero of metal as we know it today, is Iron Maiden. More precisely, the stratospheric success of The Number of the Beast, with it’s intricate compositions, transgressive lyrics, and trailblazing progressivity, diverged metal from hard rock completely and legitimized metal as a commercial viability, heralding the eruption of metal in the years to follow.
When is something good just as another example of its genre, without effort at innovation or experimentation? In other words, how do you distinguish between something that’s just lazy and an earnest work of art created out of love of the genre that might go a bit too far with leaving most of that genre’s tenets intact? Sail’s Slumbersong raises these questions and then some, as it mercilessly worships stoner metal in all its fuzzy glory, never bothering itself with saying anything new or audacious about the genre. But you know what? It works. Slumbersong is a pleasing album, clearly crafte with love and a not irrelevant amount of talent for riffs, raspy vocals and groove.
Formed in 1978, Pagan Altar are among the old guard of metal. In their early days, they were unapologetic Black Sabbath clones – just listen to the first few seconds of Pagan Altar’s “The Black Mass” and tell me you aren’t expecting to headbang to Iommi’s legendary riff. But of course, there is nothing wrong with being a clone if your identical twin is Black. Sabbath. Crooner Terry Jones sings in a distinctly Osbourne-ian croak comprising the weakest part of the band’s sound, but it shouldn’t offend anyone who can palate Ozzy. The riffs that Terry’s son, guitarist Alan Jones, offers on tracks like “The Black Mass” and “Judgement of the Dead” are as doom-laden and memorable as anything the genre could sling when the Pagan Altar demo was released in 1982.
Even though parts of the metal community might like to imagine otherwise, metal is just another identity group, albeit a wide and varied one (contrary to what other groups might think of it). It has its own dress code(s), its own language, and its own system(s) of ideals. We’re here today to talk about a specific part of that system of ideals and the way in which it manifested through recent events in our community. This ideal is none other than the ideal of suffering, a turn of phrase which might sound weird at first. However, suffering has long been a method through which membership in a community has been signaled. From the very genesis of Christianity, through various moral systems and philosophies (Emanuel Kant comes to mind), and various manifestations in popular culture (such as wrestling for example), suffering and pain are often ultimate signs of belonging. Suffering can highly ritualized and contextualized, made to mean different things and communicate different ways of belonging.