by Diana Ciuca
In the quaint corner of a vinyl-ed up, toned down records store, stood two mics. Unoccupied. It wasnâ€™t long until two â€˜punksâ€™ grabbed those mics and started jamming out. Not just singing for the sake of singing, or for commission, or even to attract a crowd. They sang, danced, yelledÂ for charity. Thanks to Radio-Active Records, one of the only venues which allows bands to play shows without charging an entrance free, boxes of caned food and stacks of water bottle packs were gathered for a Haitian Relief Effort.
The show featured a few local bands, mainly playing ska/punk/folk music. Since its a local show, not many people in the crowd were singing along and swaying to the music. That gave them an opportunity to do their own thing, like dance around a bit. Nevertheless, the bands each played a few covers and asked audience members to join in. The lively action of the shows along with energetic band members infused the entire atmosphere with energy. Loud, fun, freeâ€¦ what more could anyone ask for? And you even help out charity and local mom & pop small businesses that are struggling in these rough economic times.
Special light onÂ The Strikeouts!
As on of the bands there, you could say that their range is not so local. With a guitarists who goes to college in Miami, an Argentinian guitarist, a bassist whoâ€™s last name is Parisi, and a tenor saxist whoâ€™s name is Curtis, The Strikeouts! are definitely a mosaic of diversity thatâ€™s also reflected in their music. They describe themselves on theirÂ facebook page, the band represents â€œno frills South Florida Skacore.â€ Returning from an exhausting tour around Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando and back down to Boca, The Stikeouts! have started doing some professional recordings. Their next show is February 17th, check out their page for more information. If youâ€™re looking to dance and jump around, you better be there.
by Diana Ciuca
Santa seems to be messing with me. I got some S-S-Stuff this Christmas. No, that’s not a stutter. It just so happens that some elf was looking through the music dictionary and decided to send me a stack of s-starting bands. He also attached a note with the words, “Santa Says Sorry”…And for good reason. Since we’re on the subject of studying the structure of the band names, we might as well also focus on the titles of their songs – all of them scream angst and non-conformity:Â Scar Symmetry’s Noumenon and Phenomnon off of their album Dark Matter Dimensions (2009), Samael’s Black Hole off of Above (2009),Â Suffocation’s Cataclysmic Purification off of their album Blood Oath (2009),Â Sonic Syndicate’s Burn This City from their forthcoming album in 2010, and finally,Â Sonata Arctica with Flag in the Ground off of Days of Grays. (2009).
But, to better understand the great weight of all of this metal, I’ve decided to make a guide to help myself and you in the meantime.
How to be (Heavy Metal) Hardcore
They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They loathe society. They are commonly known as punks, outcasts, rebels… but don’t be so quick to judge what is commonly known as HEAVY METAL.
Step 1: Appearance.
Hello! Dreads, much? A valley girl accent sounds worse to them then their grating voices may ever sound to us. Nevertheless, to be truly metal, your hair has to be either too long, too short (in all the wrong places, not there at all, or too dirty (example: Suffocation). The main singer in the follow A bit more difficult to bear and transform than the mass of whatever growing on your head is the coloring of your skin. Yep, tattoos. Prepare to get tatted up usually with an anarchist symbol or dragons. Maybe you will see some designs you like in the following videos, especially on the guitarists’ forearms. Last, but sometimes least, is the clothing. Keep it dark, dreary, and different. Surprisingly, tight black shirts are not as metro-sexual as one might believe (see Scar Symmetry’s lead singer as an example).
Step Two: Video Magic
We’ve covered the general basics, so let’s move on to the videos – appearance in action. Thankfully, unlike pop videos, the bands do not attempt to recreate the scene they are singing about. This occurs because of two reasons: 1. if this were in fact the case, most Heavy Metal music videos wouldn’t look that different (more on that later) and, 2. the video usually tries to capture the band in action, playing, since this is their most pure environment.
Black and white
although really cheap, this effect worked well to show contrast inÂ Scar Symmetry’s Noumenon and Phenomenon
A better documentation of this effect is evident in Samael’sÂ Black Hole
In this video, they attempt to provoke nostalgia in a very 70s concert setting. They also used an old-video border (lame!) to enhance this effect. A for effort, but C for artistic creativity.
I know, right? You’re probably thinking that cartoons are such a childish idea. But, of all these heavy metal concepts, this is the best integrated one. Cartoons aid in depicting the utter havoc expressed through the song lyrics. Also, like in Black Hole, these cartoons/drawing repeatedly strike the same concept to ingrain an idea into your memory.
Quick Camera Angles
Although this may have the consequence of making your audience nauseous, this effect is apparently hardcore. All of the videos included this to a greater or lesser degree.
If it’s not in someone’s garage or an abandoned dirty factory, then some might say that you’re taking this “Heavy Metal thing too far, man.”
Nevertheless, an example of a more progressive Heavy Metal Video is Sonic Syndicate’sÂ Burn This City which features some classy FX, like a helicopter scene along with a artistic background (of wrecked city rummage)
See Samael’sÂ Black Hole,
and Sonic Syndicate’sÂ Burn This City
Rammstein, Anvil, and Kiss all mastered the use of fire in live concerts. However, fire in live videos (albeit ‘hardcore’) doesn’t have the same desire effect. Scar Symmetry featured the most pathetic recreation of fire using a green screen which made them look more penniless than ruthless.
Along with fire comes burning and blood.
a symbol for anger, hate, pain, and suffering. Widely used to emphasize a certain point and goes well in contrast to the widely used and abused black and white effect.
See Suffocation’sÂ Cataclysmic Purification
Obvious, but true. You cannot achieve any level of hardcore-d-ness if you are incapable of producing an intense headbang. Just like machine guns, the guitarists (most often) attack the camera with their head banging flair/hair.
The more you move your head, the better you are at being hardcore.
In Suffocation’s video, the band members move so much that one would assume that they are absolutely faceless.
Step Three: Music
ahh, yes, we finally arrive to the musical aspect of this sub-culture. Heavy metal music has 3 distinct melodic components: Percussion, Guitar, and voice. Also, it has the ever recurring theme ofÂ isolation, death, depression which they use to attract a distinct audience.
Continuous percussion results in a hardcore headache. Sonic Syndicate, for instance, alternated the drum pounding with vocals and light to moderate guitar.
Nonetheless, the drums need to be banged extremely hard. The more action the better. If you can actually break your drums (or your arms) during a show, mad props to you.
Guitar riffs can be frequently over-used, such as in Scar Symmetry’s song. Again, in moderation, this effect will work well especially a bit after the halfway point of the song. Led Zeppelin was famous for their guitar solos. Sonic Syndicate and Sonata Arctica managed to skillfully demonstrate enough guitar to sound hardcore, but not too much to end up sounding like some punks.
No, really. Gimme a throaty scream, growl, anything. It’s not just to create noise (although I would disagree), but it’s purpose is to reflect emotion.
In moderation, this effect can equate to a nice balance of actual singing and strong growls.
The growls also create an interesting rythmn by balancing out the percussion (as in Suffocation’s song).
Light vocals can create too much of a similarity to love ballads (which is soft/pillow/plushy metal).Â Sonata Arctica almost crossed the line with their (over)incorporation of soft vocals and extended ballads along with the desperate, “”Hope to hear from you soon,” lyrics. They also featured a Rush-like voice along with a keyboard-guitar (Key-tar!). This resulted in an eerie Hair-Metal mix of Pirates of The Carribean.
Need more help on being Hardcore? Just go to a show! For that, you’re going to need some protection (helmet, mouthguard, kneepads, life insurance). I’ll be sure to give you a How-to Article on that later. Don’t forget to keep listening and observing. Some good guides are Vh1′s heavy Metal Documentaries, the Anvil Docudrama, and my personal favorite THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
Interviews from The Buzz Bake Sale: Our Lady Peace, Hailstorm and After Midnight Project are up! Â Check them out under Shows: The Rock Star Stories.
by Diana Ciuca
THE first song on the album, Dark Horse, initially comes as a surprise yet finally slows down midway through the song. Then tension is built up through the gradual increasing magnitude of the guitar and drums which culminates with ‘metal-core’ screaming. The next song, Reap What you Sow (2), consisted of even less audible screaming, with more musical force than before complemented by a ridiculously fast tempo. However, the issue with music like this is that if you’re not a fan, you can hardly appreciate the subtleties in each song (such as the difference between chords and variety of screams). I’ve been to local screamo shows, and they don’t have the energy that Converge exhibits, especially in the first few songs. Their album is absolutely mind-blowing, in a scream-guitar-scream-drums kind of way. Nevertheless, the band proves their malleability throughout the rest of the album.
At times I feel that Converge should stop ‘attacking me with music,’ but I would be mistaken to contend that the band would want to do anything less thanÂ roll with the punches (or high tempo guitar chords, in this case). The album sometimes progresses like a machine gun of noise, yet eventually slows down towards the end of the album and of several songs like Axe to Fall (3). That slow tempo is idyllic (relative to the rest of the songs). Furthermore, the high pitched guitar sounds unexpectedly add another facet to the band’s overall sound in the song Effigy (4) . But then again, the addition of yet another pitch is like spreading mustard on a hot dog of music which is already saturated with ketchup, relish, mayonnaise, soy sauce, onions, and raspberries.
In song Worms to Feed (5), the lead finally slows down with an almost angry Led Zeppelin-like guitar. Finally, this song exposes a more experimental side of the band with a spectacular ending. Worms to Feed, my personal favorite, it more variety to the typical rip chords and machine gun drums, but maintains generally the same feeling of heavy metal. The song Damages (7) probably doesn’t do as much damage to your hearing aids as you might expect; it seems almost refreshingly different. The feedback juxtaposes you in the “cliffhanger” stage of the whole album where you’re wondering if the band will soften up their style or keep pounding the guitar. To my joy, they eventually let go of the incessant noise saturated chords but only after songs 8-12 of more repetitive rip chords. They definitely are stimulating, yet it leaves you expecting something more.
Since I’m such a sissy when it comes to music that makes my speakers tremble constantly, Cruel Bloom (12) strikes me as a relieving break from the rest of the album. The muted voice (a legitimate voice, not screaming!) with the dreamy guitar sounds like the original Heavy Metal of Ozzy Osbourne. With a pendulum rhythm, the intro to Wretched World, the last song (13), represents the beginning of the end. With a slight resemblance to Smashing Pumpkins, the album eerily finishes with extended chords instead of the pounding ones we were introduced to at the beginning of the album. The energetic, electric discord which fades into a soft harmony parallels the overall structure of the album.