Before I move onto other topics on HOM, today I want to solicit some feedback from you readers about my History of Death Metal series, which I just recently wrapped up. Reception seemed generally positive, but I’m interested to hear from all of you: how’d I do?

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Thus far in this series about the history and development of death metal, we’ve focused on three cities where the extreme music scene was quite strong: the Tampa Bay area, New York, and Montreal. Although bastions of death metal music, with the advent of the Internet and increased globalization, it became easier and easier for bands outside these main clusters to connect with each other….and to be discovered by new fans. We no longer have to turn to tape trading or the like to discover fascinating new acts, as metal has become a truly international (if still underground) sensation.

This final part of my history of death metal is about death metal elsewhere, outside the main hubs of extreme music and the bands carrying it to the far corners of this world…

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Previously in this series on death metal, we discussed the early days of the genre and the different scenes and sounds that developed in cities like Tampa, Montreal, and New York. There was already an astounding variety at work, from the brutal and basic acts like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide to the serious technicality and musical theory of Atheist and Death. But as the 90s blazed onward, death metal would begin to splinter into an even greater variety of subgenres. It was obvious that there was more to this music than just an uninhibited focus on speed, aggression, and gore. Mainstream commercial success continued to elude it nonetheless.

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In the early 1990s, the death metal scene in the USA was booming in Tampa Bay, Florida. Extreme metal heavyweights like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Deicide were spreading their wings with a new sound that was even heavier than the heaviest thrash metal. During this time, a band called Death was right in the thick of it; some even credit them with giving the genre its name. So-called “brutal death metal” was born.

But there was more going on within death metal than this newfound brutality or an obsession with who could play faster, or be more evil. Another sound called “technical death metal” was emerging too. Keeping traditional death metal elements like blast beats and harsh vocals, technical death metal has its name because it combines frequent changes of riffs, time signature and mood within the same song (a feature more commonly seen in progressive music). Off-beat rhythms, non-traditional song structures, a high degree of complexity and theory are the order of the day. It’s a kind of music that really rewards repeated close listening and can take a while to internalize, but is very rewarding when you do.

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Death metal is for many people the definition of what “heavy metal” is.

Remember Cannibal Corpse’s appearance in the last section on extreme metal? Although the mighty Corpse is one of death metal’s definitive groups, the death metal genre is incredibly diverse, and not all bands will sound like Cannibal Corpse. In general, death metal can be said to contain extremely fast riffing and drumming (called “blast beats”), as well as rough vocals. There are two styles of rough vocals: “Cookie Monster” and “Sandpaper.” The first is guttural, the latter is higher-pitched.

Broadly, death metal can be divided into 3 main subgenres: brutal death metal, technical death metal, and melodic death metal.

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Monday, Feburary 2nd, 2014 – Stage 48, New York, NY

It was one of the most brutal winters in the tri-state area in recent memory, enough that Dark Tranquillity seemed to bring the weather with them from their Swedish homeland.

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August 29th, 2014 – Jones Beach, Wantagh NY

Who’d have thought that Motley Crue would retire before Alice Cooper did?

Motley Crue was one of the first metal bands I ever heard, thanks to their song “Too Young To Fall In Love” from the Grand Theft Auto Vice City soundtrack. It had been almost 10 years since I first heard it, about 9 years since I picked up the Red White & Crue 2-disc best-of collection, and 4 years since I read The Dirt, which is still one of my top 10 most entertaining reads.

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Concert Review – Nile

November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Don’t die,” my friends warn me.

My friends looked with trepidation at the black and red clad line of headbangers outside BB King’s, where they were dropping me off.

But I was already off towards the merch booth, eager to see what was on display for Nile’s 20th Anniversary tour. All those years ago, the South Carolinian band had started to find its niche in the competitive and increasingly-crowded death metal scene in the USA. Nowadays, ask a headbanger, “What’s that band that does all the songs about ancient Egypt?” and you’ll immediately get the answer, “NILE!” They truly are that unique.

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