Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan reflects on what will be lost if drive-in gigs are adopted for metal and brings us new music from Haken, Rebel Wizard, Living Gate and much more.
As the live music industries continue to struggle with the repercussions of the covid-19 pandemic, it is interesting to see the activities that are, at least in the short term, replacing the traditional live concert experience.
Metal and hard rock musicians have always depended heavily upon revenue from live performance.
Indeed, mainly due to the success of their spectacular live shows, between 1974 and 1984 Kiss had no less than thirteen platinum albums in the US with virtually no radio airplay.
Rock and metal fans, therefore, became, as sociologist Deena Weinstein puts it, “proud pariahs”; they supported the musicians when the wider mainstream culture ignored or marginalised them.
Strong communal bonds were forged within clubs, arenas and stadiums.
The prospect of being starved of live music for a prolonged period of time is, then, something that will be strongly felt by metal musicians and fans alike.
Aside from the obvious existential threats to music venues, promoters, booking agents and so on, from an experiential perspective there is another sense of loss.
Last weekend saw a virtual Download festival taking place across their website and YouTube channel.
Yet even with the range of bands on display on the screen, even with fans across the country celebrating by rocking out within their own homes, something was missing.
The best metal gigs foster what the anthropologist Victor Turner called “communitas” – that feeling of losing yourself within the moment, when the riffs and rhythms compel the audience to bang their heads in unison and for fleeting moments to come together as a collective whole regardless of background or status.
With drive-in gigs being touted as a viable way of getting the live music industries off and running again and such events already taking place across Denmark, several countries are set to follow suit.
Yet replicating those things that make metal gigs and festivals unique will be impossible – the culture of the mosh pit will be lost at a drive-in but, perhaps more importantly, those moments of communitas will no longer be available.
The live metal music experience will become more individualised and even if there will be air guitars in attendance we will be playing them within our own atomised bubbles, devoid of human contact and that unique feeling of togetherness.
Staying on the subject of the live music experience, two of Merseyside’s finest contemporary metal acts have been confirmed as headliners for Restart the Heart, a festival to celebrate the scheduled reopening of Camden rock venue, The Black Heart.
Dawn Ray’d also recently released a limited edition version of latest album Behold Sedition Plainsong to benefit the US-based charity Refugee Rescue.
All the proceeds from sales that took place on Bandcamp on 5 June were donated to the charity.
This month it has once again been a privilege to take a listen to some of the finest releases helping to keep us sane during lockdown.
We start this month’s rundown with a corker from one of progressive metal’s rising stars.
Album opener and first single, Prosthetic, sets the tone for an impressive sophomore album from Haken.
Urgent, stabbing riffs and machine-like drumming gives an almost industrial feel to proceedings before the song delivers meaty hooks in the build up to a defiant and anthem-like chorus.
In contrast, songs like Invasion plunge us into more steadfastly prog terrain, evoking Yes and King Crimson, albeit with lashings of heavy staccato riffing.
The album unveils some moments of sublime beauty, with second single Canary Yellow featuring an absorbing and emotive performance from vocalist Ross Jennings that provides a poignant contrast to the song’s dark themes.
Rebel Wizard: Magickal Mystical Indifference
NKSV’s project Rebel Wizard returns to bring us more of their unique brand of self-defined ‘negative wizard metal.’
An exhilarating blend of NWOBHM melodies, black metal fury and punk attitude, Magickal Mystical Indifference is a triumph from start to finish.
From excoriatingly vicious slabs of noise like Urination of Vapidity on Consciousness to soaring shredders like The Mind is Not Your Friend, this is a record chock full of gems.
Highlights are in abundance, but the record’s overall emphasis on a darkly mystical atmosphere leaves a lasting impression.
Sanctifying Ritual: Sanctifying Ritual
Although the roots of this German band emerged in 2008, this is Sanctifying Ritual’s first full album.
A record that revels in a bleak, rotten, cavernous vibe, Sanctifying Ritual is an exercise in a kind of majestic ugliness.
Stand out song Obsessed by Gore can only be described as diseased thrash metal, as if the track was blighted to its very core.
The second half of the record exhibits the kind of bestial ferocity that marked the early work of Sepultura with numbers like Carved in Rotten Remains and Throne of Evil Atrocity rarely dropping the pace.
Living Gate: Deathlust
This new band from members of acclaimed acts YOB, Oathbreaker, Amenra and Wiegedood, have produced a twisted love letter to old school death metal on their debut EP.
While evoking the sound of genre progenitors like Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation, there’s a satisfyingly unhinged element to this record that will appeal to fans of new wave bands like Blood Incantation and Tomb Mold.
Tracks like the superb The Delusion of Consciousness and Heaven Ablaze unfurl through a dizzying combination of frenetic, rabid riffing together with passages of hypnotic churning hooks.
Yet it is eponymous album closer, Living Gate, that is the record’s most captivating moment for its ability to conjure nightmarish visions of a descent into a hellish plane of existence.
The Wise Man’s Fear: Valley of Kings
The Wise Man’s Fear’s pivotal third album sees the band completing a journey that began with their 2015 independent debut Castle in the Clouds and its 2017 follow-up Lost City.
The final chapter in their Codex trilogy, Valley of Kings sees the band exhibiting an assured approach to their distinctive brand of fantasycore – an ambitious approach to fantasy storytelling realised through an impressive hybrid of classic metal vocals, deathcore aggression and an emotional alt sensibility.
Album opener, The Relics of Nihlux, sets the scene perfectly with its filmic intro sequence preceding pummelling and precise riffing, before contrasting harsh and clean vocals teleport the listener effectively into another realm.
An immersive and, at times, joyous journey, Valley of Kings features many highlights, with the euphoric Forest of Illusions and the savage sounding The Door to Nowhere demonstrating that these guys can craft seriously memorable melodies.
Well folks, that’s about all we’ve got time for this month.
If you like what you hear from the above bands, don’t forget to support them in any way you can as they need our help more than ever.