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Who would have thought that Davey would be daft enough to give the reigns of his fledgling series of serious musical business to such a close-minded metalhead as myself? This is, after all, the 6th iteration of this column – a number that is damn good for us sometimes lethargic and apathetic staff members, but I’m here to show you that it’s not just Davey who has a desire to generate good discussion. Let’s not dwell on the who and the what, though, since before Davey changes his mind and decides that this guest appearance was a terrible idea indeed, I have a few opinionated…erm… opinions to share with you all. Actually, I’m more looking for your vehement disagreement or even a casual word or two about an over-arching topic that has come up many times around not only this site’s review threads, but also has permeated the world of popular music and underground scenes alike.

Lyrics are most certainly their own form of poetry, and like poetry the words contained in a song’s lyrics are simply the metaphorical tip of the iceberg in terms of what the artist is really trying to say. On occasion, things are right there for all to see, but more often than not the true meaning of a song can be buried beneath layers of metaphor. Could it be, then, that the meaning of a song and the attitudes that meaning projects onto the artist be that of a more… unsavory nature?…

The temperature was rapidly falling, dipping well below 0° Fahrenheit, with the wind chill shooting even further into the negatives as the tall buildings lining Main St. in Worcester, MA funneled the stiff wind down the street’s narrow corridor. Fitting weather for a metal show, indeed. In fact, New England seems to always conjure up something interesting to welcome Swedish melodic death metal titans Dark Tranquillity to the area, as last February when they played the very same venue it so happened to dump 2 feet of snow only a few hours after the show ended. This time there wasn’t any snow, just an icy chill that signaled not only Dark Tranquillity’s presence, but also the long-awaited return of Insomnium to North America. I missed their last stop in New England in 2007 when they played at a now-shut strip club in my home state of New Hampshire to support Above the Weeping World, so seven years later I certainly wasn’t going to miss this tour.

It’s arguably the greatest melodic death metal duo in the world, making this tour arguably the greatest melodic death metal tour ever, so I eagerly awaited the show. Before the doors opened at 6:30 I walked a few blocks down the street to the local pizza place to get something to eat, and to my giddy dismay I recognized two familiar faces as soon as I walked in the door. Insomnium vocalist Niilo Sevänen and guitarist Markus Vanhala were sampling some mediocre, greasy…

Rather than boring Sputnik’s readership with a numbered list of all the metal albums I liked and then spending three paragraphs bitching about how much metal sucked this year and how xSPONGECOREx is neither funny nor well made, I’ll instead bore you with a wall of text regarding the dichotomy that was metal in 2014. You see, this was one of the truly great years for metal – perhaps the best one in over a decade – but it was also filled with a smattering of laziness or just plain filth. Not filth in the way Innsmouth spewed out disgusting death metal riffs on their fantastic Consumed by Elder Sign, but filth in the way In Flames basically smeared some melodic guitar riffs with feces and then recorded Anders Friden crying and babbling as if he mistook a piss-flavored lollipop for a tasty and tangy lemon one.

So there was a lot that really isn’t worth mentioning in 2014, but for the sake of making this blog a presentable length I’m going to go ahead and talk about them anyway. As if we needed more of an indication that Agalloch were falling off their own bandwagon they managed to somehow defy expectations and release an album that was worse than Marrow of the Spirit. I’ll admit it: Marrow wasn’t all bad, in fact there are tons of moments that were pretty damn good, it’s just that it was all surrounded by moments where the band decided “Well, we’ve already…

Elitism is part of being human. There is literally no way to escape from the fact that people are constantly, perpetually looking down on others for reasons that have little practical merit while simultaneously holding themselves above others using reasons that are equally hollow. It’s the ever-pressing desire to distinguish oneself from those around them; a cry for individuality in a world where individuality is no longer possible. In a world where you have to stand well above the crowd to achieve even slight success (definitions of what success means aside), is it really that shocking that people look at art, music, food, video games, cars, clothing, possessions, obsessions, politics, philosophies, and lifestyles as ways to further their own sense of self-superiority? It’s all relative, too. Someone can think themselves as superior because they listen to Band X which is somehow artistically superior to Band Y, yet at the same time proponents of Band Y think the same about listeners of Band X. Let’s face it: it is elitist to even say that one is above elitism, as it is just another way to assert your superiority over others.

Perhaps nowhere is this superiority complex more prevalent than heavy metal. It is the embodiment of musical elitism, a place where you can be dismissed as a credible “true metal” fan for liking one band deemed so delicately as “complete shit” by the larger crowd. We’ve all seen it, and we’ve all done it. Anyone who has listened to metal has…

I’ll just come right out and say it to set the tone of this post: Quorthon is arguably the single most influential person in extreme metal. I could name at least two genres and countless bands that would not be the same – let alone even exist – had he not decided to get drunk and record Bathory’s self-titled debut in 1984. Taking thrash, speed metal, classic heavy metal, and even NWOBHM and pasting it with imagery so vivid as that of Mercyful Fate and Venom circa the early-1980’s and lyrical themes from years even before that, then mashing it all up in a mix of static, fuzz, and reverb he had essentially invented black metal. Sure, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, and the oft-venerated Venom were around or had been recording in the same era (Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales was recorded around the time Bathory was released and Hellhammer had been playing some very thrashy first-wave black metal since 1983, eventually to disband and become Celtic Frost), but the spirit of what black metal was to become was most definitely in the sound that Bathory developed. The genre is essentially a mangled spin-off of thrash – especially in its early days – but Bathory helped to bring it to places that would really change the game for this fledgling sound, and long after Quorthon had moved onto bigger and better things his creation flourished, for better or worse.

Rather than get into an argument over the details of the…

I won’t begin to say that I listened to all that 2012 had to offer in the metal department. Given the genre’s ever-increasing popularity, listening to every demo, split, EP, LP, or live album would have taken more time than the year itself had to offer us. It’s tough to say I would even want to listen to it all, especially since I honestly thought that 2012 could have used a few heavy-hitters that never materialized. Expectations can be a bitch, so when I go into a year with high hopes I set myself up for failure. It’s good, then, that I entered 2012 with a bit of trepidation, not sure what was going to be a success or what was going to flop.

I’m sure that if I had made a comprehensive list of all of the albums I was going to listen to this year and wrote what I thought each would turn out like, the answers would be almost the polar opposite of how it all ended up being. Who, honestly, would have thought that Katatonia would release their best album since Brave Murder Day? Why did Time I not suck immensely? Did I really just put a Mount Eerie album on my top of 2012 list? These are strange questions for strange times, especially in the veritable cage I lock myself in by being a metal fan.


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