Tag Archives: Rock Features

Infamous Albums: Black Flag’s What The…

After the success of the article on  Black Sabbath’s Born Again, we decided to immediately work on the next installment of Infamous Albums. For this second episode we will be looking at Black Flag’s 2013 album What The…

The brain child of guitarist, Greg Ginn and most known for former vocalist Henry Rollins, Black Flag along with D.R.I, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and many other helped formed the U.S hardcore punk sound. Starting with their second album My War, the band would become more experimental, something that followed the band on every release until their 1986 break up.

Post break up, the members would remain in the music business with Rollins forming Rollin’s Band and Ginn continued in his other projects most notably The Descendants. In 2003 the band played three reunion shows in their home state of California. These shows would include My War being played in its entirety with skateboarder Mike Valley doing guest vocals.  In 2010, to celebrate the 50th birthday of then ex-vocalist, Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn along with Reyes himself, played a set of three Black Flag songs in addition, to a regular set from The Ron Reyes Band. On December 8th, 2011 ex-members, Keith Morris,Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, and Descendants guitarist Stephen Egerton played the entire Nervous Breakdown EP. This was a surprise appearance during a Vandals/Descendants show. This line up would continue to tour and be known as Flag.  In 2013, Ron Reyes, and Greg Ginn announced wanting to bring Black Flag back. They were joined by newcomers Gregory Moore on drums and Dave Klein on bass. This caused two versions of the same band to exist, neither which featured Henry Rollins. In 2013, Black Flag released their first album since 1985 titled What The… . Neither fans nor critics were impressed as they saw it as nothing but a cash grab. This is the first full length to not feature Henry Rollins and the first release since their second ep, Jealous Again to feature Ron Reyes.

First off the production on this album is really poor. Sure lo-fi production is one of the charms of Black Flag and punk in general, but here it doesn’t work. The rhythm section is impossible to hear and the mixing is extremely sloppy. Ron Reyes’s vocals on here just sound horrible. While he sounded just fine on Jealous Again, here he just sounds like a washed up version of Mark Arm from Mudhoney.  The lyrics are corny especially coming from a band that’s known for thought provoking lyrics. The album art looks very lazy and more fitting for a 90’s Nicktoon. The guitar work is the closest thing to a redeeming quality. The record has many cool leads and Ginn’s trademark shrieking solos are still there, however the riffs on this album are very generic and get boring fast. The drumming is also very generic. These problems are present on every track, making it a chore to get through in one sitting.

The first half of this album tries to be the in your face, aggressive, punk band we all know and love. Sadly Reyes’s bored sounding vocals combined with the lazy riffs fail to create any sort of energy and a Black Flag album without energy is a big fail. The second half of the album is where we start getting more varied. This is very similar to how My War transitioned from fast, experimental hardcore on side A, to a slow and heavy doom metal inspired style on side B. While that album was great and it’s experimentation inspired many others, What The…, found a way to make even it’s experimental side sound stale. The slow and mid tempo parts  sound very mediocre and chances are the listener is already starting to zone out at this part. The album also doesn’t blur together very well at all. If you were to have this on in the background and not pay attention to the lyrics, you would have no idea which track you are on. This record is so poorly structured that you could cut and paste random sections from random tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. This is a huge step down for Black Flag as their later albums, such as Family Man, were full of variety and risk taking.

In conclusion, What The… , is a sloppy, rushed, mess of an album. Not a single track is worth listening to, as they all sound lazy and are near impossible to tell apart. The mixing and songwriting are bottom of the barrel, which is sad since everyone (when you can actually hear them)  in this band is talented. This is nothing more then an effortless cash grab that puts a stain on the band’s amazing past legacy.

Rating: Why the… did I listen to this.

Interview: Saxon’s Biff Byford Talks Future Tour Plans And Recent Album

2015 has been a pretty busy year for British metal heavy weights Saxon. They have spent a majority of the year touring, whether it be with L.A band Armored Saint or the almighty Motorhead, but this still left them with enough time to put out their new album Battering Ram. Battering Ram is the band’s 21st album and shows that the band is still on top of their game.

Biff Byford’s voice still sounds great as shown in “Queen of Hearts”, “Battering Ram”, and the haunting ballad “Kingdom of the Cross”.  Nigel Glockler’s drumming is produced really well showcasing his style, especially on the track “Destroyer”. Guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scaratt both have plenty of great solos throughout the disc. The song “The Devil’s Footprint” has a solo in the vein of 80’s speed metal like Accept, with a touch of atmosphere, while “Top of the World” has that good old rock’n’roll guitar work.

All and all there isn’t anything bad to say about this release. Any fan of Saxon should enjoy this album as it is one of band’s best modern efforts.

I had the honor of interviewing vocalist Biff Byford about this awesome new release. He was a nice guy and revealed some future tour plans as well as his love for Indian curry!

On Battering Ram‘s writing process: It went really well. The bassist and I started the process and then the others joined in. We all got drunk and ate lots of Indian curry!

On album name: I felt it was a good title, just like the track it’s named after. The name really rings right off the tongue and fits in with how the album first hits you. The first four tracks are the heaviest, but after that it gets more melodic.

On possible music video: We have no plans on shooting another music video for the album. We not too long ago put out a lyric video for “Queen of Hearts”. We might do a live video in the future. Maybe “Devil’s Footprint” or “Queen of Hearts”. I feel those would be good choices.

On 2016 tour: We are still touring with Motorhead until February. We are planning on playing shows in the US around April or May. We have no planned opener as of now.

On the track “Kingdom of the Cross”: It was a poem I wrote and we put it together with some of Nigel’s keyboard ideas. It was a bit of an experiment, a bit of a mad idea I had. I think it worked pretty well.

On favorite song to play live: I’d say the older songs are my favorite to play. Either “Denim and Leather” or “Princess of the Night”.

On the album “Innocence is no Excuse“: I feel the songs from that album were great but the production made it sound not so metal.  It was just something that happened,the label wanted a more radio friendly sound for that record.

Megadeth’s Albums Get Ranked Up!

Formed and pretty much run by ex-Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, Megadeth has always been a household name among metal die-hards and casual listeners alike.  Though the band has had ups and downs, they have always been hailed as the most consistent of the Big Four. To celebrate the upcoming album and rumored 2016 tour with Suicidal Tendencies we have decided to make this current installment of Alternative Nation’s “Ranked Up” series on Megadeth.


Super Collider (2013)

After an awkward commercial rock phase, Megadeth started coming back strong with albums such as The System has Failed and Endgame. Somehow it led to this. Here Megadeth combine elements of post-grunge and glam metal. Funny considering Dave Mustaine always called glam “Gay Los Angelos Metal”. Some tracks, such as “Burn“, start out with good intros, but then turn for the worst within seconds. Even the most open-minded fans will have a hard time finding merits to this train-wreck.


Risk (1999)

Risk is one of the most infamous releases from the Big Four and Megadeth’s second most infamous album. Like the title implies the album was a big risk for the band as it was a pretty experimental release. The song “Crush’Em” sounds like an attempt at industrial, “Breadline” sounds like something 3 Doors Down would make while,  “Insomnia” sounds like a failed attempt at atmosphere. The closest this album has to a good song is “Prince of Darkness“, which starts out decent but goes downhill fast. Fans blamed the contemporary nu-metal trend for this album, but Dave Ellefson claimed Risk was a reaction against it.


Th1rteen (2011)

2011 was a strange year for metal albums; many bands released albums of unbelievably bad quality, such as Morbid Angel’s llud Divinium Insanus and Metallica and Lou Reed’s Lulu. While those albums were weird experiments gone wrong, Th1rteen is the exact opposite, pretty much being Megadeth by numbers. The album is just filled with generic song writing and recycled riffs, making it completely forgettable.


The World Needs a Hero (2001)

After the negative reactions to Risk, Megadeth decided to go back to their roots. Guitarist Marty Friedman would leave the band, move to Japan, release a J-pop album (not making this up) and be replaced by Al Pitrelli. While the album was a return to form, it was very bland and forgettable. Some tracks, such as “Promises” sound like they could have come from Risk.


Cryptic Writings (1997)

Continuing the path of their previous album, Cryptic Writings is more of a rock release then a thrash one. The album sold very well even getting it a platinum status and the song “Trust” still appears in the band’s set lists. However musically,  Cryptic Writings is only okay and sort of was an omen of what was to come next.


Youthanasia (1994)

After Countdown to Extinction gave the band more mainstream attention, their next album, Youthanasia gave them a more mainstream sound. This album is most known for the hit song “Train of Consequences” and the ballad ‘A Tout le Monde“. While far from their best release, Youthanasia is still an alright record.


Countdown to Extinction (1992)

By 1992 most of the 80’s thrash bands were putting out embarrassing albums, but Megadeth showed the world they still had it. The album is most known for the singles “Skin O My Teeth“,”Sweating Bullets“, and “Symphony of Destruction“. The deep cuts on this album are cool to especially “Psychotron” and “High Speed Dirt“.


So Far So Good… So What! (1988)

Megadeth’s third album is also their most underrated. Originally panned for its bad production and “Anarchy in the U.K.” cover, this release is usually considered to one of the band’s worst. However, if one gives the album a chance they shall find some great tracks such as “Liar” and “In My Darkest Hour”.


The System Has Failed (2004)

After ten years of okay to bad albums, Megadeth finally gave fans the comeback they had been waiting for. Guitarist Chris Poland who played on the band’s first two albums came back and gave this record an old school Megadeth feel. This was also the first album not to feature long time member Dave Ellefson who would not return till 2010. While the album has some cheesy tracks like “Of Mice and Men” it also has plenty great ones such as “Black Mail the Universe” and “Die Dead Enough“.


United Abominations (2007)

In 2004 the band showed they were coming back strong. Three years later they show it even more with United Abominations.  Chris Poland was swapped out for Glen Drover and his brother Shawn Drover joined on drums. Some of the best tracks from this album include “A Call to Arms”, “Washington is next” and the Japanese bonus track “Black Swan“.


Endgame (2009)

Continuing the path the band was on in the 2000’s, Endgame is the best post-Rust in Peace album. Glen Dover was replaced by Chris Broderick who brought with him amazing guitar work. This album is filled with awesome energy and technicality. Tracks like “This Day We Fight” and “Headcrusher” showed the world that Megadeth were still at the top of their game.  Sadly this moment didn’t last forever…


Killing is Business… and Business is Good (1985)

Megadeth’s debut is still one of their best. Self produced by the original line up of Dave Mustaine on guitar and vocals, Chris Poland on guitar, Dave Ellefson on bass and Gar Samuelson on drums, this debut is their rawest effort to date. Some of this album’s gems include “Rattlehead“, “The Mechanix” and the cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots“.

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Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying (1986)

Containing the same exact line up as Killing is Business, Peace Sells is the band’s breakthrough album. The band got signed to Capitol Records and the production values went up. This is also the first Megadeth album to have politically charged lyrics something that would become a stable of the band, though also had songs with satanic lyrics such as “The Conjuring“. Other great tracks include “Peace Sells“, “Wake up Dead” and “Devil’s Island“.


Rust In Peace (1990)

Megadeth’s best album is also one of the best metal albums of all time. Added to the band was guitar master Marty Friedman who would stay with the band throughout the 90’s. Marty’s technical guitar playing brought some of the best riffs and solos ever created to the table. “Holy Wars“, “Tornado of Souls“, “Hangar 18“, “and “Poison was the Cure” and just about every track on this album is a classic. The band would celebrate this album with a tour that consisted of them Slayer, Anthrax and Alice in Chains. In 2010 the band would do an anniversary tour for the same album with Slayer and rotating openers Anthrax and Testament.

Photographer Danny Clinch Remembers Alice In Chains’ Unplugged Performance

Edited by Brett Buchanan

As a longtime fan of Alice In Chains, I have often wondered what photographers had to say about working with the band, so recently I decided to reach out to one of them. One prominent photographer was there for the best MTV Unplugged show that’s ever been done, which of course was Alice in Chains’ 1996 Unplugged concert in New York. That photographer and filmmaker is known for working with the most talented musicians and bands, and his name is Danny Clinch. Needless to say, getting a response from him so quickly was unreal and exhilarating. Here’s what he had to say, in our very brief exchange.

What was it like to photograph Alice in Chains at the MTV Unplugged show?

It was real cool to work with Alice in Chains, especially before the legendary MTV taping. I was able to be there for the sound check as well as the show. I love sound check, as you can hear the band work out the songs and discuss how they would play the songs in an unplugged setting.


Do you have any more photographs of Alice in Chains from the MTV Unplugged concert?

Columbia Records has most of them. I only have a few that I hung on to for some reason; maybe they were outtakes.

Did you photograph Alice in Chains any other time in your career?                                    

The “Unplugged” concert was my only shoot with them.

Danny went on to say that if his memory serves him correctly, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, both original founding members of Metallica, were among the audience.

Through his lens eye, Danny was able to capture the most vivid images; some looking like watercolor paintings. Alternative Nation thanks Danny Clinch for taking a few moments out of his very busy schedule to talk to us; maybe we’ll see some of those outtakes appear soon.

You can find Danny on Instagram, Twitter and his website:

Instagram: Dannybones64
Twitter: Danny_Clinch
Website:  www.DannyClinch.com


Interview: Bob Pantella Talks New Atomic Bitchwax & Monster Magnet Albums

Red Bank, New Jersey’s Monster Magnet are one of stoner rock’s greatest and most iconic acts. With classic tunes like “Spacelord” and “Negasonic Teenage Warhead”, the band ruled MTV in the mid to late 90s and continues to have a huge following today.

Atomic Bitchwax are a “super stoner rock” band from Long Branch, New Jersey and formed in 1992. The band’s sound is influenced by 60’s and 70’s rock as well as modern prog rock bands like Tool. Though they had songs in popular shows such as Jackass, the band never gained the fame that Monster Magnet achieved.

I was recently able to have a brief email chat with Bob Pantella, who shares drumming duties between both bands. The interview was not focused on Monster Magnet but on his lesser known band The Atomic Bitchwax, which he joined in 2007.

On Atomic Bitchwax’s style: Well, we’ve been called stoner rock since 1997 and we always thought it was ridiculous, so we decided to call it Super Stoner Rock which is twice as ridiculous. It was either that or Freedom Rock which we thought was  too redundant… “TURN IT UP MAN”!!!!!

On new Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron: Well, for this album we wanted to take a different approach. The three of us rented a cabin in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to get away from our daily routines so we could really focus on the music. We even went as far as fasting for three weeks before hand. When you deprive yourself for that long it leads to a heightened awareness, which culminates in a vision quest. It was like being in a mental and emotional isolation tank. For the first few days we didn’t think we would be able to come up with any ideas at all. UNTIL…. Finn broke out a bag of sweet dank and what seemed like an endless supply of Oreo cookies…… Ok Ok I’m just fucking with you… NONE of that happened. Honestly we just got into a room and jammed together for a few hours and tried to play Sabbath Volume 4 in reverse…. Simple as that. It’s not rocket science.

On new Monster Magnet: Cobras and Fire, a redux of Mastermind, will be released in early October 2015. We’re really happy with the results. I can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s really great working with Dave because he doesn’t let ANYTHING slip through the cracks. He’s such a perfectionist and it’s really an inspiration. As far as touring goes, I believe that there is something in the works for early 2016 in Europe and some east coast shows around Christmas time.

On Atomic Bitchwax & Monster Magnet touring together: Well you never know… anything is possible.

On the modern New Jersey scene:  It’s common knowledge at this point that the three of us share the same Druidic lineage. This Iron Age bloodline offers us a spiritual window most of our contemporaries are sadly unable to achieve. The end result is purely distilled riffs of mathematical precision for all future music to be measured by. With that said “The Ribeye Brothers“of Red Bank, NJ share this vision.

Interview: Exodus Talks Tour With Testament, Praises Goatwhore & High On Fire

On April 29, 2015, Testament and Exodus played a sold out show at the Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, New York for their current leg of the “Dark Roots of Thrash II” tour. This tour is the first time these thrash giants have toured together.

After the opening act Shattered Sun, Exodus took the stage.  They started their set with a nice mix of later material before getting the crowd really going with their classic track “A Lesson in Violence”. The set continued to be a mix of new tracks and classics, such as “The Toxic Waltz” and “Bonded By Blood”. The band ended their set with the fan favorite “Strike of The Beast”. The band’s sound was spot on and the mosh pit and the crowd got more and more energetic as the set went on, a normal trait for Exodus’s shows.

Though Exodus is a tough act to follow, Testament started their set with “Over The Wall”one of their most acclaimed songs, before taking the audience through a retrospective set consisting of their classic studio albums The LegacyThe New Order, and select tracks from Practice What You Preach. The stage had a backdrop of the band’s first album cover as well as two talls signs with demon heads on them that would occasionally breathe smoke.

Strobe lights flickered and changed color through the whole set. Metalheads both young and old were screaming along to their favorite tracks from these classic albums. The band played an almost two hour set , with their perfect sound and stage presence keeping the crowd interested. It’s certainly a metal tour to behold. I caught up with Exodus drummer Tom Hunting prior to the show, who brought me up to speed on the current tour, his opinion on modern metal music, and a couple of fanboyish tidbits…

Photo by Ray Rollings Jr.

How did an awesome double bill tour like this happen?

This is a sequel to Testament’s “Dark Roots Of Thrash Tour” they did two years ago.  For this tour we wanted to bring a Bay Area package. The two bands never really toured together. We have played random one offs but never a full tour. It’s doing good, man.

Yeah, I heard the show at Mojoes in Joliet, Illinois over sold by four hundred tickets.

That wasn’t us, that was the promoter (laughs). Something was going down with the local government and the venue. A fire marshal was called. The promoter was in a tough spot because the venue was only meant for so many people. I think the local government was trying to bestow some new laws. It got messy. They would do a body to body swap where someone would get out of the venue, then they would let another person and that person who went out wouldn’t be allowed back in. It sucks for the fans, but we couldn’t do anything about it.

With the high demand for this tour and how well it’s doing, do you feel Exodus is bigger now then they were in the 80’s?

I think it’s a different time & different climate for sure. I think the state of metal, in this country, is pretty good right now. People are still coming to shows and supporting live music, which is good because I think this music is best delivered live. We are in a very good place right now.

Are there any modern metal bands you keep an eye on? 

I’m not the most knowledgeable on new bands, but I feel Warbringer are doing it old school, and doing it well. Then there is Goatwhore, who I absolutely love. Not really a thrash band, but my favorite Bay Area band right now is High on Fire. They just have that groove. I love anything with groove in it. A bunch of bands today are doing it right.

Any advice for young metal bands just starting out?

Keep in mind that if you are able to play music, for a living, it’s a gift. Don’t get caught up in your own legends, no matter how many people tell you how bad-ass you are.

Back in 1989 you guys did a cover of the War classic “Lowrider“. What made you beside to do an out of genre cover like that? If you were to cover another 70’s funk song what would it be?

Probably something by The Ohio Players. Not “Rollercoaster of Love”, but maybe “Fire” or “Skin Tight“. We tossed around ideas of doing another funk cover. That War song was kinda near and dear to our hearts because Gary and I grew up in an area where the funk culture was pretty heavy. That song covered to heavy metal pretty easily. War just wrote good music, super talented band with a killer riff section.

If you were trapped on a desert island and could only bring one album which would it be?

It would have to be Rainbow’s Rising. I just think that album is a journey. It’s just a great album. Classic metal band with Dio and Richie Blackmore, it just crushes.

Also check out my interview with Testament’s Eric Peterson.

Photo by Rob Muller.

Edited by Doug McCausland.

Strapping Young Lad Announce Reunion Tour, Release Comeback Single

BREAKING: This page will be updated as more information is presented.

It’s finally happening, the day we have all been waiting for: the legendary Strapping Young Lad has reunited. Below is a link to their first single, “Heaven Metal”, off of a currently untitled album.

According to Devin Townsend, “Stay tuned. This song really shows the new direction SYL will be going.”

Click here to listen to “Heaven Metal”!


Top 10 Pre-Nevermind Seattle Grunge Albums

After the massive success that was Ten of the Heaviest Bands From Japan, Anthony Carioscia chose to do a list that is more Alternative Nation friendly (minus Billy Corgan); here he talks about some of his favorite grunge albums that predate the popularizing of the genre in 1991 with the release of Nevermind and Ten.

Skin Yard – Skin Yard (1987)

Mother Love Bone – Apple (1990)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDY2DVju1c4]

Screaming Trees – Buzz Factory (1989)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qNkByj0ybQ]

Tad – God’s Balls (1989)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0tnwoqVMjw]

Mudhoney – Mudhoney (1989)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptGq4NKQoDU]

Soundgarden – Louder Then Love (1989)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waX1AGPtyto]

Green River – Rehab Doll (1988)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzHB9vTlP_8]

Alice in Chains – Facelift (1990)


Nirvana – Bleach (1989)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5ijtz6Du_s&w=420&h=315]

Melvins – Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKq5top9Dhk]

Interview: Benighted Drummer Talks Recent Live Album, France’s Metal Scene

French death metal/grindcore act Benighted recently released a live CD/DVD combo titled “Brutal Live The Sick”. This combo features their performance at Sylak Open Air along with other greats such as Gojira, Turbonegro, Coroner, and Red Fang.  I had the chance to do an email interview with the band’s drummer, Kevin Foley, about this new release as well as other topics.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new live Cd+Dvd “Brutal Live the Sick”?

After the release of our latest record  “Carnivore Sublime”, we realized that we didn’t make anything special for the 15th anniversary of the band. We had in mind for a long time to record a live album and DVD as our main strength, which are our live performances. So as soon as we had the confirmation for the Sylak Festival, we chose to do it there and make this live CD/DVD in a limited edition as a gift to our fans who have supported us for such a long time.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPFJFBlBExQ&w=560&h=315]

What made you choose this particular concert for this two disc combo?

The promoters are very good friends of ours and have supported us since the very beginning. It’s the biggest festival in our area and it was obvious to record it there and thank them by the way for what they’ve done for the band even when we just started.

Whats your thoughts on the state of death metal today?

It’s great to see that the biggest bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Napalm Death and many more are still up there producing amazing albums, and on the other side bands like Cattle Decapitation (can’t wait to hear their upcoming record) and Anaal Nathrakh are bringing  a new sound to the scene. We are very lucky in France to have bands like Loudblast, Kronos, Gorod, Blockheads and Inhumate that prove France is exporting its scene.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ccgqj3KDaVY&w=420&h=315]

You guys started out as a black metal band. What made you decide to make the drastic change from black metal to deathgrind?

Death Metal and Black Metal have always been a part of our music. Black Metal is still an influence to us like Grindcore, Hardcore, Punk around a Death Metal spine. Our music has to be brutal and groovy before all, and we don’t fear any experiment that could sound totally different than death metal if it serves the efficiency of our music.

What do you think is the most important element a metal band should focus on? Technically, brutality or something else?

Efficiency before all and by all means, using brutality, technique or high speed tempos.

Vocalist Julien Truchan works in a psychiatric hospital. Is this a major influence on the band’s lyrics?

All the lyrics in Benighted are inspired by his professional experience and taken from true cases and pathologies he has met at his job. If our music is kinda schizophrenic, our concept is totally respecting the reality of what mental illnesses are. The last album, for example deals with the story of a man suffering with a borderline personality and each track is about a part of his life and symptoms of his disease.

Any advice for young bands starting up?

Always be honest with the music you play. Don’t ever follow fashion styles, that’s the secret of the band.

If you were trapped on a desert island and could only bring one album which would it be and why?

Anaal Nathrakh / Passion, especially with the second song that really sounds like the apocalypse to me.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPwOKohNY9s&w=420&h=315]

10 Of The Heaviest Bands From Japan

Though the country is mostly represented in the mainstream by cheesy j-pop acts and visual kei acts, Westerners tend to forget that Japan has a thriving extreme music scene. Some of the heaviest and most all over the place metal and punk acts in the world can be traced to the country that set forth so many trends; here are Zen Metal’s picks for ten of these bands.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj-Omphc36I&w=420&h=315]

Unholy Grave

One of the many grindcore bands from Japan. Unholy Grave play a very minimal style of grindcore sometimes called  mincecore. The band’s songs are very energetic and full of awesome drumming. Sadly, their drummer “WEEE-CHUNG” recently died.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THHah_rH5Ns]


During the late 80’s and early 90’s, like most places, Japan had a big thrash scene. Japan’s scene was most known for bands who used Nazi imagery for shock value. The most notable of these bands is Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld’s look was that of a glam metal band but also had swastikas on their clothes (not making this up). Though they had this look, their music is alot heavier. If you like these guys also check out Kings-Evil.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMnbLq1nwL4]

Real Reggae

A band from the 90’s powerviolence scene. Though mostly on the West Coast of the USA, Japan had some entry’s in this style. What set them apart from the other bands from this era is that they had reggae influence. They also claim to have Justin Timberlake influence… somehow.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7aJk22z2HY]


One of the most important bands on the list. GISM are a metal influenced punk band that fit in with crust punk. They are known for their low-fi production as well as being one of Japan’s first hardcore punk bands. The band also incorporated elements of industrial and avant-garde into some of their songs, something rare in punk bands at the time. They have influenced many big name bands such as Integrity and Napalm Death.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7eP-DFReyA]

Church of Misery

If any band really liked Black Sabbath it’s these guys! Church of Misery are a stoner doom band with mild funk influences. They homage Black Sabbath in many ways, including having an album titled “Master of Brutality” which uses “Master of Reality’s” font and dressing like Sabbath in photos.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ6Sk8Aj-SQ]

Melt Banana

A band that’s heavy in a different kind of way. Melt Banana are a noise rock band with the speed and energy of grindcore. On later albums, they mix in electronica and pop based song structures. The band is most known for their vocals with consist of very high pitched chirps. The band also features very unorthodox guitar riffs that sometimes sound like lasers. The band will play this year Maryland Deathfest.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgLG7qP46vk]

Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation

Just rolls off the tongue, right? Like mentioned before, a lot of people in Japan love grind. This includes the women. This band is a grindcore band made up of all cutesy girls. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this band is pretty brutal and even got to do a split with grindcore legends Insect Warfare. Like Melt Banana, they will be playing this year’s MDF.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPDndhw75g]

The most extreme band on this list. Coffins are a death/doom band who are pretty much the Japanese version of Asphyx. They played twice on MDF 2014 and it was awesome.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51qAWyJkoRE]


We have talked about Japan’s doom, thrash, punk and grind… now time for some black metal. Starting out as a straight up black metal band on their first album,the band would later become more experiment. Their music is very schizophrenic, containing male and female vocals, random clean vocal parts, over the top lyrics, jazz parts, cartoon sounds, etc.  Mike Patton approved!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_GgowniQWk]


The most well-known and best band on this list.  Boris are an experimental doom band that takes their name from the classic Melvins track of the same name and are influenced by a variety of greats such as Venom, Nick Cave, and Nick Drake. Boris’s sound comprises of doom metal, stoner rock, psych rock, shoegaze and in some cases even j-pop. The band has ripping solos that come out of nowhere, and all 3 members sing. They are also known for being one of the loudest bands on the planet, causing the power to go out during a show in Brooklyn.


Top 10 Old School Death Metal Throwback Bands

The balance of heaviness and technicality the atmosphere and the overall evil sound old school death metal brings is the perfect mix for many metalheads. Alternative Nation showcased 13 of the most underrated albums of that era, and now we (Anthony?) have (has?) picked ten of the best modern bands paying tribute to this style.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhf7RXeMdwQ&w=560&h=315]

Blast Furnace

From Middletown, New York. This band only formed last year but they are already taking the local scene by storm. The band plays death metal that sounds just like when the genre first started. If you are a fan of the very early bands like Death, Autopsy and early Pestilence, then this band is for you!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC3NM6-VG_E&w=560&h=315]


Chicago is a huge breeding ground for metalheads. Many obscure extreme metal bands from the 80s and 90’s are in regular talks among the areas metal crowd and there is even a metal themed burger place there. The guys (and girl) in Mordatorium are among these. With a sound similar to Dismember it is very surprising this band is not from Sweden.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyjQ3gtIxyQ&w=420&h=315]


From Trenton New Jersey comes another band that’s shocking to be from the US. Like Mordatorium, Funebrarum sound like they could have come out of the 80’s-early 90’s Swedish Death Metal scene. Elements of death doom can also be heard in there sound. The band played MDF 2011 and had a great performance.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhDRRm_fNww&w=560&h=315]

Cannabis Corpse

From the mind of Land Phil, the man behind Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan, comes this hilarious entry in the genre. Cannabis Corpse is a weed themed parody of Cannibal Corpse, taking their gore themed song titles and lyrics and changing them to weed references. The band is a parody in lyrics and imagery only, as they have original riffs and music. On later albums they parody song titles by other death metal bands such as Gorguts and Morbid Angel.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6asBlPR6Be8&w=420&h=315]


Not to be confused with the classic rock style band of the same name. This Graveyard is from Spain but sound like they’re from Sweden (like most of this list). This band not only plays old school Swedish style death metal but, also add in hints of melodic death. For fans of Necrophobic.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOLsZG4pT7k&w=420&h=315]

Dead Congregation

This Greek band plays old school death metal with a slow, atmospheric, crushing style, but done in a way where the band doesn’t fall into death doom. The band played MDF 2011 and the first year of the NYC metal festival Matrydoom Fest. The fest is even named after one of their songs!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PV4lp73_Ss&w=420&h=315]


Most known for having Tobias Forge from Ghost in the band (wink wink nudge nudge); in this band he uses the name Mary Goore. The band is from Sweden but have a sound that’s closer to classic American death metal. The band played MDF 2011 along with Ghost (BECAUSE ITS THE SAME VOCALIST!); the band has been on hold since then.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIgmUBABodo&w=420&h=315]

Morbus Chron

Another helping from Sweden. On the band’s debut they played their country’s classic style of death metal but with their own spin on it. On the second album the band developed a sound of their own, playing a very psychedelic take on melodeath. Both albums are well worth checking out!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8olZF-oMryI&w=420&h=315]


Formed by ex-Incantation vocalist Craig Pillard. The band gained wide acclaim shortly after. The band style is very similar to Incantation but with crushing, ultra-thick guitar riffs added in. If you like Incantation you will most likely like Disma.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeurxdwV25o&w=560&h=315]


Though this band formed in 1990, they released nothing during their first run and would split up 8 years later. In 2008 the guitarist decided to give the band a second chance releasing two demos the next year, and since then 3 full lengths. The band plays, you guessed it, Swedish style death metal. But since this band was originally meant to come out during that era, their sound is authentic. The band is pretty much influenced by what was meant to happen in the early 90’s instead of paying tribute to the greats from that era.

Shonen Knife’s Naoko Talks Influences, New Album “Overdrive”, Nirvana, Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame In AlternativeNation.net Interview

Over the holidays, I contacted the Osaka Japanese punk rock trio known as Shonen Knife. Shonen Knife started out as just a hobby between sisters Naoko (Guitar/ vocals) and Atsuko (drums) Yamano and Michie Nakatami (bass).

Their sound could be described as “The Ramones fornicating with The Beatles while singing songs about peace and happiness with The Grateful Dead.” The band keeps an upbeat image throughout their songs as well as their videos, which is something of a rebellion towards their own culture, in which a female’s role was to follow a strict path.

They soon gathered a following most notably from the Alternative Rock boom in the late 80’s/ early 90’s from bands such as Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who both cited Shonen Knife’s work as influential to their own song writing. With over a 30 year history of the band, I had the chance to conduct an interview over email with the only founding member left (due to line-up changes), vocalist/guitarist Naoko Yamano.

In the interview we discussed the band’s very long tenure, Naoko’s influences, and Shonen Knife’s new album, how they thought of the name “Shonen Knife”, lyrics to the songs, and differences between the American/ Canadian music cultures towards the Japanese culture. Here is what Naoko, vocalist and guitarist of Shonen Knife had to say:

Interview conducted by Osty Gale on January 6th, 2014.

What was it like growing up in Japan in the early 60’s and 70’s?

Naoko: “The 60’s and 70’s were very good years for rock music. Many great bands like The Beatles or KISS were around. For daily life, I grew up in the downtown area and I could buy records in town and listened to radio a lot. There are not so much differences between now and back then except for the Internet.”

Naoko, as you’re the only original member in the band, has your outlook on the band changed over the years since you first formed the band in 1981?

Naoko: “Shonen Knife is continuing to grow. The present lineup is the best lineup in our 30 years as a band.”

Who has been the biggest influence on your career, both musically and non-musically?

Naoko: “Musically, it is The Beatles, as for non-musically, I don’t have any special person.”

How did you come up with the band name “Shonen Knife”?

Naoko: “When we got together as a band, I just happened to see a pencil-sharpening knife with the brand name “shonen knife” stamped on the side, and I thought, “That’s it!” The “shonen” part means “boy”, so it’s kind of cute, and “knife” sounds exciting, so I thought “Shonen Knife” was perfect for our band name and sound.”

What are some contrasts to the mainstream rock songs in Japan to the mainstream rock songs in Canada/ United States?

Naoko: “J-POP’s lyrics are Japanese and the basic melody lines are different. I can’t explain well, though. You can try to listen to J-POP songs through the internet or YouTube. I like rock songs in Canada/ United States.”

With a new album coming out in 2014 of the New Year, what sort of themes and subjects will be on this album? Can we expect a more 60’s-styled Surf Rock album like 2012’s Pop Tune?

Naoko: “The concept and the subjects are not decided. I’m still in the process of writing songs but I’d like to make an album which is enjoyed and loved by many people.”

Does the new album have a name yet?

Naoko: “Not yet. I have to think of it.” [Note: New album is now titled as “Overdrive”]

When does the band usually agree on the album name, track listing, etc.…?

Naoko: “I decide everything by myself. The other band members are supporting me a lot.”

Your songs aren’t typical “songs” in regards to themes such as; love, politics, losing friends or gaining fame. Is this approach to writing themes within your music the conventional style in Japan, or is it centric to your band / other rock acts in Japan?

Naoko: “I don’t want to write metaphysical lyrics. My lyrics are simple and easy to understand. I just like that. I don’t listen to J-POP music and I don’t know the lyrics so much.”

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir or a book regarding the history of Shonen Knife? If so, what would you want it to be called?

Naoko: “We are still on the way to become more popular. It might be better to make a history book after we get famous.”

As a fan of your band, Shonen Knife, and Nirvana I would like to ask if there were there any interesting things that happened on that 1993 tour you did with Nirvana and The Breeders?

Naoko: “The tour was massive and the dressing rooms of Nirvana and us were far apart. There weren’t so many chances to talk with the members of Nirvana. I just remember that there were many people at their dressing rooms and catering cargo was touring with the bands.”

What are your feelings towards Nirvana being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame?

Naoko: “That’s very nice. Nirvana is a great band.”

Looking back on the years of your band, did you ever think you would be touring for over thirty years? What are your feelings towards this?

Naoko: “I’ve never thought I would be continuing the band so long but I don’t look back and I can’t imagine that the thought of “I used to be in this band”. I’m just going to keep making music.”

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how did you overcome it?

Naoko: “Everything for Shonen Knife is the biggest challenge for me. Every show, every recording…”

When you performed in Canada for the first time, what were some things you did not like about the country and what were some things you really did like about our country?

Naoko: “I love Canada a lot. People are kind and so nice to us. Our audience in Canada is very friendly and they rock.”

What was the most impressive show the band has played in 2013, to you?

Naoko: “It was on September 29th at “Dingwalls”, in Camden, London. The show was request set. It was so fun. I wrote a blog about it here:


 In 10 years, do you think Shonen Knife will still be around or will you take up your time to do other things within music or writing?

Naoko: “I can’t imagine. I’m occupied with the present activities of the band.”

In your own words, what makes an amazing writer, whether it is musical writing or just a writer in general?

Naoko: “Creativity.”

What are some new bands and artists that you’re listening to now?

Naoko: “Hmm… I’m studying ’70’s bands now. Please introduce “new” interesting bands to me.”

What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?

Naoko: “Keep on rockin’!”

Indiegogo Campaign To Restore Historic Soundboard Used By Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, And Alice In Chains Launched

London Bridge Studios, a noted recording studio in Seattle, Washington known primarily as the birthplace of classic records from Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and other noted bands of the grunge era, has launched a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo to restore a one-of-a-kind Neve soundboard that needs refurbishing.

According to the campaign’s official page, entitled “Be a part of Seattle Rock History!”:

So many of you have talked to us about the impact that the many records recorded at London Bridge Studios have made on your lives (and now even some of your children’s lives). The technical heart of the studio is our one of a kind hand-built 1970’s Vintage Neve console. This is the very console every single one of those records near and dear to your (and our) hearts were recorded on. It is in that spirit and sentiment that we continue our commitment to preserving the culture, community, and historic creative hub that is London Bridge Studio.

As a way to further connect us all and our love for the “sound” of so many records that have made such an impact on all of us, we would like to offer you the opportunity to make our story YOUR story, restore this legendary console, and etch your own name on this precious piece of Seattle rock history.

Among the albums recorded with that particular soundboard are Ten from Pearl Jam, Facelift, Dirt, and Jar of Flies from Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love. Like other crowdsourcing campaigns, the studio is offering tiered incentives for larger money contributions, including personal tours of the studio, autographed memorabilia from past clients, your name and hometown engraved on the soundboard, and, ultimately, a chance to record a single with a guest artist from the studio’s past.  Click here to contribute to the studio!

Listen To Alternate Version Of QOTSA’s “Vampyre Of Time And Memory” Featuring Guest Singer

Earlier today, stoner rock giants, Queens of the Stone Age released an alternate version of the song “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” featuring a totally different vocalist. In this version, a woman who appeared in the original music video for the song performs over the album version of the track — to great effect.

The lady, sporting drawn on eyebrows, and fake eyelashes is credited only as “Ms. Dolly Boyd.” Watch the video of Boyd performing “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” below:

[youtube id=”7lhbmKIDLx0″ width=”620″ height=”360″]