Cwn Annwn

5 Metal Bands That Are Doing It Wrong

There are bands who are really good, but for whatever reason or another, I don’t like them. My dislike doesn’t reflect the band’s merit – it’s just my personal taste. Then there are bands who are just plain doing the genre a disservice. These are the people who cause the indie magazines and major award shows to turn their nose up at metal. Allow us to take you through a journey of five bands who fit this profile in that they are doing metal completely and horribly wrong.


Fadades was perhaps most accurately descriped by Redditor ScalpedAlive as the Tommy Wiseau of black metal. Most people watching this will focus on the early 90s CGI and the contemplative glances of a man who looks like the offspring of Nikki Sixx and Grumpy Cat. Keen eyes, however, will appreciate the exceptionally slipshod green-screen cropping and the overt call-out that the video was produced in Surround 5.1, the latter being most lucid takeaway from this Weather Channel Egypt phantasmagoria.


When you’re in the metal community, you never want to tell someone to their face they suck, even if your intent is to be constructive. There’s almost nothing to be gained from doing it. The musician who sucks just gets their feelings hurt and they rarely improve. All you’re basically doing is destroying a relationship, which probably outweighs any theoretical good you created.

The inevitable outcome of never telling anyone they suck, however, is Attila. Given the money that was clearly spent making this cinnamon-challenge equivalent of a metal video , there were clearly hundreds of opportunities for somebody with sense to say “I don’t think this is a good idea.” But as a community, we all looked the other way and determined this was someone else’s problem. Now we’re here, and the fact that this atrocity exists is on us.


If you’re going to pick on Paranoiac for doing rap-metal, you’re not going to be saying anything that wasn’t said about Limp Bizkit a decade earlier. What really sets apart Lie or Liar in the pantheon of questionable metal decision-making are the asides to the carefully-coiffed, patterned singer whose presence is meant to appease those who think they could maybe get into metal if only it incorporated aspects of Train and Lifehouse. The slow dissolve of his face from quizzical introspection to braying donkey reflects the anguish of a man trapped in a world that refuses to perceive frat bros as the deep, nuanced thinkers they are.

Much like Attila, the fact that we live in a world where it’s okay for a commenter on this video to say “just remember, everyone thought Black Sabbath was trolling when they came out” is on us.

The Black Satans

All of us who got into making music in our teens made questionable artistic decisions. When I was young, I made some, uh, questionable decisions regarding hair dye given my complexion. What does vary from person to person, however, is the extent to which we documented our bad ideas. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got some skeletons in my closet. Thankfully, most of us don’t have this living on YouTube and Reddit.


I love Ghost BC. But what makes Ghost work is that their primary influences, bands like Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath, had dangerous occult overtones. I’m not sure, however, that the lack of musical accessibility addressed by Semargl is what’s holding ambivalent youth back from pledging their allegiance to the dark lord. Semargl, a Ukranian outfit that has combined devil-worshipping metal with J-pop, is the sort of band that your friend who doesn’t like metal listens to not because he likes it but because he knows it pisses you off.

Cwn Annwn CD Release – A Retrospective in Gratitude


Another CD release party has come and gone. If you were among the unfortunate majority who were not in attendance, let’s leave it at this – you missed out. Last night’s show at the Triple Rock was an unforgettable extravaganza not even Kid and Play themselves could have topped. Great time. Great bands. Great music. Great club. Great drinks. This is why we do music.

But these sorts of things don’t just come together on their own. Throughout the process of conceiving, writing, recording, and releasing our album, we received untold volumes of help from some amazing people. Now that we’re dwelling in the afterglow, we’d like to take a few moments to pay tribute to those whose efforts were vital in making this project as successful as it was.

Ian Combs and everyone at RiverRock Studios

Thanks to Ian Combs, lead engineer on Metamorphosis, who coaxed the best we had out of us during the recording process and spent untold hours burning the midnight oil in order to produce a truly unbelievable product. If you purchased our CD and you think it’s amazing, know it would be a fraction of what it is without Ian’s involvement. Engineering kudos are also extended to Eric Blomquist of RiverRock Studios, a fantastic Minneapolis recording studio, and assistant engineers Kevin Israel and Evan Ogaard.

Will Maravelas and everyone at Zerobudget Records

Earlier this year, we hooked up with Will and his team at Zerobudget Records, and we couldn’t be happier. Will’s presence has been indispensable throughout the process, from helping us book the release show to securing distribution to promoting the event. Will’s appreciation of Cwn Annwn and his work to bring our music to the masses has and will continue to do great things for us in the future, and we look forward to the fruits of our partnership in the future. Check out the offerings for sale on Zerobudget Records’ online store!

Gabriel And The Apocalypse and Hate Beast

You can’t have a great CD release show without great bands in support. Our friends in Gabriel And The Apocalypse and Hate Beast brought the 100k Scoville heat and kept the evening electric. We want to thank both bands for joining us, all their promotional efforts, and their general awesomeness. And if you missed them, learn more about them in our Music You Need To Hear series on Gabriel And The Apocalypse and Hate Beast.

Triple Rock Social Club

We’ve played countless venues throughout the years. Some are cool. Some aren’t. Some have good sound. Some don’t. Some are easy to work with. Some aren’t. There is no ambiguity, however, about the greatness of the Triple Rock Social Club. When we play a show at the Triple Rock, we know that the sound will be immaculate. We know there won’t be any drama with staff. We won’t be embarrassed to ask our friends to come out because the club is lame or the drinks suck. We’re appreciative that, once again, one of the greatest clubs in the state of Minnesota was willing to host us, and we look forward to a speedy return.

Joe Kellen and Holly Peterson of the U of M Daily

Joe Kellen and Holly Peterson were willing to brave the exorbitant heat and stifling must that defines our practice space and wrote up a really great profile on us in the U of M Daily. Thanks to them for coming out, and make sure you check out their piece here.

Some Really Cool People

A few people really went above and beyond in their willingness to help us get the word out about our disc and spread our music, and for that, we’re eternally grateful.


Our Families

Thanks to Anna, Lisa, Meggen and Shawn who put up with us spending a lot of time away from home in a dank practice space, noodling on the couch to metronomes and placing the band first more often than we sometimes should. Thanks to our families who encouraged us in our musical pursuits. And thanks to our work families for their support, encouragement and flexible policies towards PTO.

Those we’ve forgotten

The hardest part about typing these lists is the inevitability of neglecting someone who had a major impact. Such an omission is similar to my failure to purchase toilet paper at the grocery store when we’re out. My forgetfulness is attributable to being a scatterbrain, not a lack of importance. If you think you deserve thanks, you probably do.


Did you buy our CD? Have you shared our band’s Facebook posts? Have you just told someone we’re cool, even if you couldn’t remember how to spell Cwn Annwn? Bands today are made successful not by the greasy A&R label rep but by the little actions of many that mushroom into a big difference. Your appreciation of our music, your willingness to stake your reputation when you advocate it, and your quickness to part with dollars for those encoded audio files and silver discs we produce means more to us than you probably will know. Thank you so much.

With another milestone down, we are looking forward to growing further, and we’re excited to show you all where we’re going. Thanks for being a part of this great journey, and we hope you all continue to stay on the train.

And by the way, we’ll continue to make our album’s first single, Stay Forever, available for free download. If you still don’t have it, grab a copy here.

Six Iconic Movie Music Scenes Recut With Metal Music

Six Iconic Movie Music Scenes Recut With Metal Music

Movies and music go together like mashed potatoes and butter. Sadly, horror movies and sci-fi are the only genres that really take advantage of what metal can bring to a soundtrack.

Since most movies rely on pop music from various eras to set the mood, we recut some of the most famous, most iconic movie scenes ever made with metal music. The improvements were immediately noticeable.

Say Anything Meets “Angel Of Death” By Slayer

Most everyone is familiar with John Cusack serenading Ione Skye to the sultry sounds of Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. If Cusack, however, really wanted to make Skye tear off her nightgown with uncontrollable fury and passion, the above might have been a better course of action.

Ghost Meets “The Lumberjack” By Jackyl

If you were to choose one movie scene to serve as the cover of a Harlequin romance novel, it would have to be the Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s sultry pottery-making adventure in 1990s Ghost. The only problem? The original music selection, Oh Donna by the Righteous Brothers, takes forever to get through. B-ooo-ring! A more appropriate choice for depicting the wildness that is supernatural sex, as shown above, would be The Lumberjack by Jackyl. We also edited the video to dial-down the slowly-building romance that’s frankly a waste of everyone’s time.

The Breakfast Club Meets “Christian Woman” By Type O Negative

Most of us are familiar with John Hughes’ saccharine filmmaking. The sweet, awkward courtship that culminates in love blossoming between social opposites. The ability to pluck a B-rate new wave pop band from obscurity and cement them into American consciousness forever. It’s freshman-level film class.

What we have found to be far more interesting, however, is how choosing a slightly different song can completely flip the script.

High school is a depressing place, particularly when you’re an antisocial loner like John Bender. Swapping Simple Minds Don’t You Forget About Me with Type O Negative’s Christian Woman along with some strategic video editing does a much better job depicting what high school was like for those of us not named Estevez, Sheedy or Ringwald.

Top Gun Meets “Smooth Up In Ya” By BulletBoys

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis’ starred in one of the most memorable love scenes of all time in 1986′s Top Gun. And yet, while we all remember the musical choice of Take My Breath Away by Berlin, does anybody really find that sound sexy? How could that warbly synth bass do it for anybody? To really highlight the intense eroticism of what was such a passionate scene, we substituted a far more appropriate choice: Smooth Up In Ya by BulletBoys.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure Meets “Reek Of Putrefaction” By Carcass

Few genres are as underrepresented in mainstream moviemaking like extreme music and grindcore. Notice how the subtle replacement of Tequila with Reek Of Putrefaction by gore-grind masters Carcass really brings Pee Wee’s tapdancing to life and complements his carefree treatment of bar glassware.

Pulp Fiction Meets “Big Truck” By Coal Chamber

Sometimes a song is just so magical, so well-crafted, so intelligent that its neglect within popular culture should be considered a crime against humanity. Such is the case with the symphonic opus known as Big Truck by Coal Chamber. Dez Fafara’s expository on large transportation vehicles proves a far better complement to John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s whimsical night out than the forgettable original choice of Chuck Berry.

Death Metal 30% More Popular Than Black Metal, 172% More Popular Than Power Metal

Death Metal 30 Percent More Popular Than Black Metal, 172 Percent More Popular Than Power Metal

Throughout our career, we’ve shared the stage with many cool bands from a variety of metal sub-genres, including death metal, power metal, industrial metal, progressive metal, doom metal, and just plain kickass metal to name a few.

And you might have your opinions on which of the many metal sub-genres are good and which ones suck. And you might have your opinions on whether the metal’s obsession with genres is even a good thing. That’s another article for another time.

We recently wondered whether or not there was a way to objectively determine which sub-genres were the most popular. And have any of these sub-genres shifted in popularity over time?

To figure this out, we turned to Google Trends. What Google Trends does is show you how frequently a given term, such as “death metal”, is searched for over time. It doesn’t tell you exactly how frequently a term is searched for, but it does allow you to do comparisons using a 1-100 score.

For example, since 2004, Metallica has been searched for on Google over six times more frequently than Megadeth.

Google Trends - Megadeth Vs Metallica

In theory, a more popular genre is Googled more frequently than a less popular one. If djent is more popular than power metal, more people will be searching for djent. If black metal is more popular than thrash metal, more people will be searching for black metal.

We picked out five of the most popular metal sub-genres (the maximum number you can compare in Google Trends) and set our filter to return U.S. results only. We then averaged the results by year and went back to 2009. Here’s what we found:

Metal Genre Searches

Click the image to enlarge, or see the results for yourselves in Google Trends

Thus far in 2014, the term death metal achieved a score of 87 in Google Trends compared to black metal, which scored a 67. In real life, this means that death metal gets Googled about 30 percent more frequently in the U.S. than black metal.

Death metal and black metal are both far more popular than any other sub-genres. Death metal is Googled almost three times more often than power metal and over five times more frequently than djent. Sadly, nobody is Googling for thrash metal anymore.

Note that the relative popularity of sub-genres hasn’t changed much over the years, with the exception of djent becoming more popular than thrash metal around 2011.

The relative popularity of genres does not necessarily translate to individual bands. We picked out what we considered to be reasonably representative bands for each genre (with the exception of thrash, where big four bands would obviously be the most popular) and compared them to each other. Results were as follows:

Metal Searches

Since 2009, Nightwish has been searched for more frequently in the United States than Cannibal Corpse, Animals As Leaders and Dimmu Borgir. And sadly, despite the fact that they’re unequivocal legends, hardly anybody is Googling Testament anymore.

The popularity of death metal also varies pretty significantly by state. The below chart illustrates which states are Googling death metal most often. The darker the color, the more frequently the state is Googling death metal.

Metal Trends By State

Would you have guessed that Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington led the nation in death metal interest? Us neither.

Twin Cities Metal You Need To Hear: Gabriel And The Apocalypse

Despite the fact that the computing technology used to record the genre could put a man on the moon, metal music takes considerable pride in its analog nature. For some hipster purists, anything more sophisticated than overdriven vacuum tubes and active guitar pickups is legal grounds for the dreaded “false metal” label.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the word “synth” is enough to send most denim-clad headbangers into anaphylactic shock. Yes, the ham-handed, cheese rock applications popularized in the 70s and 80s did no favors to the credibility of synthesized sounds. Still, the graceful beauty of sine, square and sawtooth waves have found themselves largely forbidden from the kingdom of metal.

Which is really too bad. When you think about the defining attributes of metal – aggression, rhythm, depravity and loudness – each of these can be served exceptionally well by synthesis. A true sound sculptor will face little difficulty carving oscillators to complement the caterwauling of well-executed metal.

The extent of the synthesis permitted by most “true” metal music, however, is the gentle, swirling, atmospheric pads that lend symphonic qualities to black and power metal. If athletic enough, the genre also tolerates virtuoso solos à la Children Of Bodom. But want to drop in some white noise, looped samples or arpeggiated synth? GET THAT SHIT OUT OF MY FACE, POSEUR! DEATH TO FALSE METAL! BURZUM 4 LIFE!

True Metal

What’s interesting is that the bands who have been able to leverage synthesizers and technology to create music that’s aggressive, rhythmic, depraved and loud are thought of first and foremost as industrial rather than metal, even if distorted guitars and chugga-chug rhythms play a prominent role in their sound. Fear Factory is one of the few electronic-reliant bands that is considered metal first and industrial second. Conversely, bands like Rammstein, KMFDM, Sister Machine Gun and Nine Inch Nails are generally considered to be industrial before metal.

In a perfect world, the use of synthesis would not reflexively classify bands as industrial instead of metal. The pinball-bumper-kinetic drum sounds and precision-based riffing of KFMDM is undoubtedly metal. The abrasive 65-minute soundscape that Trent Reznor created on The Downward Spiral is undoubtedly metal. And the scorching, pulsating rhythms of Ministry are undoubtedly metal. But by and large, most people consider industrial and metal to be wholly separate from each other, and they tend to divide their loyalties accordingly.

Gabriel And The Apocalypse

Until the explosion of djent-acts such as After The Burial and Reflections, Minnesota’s most recognized contributions to metal on a national level blossomed from industrial roots. The success of American Head Charge, capped off by a nationally acclaimed record and an Ozzfest tour, helped create the most vibrant and united metal scene the state has ever known, paving the way for an era where local metal shows had crowds in excess of 1,000 on a regular basis.

Today, Minnesota’s strong industrial tradition is carried on by Gabriel And The Apocalypse. Like Cwn Annwn, Gabriel And The Apocalypse has been around for a long time. The first time I saw the band was at the Urban Wildlife (where I swear I saw them as a four-piece with all different members except for lead singer Lindy Gabriel), and although I can’t remember the exact date, I’m reasonably sure it was prior to 2004 based on this flyer. Like us, they’re one of the few Minneapolis metal bands who have managed to crack the decade plus club.

It doesn’t take much listening to learn that Gabriel And The Apocalypse is a good fit for people who appreciate the angsty, hyper-distorted industrial mania perfected by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. On Here Comes The Crash, the frenetic drums of Deter Steinkamf (sorry if I got this wrong – not entirely sure if this is who did drums) during the verse do an excellent job capturing the apocalyptic energy of famous mid-90s industrial à la Wish or Big Man With A Gun. Lindy Gabriel’s distorted vocals more than capably evoke Trent Reznor at his distorted best.

Whereas Here Comes The Crash showcases the band’s ferocity, Silent War exhibits a more fragile, brooding beauty. Keyboardist Figgles Mcgee’s piano intro is particularly well composed, introducing a pseudo-classical sound reminiscent of early-era Tori Amos. A strong, memorable chorus driven by droning guitars and well-crafted synth shows the influence of gothic mainstays Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation.

The longevity of Gabriel And The Apocalypse is particularly evident on Until We Dream – the band’s newest and easily most mature and well-constructed track. Until We Dream illustrates the band’s full mastery of industrial and metal conventions, marked by a strong interplay between McGee’s keys and the guitars of Jake LaCore and Cody Hoffman. Rather than competing for prominence, McGee, LaCore, and Hoffman have carefully sculpted their instruments to gracefully bring out the best in each other. A pulsing, electronic bass sound helps create a driving rhythm that makes the song suitable for inclusion in a vampire-movie rave – the truest indicator of quality industrial music as anyone knows.

CD Release Show Flyer

But what’s the best part about Gabriel And The Apocalypse? They’re providing direct support for us at our Metamorphosis CD Release Party on Friday, July 18th at the Triple Rock Social Club in downtown Minneapolis. From now until the show, you can download the album’s first single, Stay Forever, for free by clicking here.

RSVP to the Cwn Annwn CD Release Party with special guests Gabriel And The Apocalypse and Hate Beast on Facebook here.

Noble Beast and Cwn Annwn Squirt Metal In Your Eye, Saturday May 31st


It’s been six months, but Cwn Annwn is finally making a live appearance. It’s our last show before our upcoming CD release. Get your fixin’ while the fixin’ is good to get.

Saturday May 31st, Cwn Annwn hits the Nether Bar (basement of Mill City Nights) with Noble Beast, Maeth and Rad Enhancer.

18+, music starts at 8:30. Some sort of cover. More than 5 but less than 10.

Want to see if your friends are coming? RSVP on the official Facebook event page.

Twin Cities Metal You Need To Hear: Nopathy

Nopathy Card

“Simple” is a common charge levied by headbangers against more popular styles of music. Contemporary music’s slavery to verse-chorus-verse and indifference towards technical athleticism, they say, render it inferior to metal – a genre that’s nobly willing to sacrifice mass appeal at the altar of brutality and virtuosity.

And as Pitbull and Crazy Town have shown us, contemporary music is often crappier. But any focus on simplicity as the root cause of musical inferiority is misplaced. While complexity is a potent pepper that can add much-needed flavor and zest to a dish, it can just as easily transform even the best ingredients into something wholly inedible.

When constructing music, complexity is a highly volatile tack. Done well, complexity can add a distinctive layer to an otherwise conventional approach – think of how Master Of Puppets’ quickly shifting time signatures add to the song. Carefully practiced, complexity can also evoke moods that are difficult to replicate through traditional means – a feat achieved throughout Cynic’s entire catalogue, for example.

In metal, however, the application of complexity is often ham-fisted and done for its own sake. This frequently manifests as music that can be identified by the presence of the phrase “influenced by Meshuggah”, where sonics takes a clear back seat to mathematics.

Many times, excessive complexity takes work to appreciate. I personally think that The Dillinger Escape Plan and Between The Buried And Me are two of the best active metal acts today, but it’s hard to find condemnation in my heart for people who say they don’t get what those bands are doing.

When complexity is at it’s best, it’s almost imperceptible to your average listener. Anybody who has ever played in a band knows that Rush is flying at altitudes most of us will never touch, but your average classic rock listener perceives precious little difference in complexity between The Spirit Of Radio and, we’ll say Hot Blooded. Metallica was also a master of `invisible’ complexity – Beavis and Butthead themselves could recite the entirety of And Justice For All without any knowledge of the sophisticated composition that underpinned the headbanging.

The best way to incorporate complexity, in my experience, is to approach it like a stompbox. Just as the balance between clean and distortion creates dynamics that take listeners through a song’s natural peaks and troughs, the careful application of both complexity and convention can have an equally powerful impact, weaving emotional textures that serve as an expression of the individual artist.

Which brings me to Nopathy.


Nopathy, a self-described poly-genre metal band from Minneapolis and one of our favorite acts, has mastered the art of balancing complexity, simplicity and convention in order to mold a highly original sound. Nopathy possesses the ability to synthesize a coherent, powerful milieu from ideas that could easily dissolve into a hot mess – a strength attributable to the band’s extensive experience. Seasoned veterans of various Minnesota bands, few acts boast as many combined years of on-stage experience as guitarists Tony Williams and Chris Colaianni, bassist Stunner Magnuson and drummer John Standish.

While a tool in the band’s arsenal (as evidenced in the full-on death-metal triplet bridge in Steps), hyper-precision metal riffing à la Soilwork or Lamb Of God is not the band’s primary currency. Rather, it’s Colaianni and Williams’ interplay of dissonant, mid-tempo riffs that create the moods of melancholy and somber that define the band’s output. The intro of Cloak exemplifies this approach via a sinking open-string line that’s set against a medicated, descending drone, creating the auditory equivalent of a Neil Gaiman dreamscape.

The album’s title track boasts a similar construct, using dissonant intervals and melodies within the main riff to summon a sense of despair that, in less-skilled hands, would come off more suburban than gothic. A non-traditional 6/8 groove (a rarity for most metal bands, but a staple for Nopathy who also use the time signature in Steps) allows the listener to gently float through the harsh tones, softening the path down Williams’ and Colaianni’s dark rapids.

In a sense though, these aren’t unexplored grounds for the experienced metalhead. Whether you were introduced to these waters by Opeth, Type O Negative or Paradise Lost, these currents are fairly familiar and traversed. What makes Nopathy’s sound unique, however, is their ability to craft strong, powerful vocal lines that mask the complexity of the backing music. Just as is the case with Cynic, Rush and Metallica, you don’t tend to notice how jarring Nopathy’s guitars and arrangements are because the pieces are effectively cemented together by Williams’ saccharine, yet solemn cries.

Nopathy’s poly-genre, melodic approach works best when the brand gracefully glides from ornate to traditional, as they do in Steps. A chromatically-driven verse that Mikael Åkerfeldt would beam with pride at gives way to a glossy, modern-rock chorus featuring Williams’ channeling Jerry Cantrell circa 1995/Grind. The song ultimately climaxes on a straight-forward triplet machine gun interspersed with sweep guitar bursts.

Lest there be any ambiguity about Nopathy’s strength as technicians, Obsolescent features a creative arpeggio construct that transitions into a hyper-aggressive pre-chorus buttressed by Colaianni’s tortured screams and a frenetic drumming assault from Standish. After what is easily the album’s hookiest chorus, a more traditional poly-rhythmic groove successfully conjures the ghosts of late-90s Slipknot and Mudvayne. The song is then capped off by a full-on thrash assault that’s periodically interrupted by a guitar tapping sequence reminiscent of an Atari Space Invader meeting its doom.


To say that Nopathy is a sophisticated band that draws influence from dark progressive bands such as Opeth, Cynic and Katatonia would be accurate, but still somewhat understated. Nopathy is a rare progressive act in that not only do they have the chops to walk in their heroes’ footsteps, they possess the ability to balance showmanship and restraint – complexity and simplicity – in order to create a powerful, original dark sound that is neither derivative nor replicable.

Listen to Nopathy on Soundcloud!

Become a fan of Nopathy on Facebook!

Twin Cities Metal You Need To Hear: Hate Beast

Hate Beast Slide

At 34, I’m not an old man. But one thing about metal that has definitely changed for the worse over the years is the genre’s excessive fragmentation. When I was growing up, metal predominantly came in three flavors: thrash, death and glam. To a certain extent black, hardcore, nü and power were legitimate sub-genres as well. But a band’s specific genus was never as important as the quality of their output. Any differences in sound between Fear Factory, Slayer and Iron Maiden were generally associated with the bands themselves, not an implicit commitment to a sub-genre. These were metal bands first – secondary classifications took a backseat.

Today, however, Wikipedia has identified 51 distinct sub-categories within the metal genre ranging from Medieval Metal to Drone Metal to Symphonic Black Metal to Nintendocore. And honestly, 51 probably understates it. Metal fans have also become increasingly obsessed with classifying bands. A search for the exact phrase What genre is Lamb of God – those words in that exact order – produces 68 results on Google alone.

In and of itself, obsessive-compulsive classification is neither good nor bad. The harm it inflicts, however, is the extent to which it promotes divisiveness within metal as a whole. Go to a djent show and it’s an entirely different audience from a death metal show, which in turn is an entirely different audience from a black or power metal show. Each of these sub-genres view the distances between them as far more vast than they actually are. For many, the chasm between Whitechapel and 1349 is as sizable as the gap between the latter and Katy Perry.

Consequently, while individual sub-genres have never been stronger, in many cases, their gains have come at the expense of metal as a whole. The following charts indicate how often people in the United States have Googled “heavy metal” and “djent” over time.

Heavy Metal


While the scope of my collection is pretty diverse and includes acts in virtually every major sub-genre, I’ve always found myself most drawn towards bands that defy categorization. In many cases, this includes bands whose sound is so breakthrough and original that any attempt to label them is done for academic purposes only, such as The Dillinger Escape Plan. More often, however, these tend to be bands whose sound escapes traditional pigeon-holing and is simply best identified as “metal”, like Iron Maiden or even Iced Earth.


Hate Beast

Given my affinity for bands that are most accurately described as “metal”, my love for Twin Cities band Hate Beast is somewhat unsurprising. Traditional labels suit the band poorly. They’re not metalcore. They’re not death. They’re not prog. Thrash is perhaps closest, but the band still drifts far enough from the genre’s conventions for the label to fit particularly well.

Simply put, Hate Beast is metal. No-bullshit metal. Hate Beast’s 2013 EP, Civilization And Its Discontents, is a potent tincture of Slayer, Mastodon and Lamb of God processed through a Metal-Mix blender. There are no breakdowns. No epic choruses. No pandering to the gods of faux-brutality. Simply put, Hate Beast is a refreshing homage to bands of all eras whose artistic goals were singularly-focused – getting the audience to bang their heads.


On the EP’s title track, guitarists Aaron Havlicek and Carlos Lebron display a strong sense of balance and dynamics through a galloping guitar line featuring carefully applied harmonies that evoke the best of All That Remains. Lebron’s opening solo sets a melancholy mood that is reinforced by drummer Yousif Del Valle’s pulsing triplet kicks. And while many bands might have crafted a paint-by-numbers hooky chorus that lamented the loss of a suburban lover in order to curtail favor with the local modern rock station, Havlicek’s unrelenting guttural vocals remind you that if you’re here for any other reason but getting your ass kicked, you’re in the wrong place.

On Into the Darkness, Hate Beast demonstrates a mastery of modern metal technique with a blistering riff lifted straight from Trivium’s Ascendancy. Del Valle keeps a quickly shifting arrangement that could have easily turned to mush in the hands of a lesser drummer on point with sharp transitions, aggressive double-bass and metronomic precision. Havlicek’s quirky harmonies and tortured screams recreate the mood of total annihilation reflected in the album’s cover art, while bass player Kevin Dupre exhibits monstrous chops through meticulous lines that stitch the song together.


The Executioner, perhaps the band’s most well-known song, begins with an aggressive attack reminiscent of Megadeth’s Train of Consequences on steroids. Hate Beast’s tribute to Dave Mustaine continues with a pounding triplet assault that quickly morphs into a more traditional, Bay-area-thrash verse flanked by tight guitars and lyrics that celebrate history’s most vaunted ambassador of justice – the burly, hooded axeman. Lebron’s shredding ability and appreciation of Kirk Hammett are brought to the forefront through a meticulous Ride the Lightning-esque solo that transitions into one of the band’s most memorable choruses.

All in all, Hate Beast serves as a reminder that adherence to a restrictive sub-genre isn’t vital to being able to kick ass. As artists, Hate Beast’s goals are the same as those pursued and achieved by metal’s greats – be loud, be powerful, and leave the audience’s ears bleeding and necks sore.

Sadly, bassist Kevin Dupre recently made the decision to part ways with the band, leaving Hate Beast with a significant void in the low-end. Although talented bass players these days essentially have their choice of bands, anybody capable of navigating the bottom end with speed and precision and wants to be part of a kick-ass unit should get in contact with the band through their website or Facebook page.

Concert Review: Noble Beast, Pestifere, Dawn of Valor, Plagued Insanity

Noble Beast

Since the closing of many Twin Cities venues that were conducive to metal, most notably Station 4, I haven’t made it out to many shows. Not only are there far fewer opportunities to see bands of the noisy persuasion in action, but the few that occur tend to take place in the hellscape of suburban peripheries. There’s nothing like the prospect of a 50-minute drive to Savage to make a Burn Notice marathon seem like the more attractive option for spending an evening. So when I caught wind that Noble Beast would be having their CD release at the Cause Soundbar in Uptown alongside Pestifere, Dawn of Valor and Plagued Insanity, I made sure to carve out time on my calendar.

And for fans of righteous metal, it was an evening well spent. To my delight (and I’m sure the bands’ as well), the room was packed for the duration of the evening – a far too uncommon scenario for Twin Cities metal shows in recent years. Each band played to a crowd that was expansive, engaged, and engorged on palm-muted distortion.

So while the evening inhabitants moshed and drank cheap beer, I paid close attention to bands who, while having been on my radar for a while, I had never actually seen until that night.

Plagued Insanity

Plagued Insanity brought me back to my youth when I was a much, much thrashier dude. While the band fastidiously adhered to the rules of 80s Bay Area leather and spike etiquette, it was Plagued Insanity’s punkish undertones that really caught my ear. Although not listed as an influence on their site, the interplay of held-out power chords (sometimes major key progressions!) over speed beats and guttural vocals evoked ghosts of Kreator’s State Oppression cover. Perhaps most impressively, Plagued Insanity’s two-minute assaults were able to move a music crowd in Uptown to mosh – a feat whose significance should not be understated! In fairness, however, if a band with a chain-mail clad drummer named “Hammersmith Fucklord” failed to incite violence, I would have felt cheated.

Check out Plagued Insanity on Facebook!


Dawn of Valor

It had been a long time since I’ve seen Dawn of Valor, and I hadn’t quite realized how much of the band had been rotated. New vocalist Justin Howland did a really nice job underpinning the band’s power metal riffage with a commanding stage presence and strong lead lines. If you haven’t listened to them in a while, Dawn of Valor has really taken marked steps towards a thrashier sound à la Iced Earth and Jag Panzer with heavily galloping rhythm guitar and discordant, epic interludes. John Leibel’s proficiency as a lead guitarist is also highly underrated – the man can shred.

Check out Dawn of Valor on Facebook!



Pestifere isn’t normally the type of band I would listen to. On their website, they describe themselves as melodic blackened death metal, which raises a caution flag with me – if a band needs three adjectives to describe their genre, it’s probably designed for a metal fan more discriminating and sensitive to nuance than myself. But Pestifere was extremely polished, and perhaps more importantly, effective at weaving a haunting, foreboding sound. The guitar lines were melodic enough to be accessible, but carefully sculpted to make sure that doom and despondence was all one could take away. Pestifere’s fluctuating tempos and avant-garde arrangements successfully built a pummeling wall of sound, but one that didn’t devolve into a piercing drone after two songs – a common pitfall for this type act. Impressive overall.

Check out Pestifere on Facebook!


Noble Beast

Closing out the night was Noble Beast. Having never seen the band live before (my only previous exposure was an old demo recording), I was instantly struck by the band’s primary three influences: Blind Guardian, Blind Guardian and Blind Guardian.

Mind you, that’s not intended to be a disparaging observation. Blind Guardian has long been one of metal’s most underrated bands. Singer Hansi Kürsch actually sits within my list of the top ten metal vocalists of all time, while guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen helped pioneer the speedy power riffage later made mainstream by bands such as Dragonforce.

But if you’re going to wear Blind Guardian on your sleeve, your back and your forehead, you’d better have the chops to pull it off. Thankfully, Noble Beast does. These guys were extremely tight, which was no small feat given the speed and complexity of the guitar lines. Beyond the technicality, however, what impressed me about Noble Beast was the nuance and attention to details. Most bands that I see who try this type of music figure out decent guitar harmonies and stop there. Guitarists Rob Jalonen and Matt Hodsdon have clearly put in the time and effort to ensure their lines were equally melodic and rhythmically distinct. Attention to detail is what separates first-rate from flotsam in this style, and Noble Beast fits into the former.

I also was fortunate enough to pick up a copy of their self-titled full-length and was equally impressed. Unlike a lot of recordings I come across from unsigned bands in this genre, Noble Beast’s full-length boasted a professional-quality mix. Appropriate balance, reasonable volume and no apparent EQ butchering immediately placed Noble Beast in the upper echelon of independently-released recordings in my collection.

More importantly, however, the songs were strong. Noble Beast’s mastery of power metal conventions results in an experience that is, although familiar, unabashedly delightful. Creative guitar harmonies, such as the stuttering bridge in The Dragon Reborn or the Maiden-esque interlude of We Burn, demonstrate authentic and honest passion for the genre, while blistering solos (such as the Hammett hurricane in Disintegrating Force) showcase the band’s virtuosity.

It’s when Jalonen painstakingly recreates the multi-part vocal harmonies of Blind Guardian, however, that the album truly reaches its apex. The magnetic chorus of Behold the Face Of Your Enemy features a meticulous construction whose insidious hook belies its complexity, while the judicious application of multiple vocal layers helps bring the album’s title track to life.

Check out Noble Beast on Facebook!

Listen to Noble Beast’s album on Bandcamp!

Classic Cwn Annwn Gig Posters

When you’re a poor, unsigned band, you’re creating your own gig posters. And when there’s nobody in your band with any design talent, the job ends up falling onto the guy who was able to come across an outdated version of Photoshop.

Over the years, we’ve played many shows, and as a result, I (Neil) became the master of the Magic Wand and Drop Shadow tools in Photoshop. I also developed quite the knack for Googling How to -blank- in Photoshop and following tutorials. As such, I created many the amateur poster.

Going through my computer today doing some routine cleanup, I came across a number of old gig posters I had made (and a handful that others had made). Sadly, the really old ones never survived a computer migration. A handful of them were printed out and hang up in my basement and will have to be scanned in at a later date. I was pleased, however, to find such a variety of bands and venues that we were lucky to collaborate with over the years.

Enjoy, and if you have any old posters you’re sitting on, feel free to mail them to neil [at]!

Aeous - 14 Clicks - These Worlds Collide - Cwn Annwn

Autonomy - January Voodoo - Cwn Annwn

Cimmerian - Cwn Annwn

Civil Definition - A Second From The Surface - Cwn Annwn

Cold Colours - Epicurean - Paroxysm - Cwn Annwn

Epicurean - Defile - LTD - Cwn Annwn

Killwire - Echoes Of The Fallen - Cwn Annwn

Less Than Nothing - Lost In Prague - Cwn Annwn

Lost In Prague - Less Than Nothing - Cwn Annwn

Necromis - Vile Red - Indethist - Cwn Annwn

Quazar - Necromis - Vain - Cwn Annwn

Revelence - Cwn Annwn - Among The Living - Risingfall

Risingfall - Arcangel - Cwn Annwn

Skeletonwitch - Cwn Annwn

SpacemanIAm - In Tandem - Cwn Annwn

The Goodyear Pimps - Cwn Annwn - Kwang - Model 43

Trivium - Gojira - Cwn Annwn

Usurper - LTD - Defile - Cwn Annwn

VIle Red - Cwn Annwn