Animals As Leaders ticket give away

Animals As Leaders at the 9:30 Club

Instrumental progressive band Animals As Leaders are headlining the 9:30 Club on Saturday, May 17th. This is a show will be an instrumental music fan’s dream come true as none of the three bands playing have a vocalist. I love instrumental bands and to help get you into them too we’re going to give away a free pair of tickets to this show. To enter: leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite instrumental song is. From Metallica’s Orion to Watain’s Lawless Darkness to Animals As Leaders’ own CAFO, any instrumental song will count as long as you love it! At 5pm EST this Friday, May 2nd, a winner will be chosen at random (using from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from right now for $20 from Ticket Fly here.

Animals As Leaders members Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes were both from the DC area originally before relocating to California to form Animals As Leaders. Their incredible musicianship and technical prowess has earned them fans all over the world though you can bet this show will feel something like a home town show of sorts. Also playing is Conquering Dystopia, an instrumental band featuring guitar wiz Keith Merrow and Jeff Loomis (ex-Nevermore) on guitars, Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse on bass and Alex Rüdinger, drummer for The Faceless. This band has quite the pedigree but their self titled debut album shows that they not only live up to expectations, but exceed them with a level of technicality and aggression few can match. The opening act is Chon, a progressive instrumental band from San Diego. All three of these bands can really play and this show is on a Saturday night so you don’t have the school-night excuse for missing this one. Now check out these killer tunes by the bands playing and tell me what your favorite instrumental song is!

Animals As Leaders – Lippincott

Animals As Leaders – CAFO

Conquering Dystopia album teaser

Chon – Sketch

Review of Sunlight by Exist

Band: Exist
Album: Sunlight
Release Date: 5 November 2013
Buy from the band’s website (digital) for $2: Here
Buy from the band’s website (CD) for $12: for Here

Cover of Sunlight by Exist

It’s been a slow start to 2014 for not just this site but metal in this area in general. However things are about to start picking up on both fronts in a big way and I’m glad we can start this off with an extensive review of the debut album by DC’s own Exist. This review was written by Tal and you can read more of her writing about metal and other subjects on her blog here. And of course be sure to stream the songs at the end of this post as you read it. Now sit back and enjoy this in depth album review.

Although I saw vocalist and guitarist Max Phelps perform with the Death tribute tour Death To All in April of 2013 at the Fillmore Silver Spring, I didn’t know about his band Exist until Metal Chris asked me to review Sunlight (Max is also a current member of Cynic). Considering how pioneering the music of Death and Chuck Schuldiner was, Max’s role in the tribute shows was rather fitting since Max’s band Exist also pushes genre limits. They draw on the heaviness of death metal, while incorporating progressive and jazzy vibes, as well as far weirder sounds. There are frequent changes in tempo and character – hardly a bar is like the one before it. The album is overwhelmingly heavy and hammering, but can fade suddenly into softer melodies, jazzy wandering or strange noises. As far as heavy progressive metal, I’m a fan of The Ocean, so that was the first comparison that came to mind, but there are similarities with bands like Opeth and Between The Buried And Me as well, and of course Cynic.

I don’t listen to much progressive metal because I often find it to sound aimless, or even chaotic and disjointed, which I just don’t enjoy. There were some parts of the album that I found uninteresting or even irritating, however, there were also more purposeful, heavy sections aplenty. Overall, the album is a constantly shifting soundscape, with many layers of sound, sometimes at odds with one another, sometimes juxtaposing fast and slow, or harsh and melodic, with different instruments or characteristics coming to the fore at different times.

The aggressive parts are very aggressive, often with a hammering sound and intensity to the riffs, although at various points they also create impressions of writhing, pounding or churning, along with some moments of standard thundering death metal riffs. And then there are moments that leave genre limits in the dust. One of my favorite of these unusual moments is in the song “Like The Weather,” which is a song where fast, heavy segments featuring some tremolo-ish playing bookend a spacey segment in the middle. The tremolo-ish parts are cool in general, but toward the end the melody takes off and soars over the churning vortex of guitars and growled vocals. Another unusual moment occurs in “If Or When,” which starts out with an energetic, almost thrashy intro – once the drums speed up, it has the driving rhythm of thrash, though the lead continues to strum a proggy melody. The first minute or so continues to channel some thrash energy but shapes it to unusual rhythms, or lays over slower or weirder guitar – as elsewhere on the album, the music doesn’t stay the same for very long.

Most of the vocals are a low growl, just barely comprehensible (though having the lyrics makes this easier). The clean vocals reminded me very much of Loïc Rossetti’s clean vocals for The Ocean – floating lightly over the backdrop of instrumentation. The growls are pretty solid, but in some places the clean vocals sound strained. For instance, with some of the higher vocals in “If or When”, the singer seems to be having trouble sustaining that high voice, which detracts from the attempt to sound light and airy. All of the band members do vocal duties on Sunlight so I’m not sure who’s singing there. In a few places, the band uses some different vocals, which can be an interesting or unpleasant change depending on your personal preference. For instance, in the last song, “Sunlight,” the singer asks, “is it wrong for me to churn the peaceful waters i suffered to see?/ sunlight shine down on me” in a lofty tone while the keyboard does some random and jazzy stuff in the background, all of which I found irritating. There are some different harsh vocals in this song as well, a more wet and guttural growl, which gave those parts an extra visceral touch.

Although not a fan of jazz, I must admit that some of Exist’s forays into that genre turned out kind of cool, such as when their playing imitates jazz instruments. When I heard the jazzy bridge in “Writhe,” my first thought was, “sounds like the typical saxophone player on the corner,” right down to the bright and reedy guitar tone. Some of the others songs include similar “saxophone” parts. The effect is rather cool, although I thought it went on too long. Some other songs include parts where the bass imitates the sound of a double bass, most notably in “Sunlight,” which features an undertone of double bass strumming that sounds almost tribal.

Beyond jazz fusion and typically proggy-sounding melodies, Exist also throws in some strange segments that leave conventional music behind. Like the constant changes in tempo and tone, these moments keep the listener guessing. They also directly evoke emotional responses, like the confusion and anxiety brought up by the discordant segment toward the end of “Sunlight,” the last song on the album, where the guitars churn like a jet engine revving up, with shrieks and saw-like noises mixed in, or the sense of loneliness in a vast space at the start of the third song, “So We Are…,” which begins with a spacey intro, with undulating notes that sound like whalesong over a high, wavering, radio static-like sound. At other times, I thought they went too far with their experimentation. The first song, “Writhe,” has a segment about two thirds through where the guitars tangle chaotically with each other, which seemed meaningless and annoying to me. The sludgy, churning segment after it, while also buzzing with dissonance, at least has some direction and force to it.

In keeping with the progressive vibes, the lyrics of the songs approach existential questions in an oblique way. The album begins on an uneasy note with “Writhe,” a restless song full of discord and tension, the heavy parts either hammering or churning, sounding very much like the song’s title. The most prominent lines in the song are:

“absoluteness hammers down
onto the self built on the stilts of my dreams
stripping all vanity away
all i acquire is all i am; nothing more”

Of these, the line, “absoluteness hammers down,” really drove itself into my brain, leaving me crushed by the weight of the cold and uncaring universe.

The second song, “Self-Inflicted Disguise,” begins very aggressively as well, invoking at once a sense of confinement in identity and of having one’s identity totally stripped away, but then there’s a mellow segment where the singer muses about

“newfound stillness gave a glimpse,
rifts above reveal sunlight
some sort of subtle whisper
through the trauma
blissfully reminds me that we are everything
all energy
simply currents radiating
we are forever”

This is one of the few hopeful moments in the lyrics on the whole album, and it’s soon overwhelmed by the ending of the song with even more forceful hammering riffs than before (along with extra hammering noises) and harsh growls insisting on maintaining the meaningless prison of identity:

“i am a shell, built, ever revised
absorbed in proud vanity
subconsciously tuning out
ease of my deconstruction
i love and i suffer,
but only through my defensive eyes
(nothing. a self-inflicted disguise)”

So we are not forever – we are nothing but empty shells.

I actually felt repelled by the lyrics of the third song, “So We Are.” The first verse is particularly disturbing, evoking an image of some sort of imprisonment or torture chamber, which seems to represent being forced to confront the disgusting nature of one’s own humanity. From the emptiness of self of the previous song, the theme moves to revulsion at others and self-hatred for not being any different from them.

The next song, “Like the Weather,” was the first song where I was able to identify with the lyrics. The song begins,

“experience of change in circumstance
says discontent is a container always filled
adjusting the size of all of our pain with respect to what’s there”

As someone who is frequently dissatisfied with how my life is going, I found this very insightful. However, if I hoped to be uplifted, I was wrong. The chorus questions:

“what really matters at all?
ascend as I ascend and fall as I fall
in sameness

my feelings change as they change;
i’m the weather”

Around the same time, I just happened to be reading a book on the practices of Tibetan Buddhism (The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön) that compared the constant changes of life to the natural climate. You can’t do anything about it; you just have to endure it. So that was what I read into this song – our feelings pass over us like weather, to be withstood or experienced, without lasting significance. Without the emphasis on compassion of those Buddhist practices, though, this is a rather bleak outlook on life. Not only that, but the frequent references to violence made me uneasy with this persona.

Yet, he can’t help questioning,

“if the riches of the world have jaded me for time and time
why must i still fill this emptiness?”

In the end, the lyrics which touched a chord with me, along with some lovely melodic moments, made this my favorite song on the album.

The next song, “Vessel,” is a song that’s overall slow and soft, and has a lovely intro that makes me think of rippling water (and it continues as the instrumental backing to the soft, drifting vocals). It’s a nice break from the heaviness and emotional intensity of the other songs, with some heaviness and discord in the bridge in the middle keeping it from getting boring. The piano sweeps toward the end are kind of irritating though – they destroy the peaceful mood and bring back the uneasiness of the other songs. And then the distant, distorted voices and wafts of guitar sound at the very end make one feel lost in vast emptiness.

In terms of lyrics, “Vessel” is more meditative and open-ended than the other songs – almost every line ends with a question mark. “need we others to see our truth at all?” “as to suffer so is to love. do we love? do we see beyond the wall?” “just a vessel, all is one / will we? won’t we / hold the sun?” With the soothing, rippling-water melody and the gently questioning lyrics, it’s a moment of peace and hope amid the violence and self-destruction of the other songs.

The intro to the next song, “If or When,” draws me in with its infectious momentum, especially the drums. Once the vocals start, it’s an assault similar to the other songs – attacking our notions of being able to attach any meaning at all to life (this time, the focus is on the pointlessness of chasing the future).

The last song is “Sunlight,” and as the title might indicate, this song brings back a note of hope. The growled parts seem to be doing their damnedest to hold the persona back in uncertainty, questioning the potential to ever accomplish anything:

“are you the one that made you complete?
with your face in the dirt?
was nobility there in the absence of sin?
did you fly higher in your ascent than where you were before?”

But the clean vocals win out in the end:

“wash away the lines i see
everything’s disharmony is everything it needs to be
everything i see is me
watching skies above in my own search for nothing
wash away the lines I see so I can be at peace”

After the harsh vocals bid us “goodbye” and the guitars take off with a jet-engine like sound, clean female vocals add “we are everything, all energy, simply currents, radiating, we are forever.” Then two alternating keyboard notes usher the album out.

As I traveled through the album with lyrics in hand, I experienced a lot of discomfort as I tried to get into the persona of the songs. Are we really this despicable? Maybe we are, and yet somehow we go on. We still exist; we still see the sunlight. Metal can examine the most desolate corners of humanity, but the end result is we feel more human. Or perhaps it is that we define being human by questioning what we really are.

“equated to an empty shell
yet we’re still sentient beings trapped in our defeat
so if the value was myself
i wonder now on what terms i even exist”

Exist couches these questions in the medium of a progressive death metal album that is at times crushingly heavy or drivingly aggressive, at times beautiful, even gentle and calm, and at times just weird, sometimes to the point of being irritating or seemingly pointless. There may be a statement in that, considering how deeply the lyrics probe questions of the meaning of existence. The beauty of it is that we are left to wonder and figure it out on our own.

Self-Inflicted Disguise:

If Or When:

So We Are…:

Goblin ticket give away

Goblin at the 9:30 Club

OK so Goblin isn’t exactly a metal band, but since the Italian progressive group has been recording horror movie soundtracks since the 70s I figured there’s a good amount of cross over here and some of you metal heads might want to check these guys out when they play the 9:30 Club on Friday, December 13th. Please note that this is an early show (the venue has another unrelated concert starting at 10pm the same night) and doors will open at 6pm and I’d expect it to be over at about 9pm. We’re pretty excited about this rare chance to see Goblin live so is giving away a pair of tickets this show to one of you lucky readers. To enter leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite horror movie is. This Friday, December 6th at 5pm EST a winner will be chosen at random (using from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly right now for $25 here.

Goblin is famous for composing music for underground horror classics like Suspiria, George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, Deep Red, Profondo Rosso and many more! If you’re not familiar with the band I highly recommend you check out this beginner’s guide to Goblin here, and of course check out a few of the songs I’ve got streaming at the end of this post. In 40 years the band has never come to North America, until now, and who knows if they’ll ever tour here again so fans of horror movie soundtracks will not want to miss this rare chance to see Goblin play live. And be sure to get there in time to catch the opening act Zombi. Now check out these classic Goblin tunes and tell me what you favorite horror movie is in the comments!

Listen To Nightmonger by Midnight Eye

Local metal band Midnight Eye is releasing their EP Nightmonger and they kick off their tour supporting it with a free show this Thursday, August 8th, at The Pinch in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington DC (details here). Stream the EP above, pick it up on Bandcamp here and be sure to come out Thursday to watch these guitar wizards pull this stuff off live. And while you’re listening to Nightmonger, check out the review of it below by new DCHM writer Tal (you can find more of her writing on her regular blog here).

Band: Midnight Eye
Album: Nightmonger
Release Date: 8 August 2013
Buy From Bandcamp for $4: Here

Cover of Nightmonger by Midnight Eye

Midnight Eye further develops their distinctive sound with their 3-song EP Nightmonger. The new release keeps the energetic heavy metal/thrash groundwork that they laid in their first album, Sign, but also takes a few steps further in the progressive direction, with unusual vocals as well as widely varying guitar passages. But these guys have the guitar chops to tackle all the different styles they want to pursue, and piece them together fairly cohesively.

Rocking NWOBHM riffs just on the verge of thrashy form the base of their sound, occasionally taking off into a full-out frenzy-inducing thrash whirlwind. Along with shreddy guitar solos, there’s also a lot more noodling compared to the first album and even a low-tempo acoustic passage in the second song, “Chaos.” The change of pace when the acoustic segment begins is a little jarring, but it doesn’t utterly destroy the energy of the song. The bass and drums soon come back in to give the instrumental some thrash kick, and after the lead guitars meander for a bit, they finish the song with a speeded up version of the main riff, giving it a satisfying conclusion. Missing from the EP are the doomy segments that haunted a couple songs from the first album, but the third song, “Outsider,” features some buzzsaw black metal riffs instead. The end of this song, which really picks up the black metal sound with insistent drums and sweeping tremolo riffs, is one of my favorite moments on the EP.

While the guitars have immediate appeal, the vocals take some getting used to. The tone of the mid-range clean vocals, which dominate Sign, is unusual, although it sounds sort of like a mid-range take on early King Diamond. Nightmonger showcases a lot more of Simon Callahan’s ability to generate King Diamond-like shrieks and high-pitched notes, especially in the second song, “Chaos.” I’m still not quite sure if their attempt to combine the shrieks and clean vocals works in that song, but I do prefer the high-pitched vocals to the mid-range ones overall.

I enjoyed staring at the simple and yet intricate cover design for a while. It reflects the band’s carefully executed complexity, and hints at the black metal touches in their music. The depth of their lyrics also matches the complexity of the band’s sound. I enjoy lyrics that are a bit poetic, rather than obvious and straightforward. While the chorus of the first song is pretty direct – “people cling to these very truths:/they love their nation/before other nations/they love their friends/not others” – the verses are more subtle. This song is apparently based on the Chinese philosophical text Zhuangzi, which espouses harmony with the natural way of things, so the nature images in the verses are a fitting touch. The ending of the song – “sound the alarm/tell everyone/there’s no purpose/to anything at all” – at first seems like an abrupt break with the theme of waxing and waning concern for others. Chinese philosophical anecdotes often end with a lesson, though, and looking at it that way, the lesson in the last verse is that human attachments are so changeable that there’s really no purpose in pursuing them. The other two songs, while not as cryptic, are also nicely constructed, using images and metaphors to propel their message of distrust of those in power. I particularly like the phrase, “outsiders,/from shades of grey/are made in the/gears of the world,” from the third song, “Outsider.” It reflects a penetrating awareness of how otherness is constructed and used by the majority.

I’m enjoying the EP more with each listen, and looking forward to hearing the band play it live. Midnight Eye is holding a release party this Thursday, supported by Exar Kun and Thrain, so don’t miss the chance to see these stellar guitarists live. I’ll be there pushing people around when the thrashy parts take off!

Meshuggah ticket give away

Meshuggah at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Sweden’s technical metal masters Meshuggah are returning to the Fillmore Silver Spring for a second time this Saturday, February 16th, 2013. has a pair of tickets to this show to give to one of you lucky readers. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to come to this show. Maybe you saw them last year when they played the Fillmore and you want to see another killer Meshuggah show, or maybe you missed them last time or maybe you’re still waiting for your tax return from Uncle Sam and can use a night of free metal. On Friday, February 15th at 5pm EST I’ll pick one lucky winner from all valid entries at random (using to win the pair of tickets. Please don’t enter if you cannot attend! The contest ends the day before the show so there isn’t time for me to contact additional winners if you win but can’t go. Be sure to enter with a valid email address you check regularly so I can contact you if you do win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any email lists or anything like that, I hate spam too. If you enter more than once then all of your entries will be disqualified. If the contest is over when you read this or you simply can’t wait to find out if you win the contest you can buy tickets from Live Nation for $26 here.

Meshuggah is on the second leg of their Ophidian Trek tour supporting their newest album, Koloss. As expected the album is a beast and they’ll be playing songs from it as well as older classics throughout their set. They have also just released Pitch Black, a free two track EP from Scion A/V that you can stream and/or download here. They’ll even have copies of Pitch Black on vinyl available at the merch booth at this show at the Fillmore! Also playing this show will be Animals As Leaders, an instrumental progressive metal band featuring former DC native Tosin Abasi on guitar. Let me tell you the guy can play! He is quite possibly the best guitarist in metal right now. The opening act will be the LA based trippy progressive metal band Intronaut. Don’t expect any slack instrumentation from them either. In all this should be another great metal show at the Fillmore. Check out the videos below by each band playing and tell me the reason you want to go to this awesome show in the comments!

Primordial, While Heaven Wept and Cormorant at Empire

Primordial‘s tour came through town and Wednesday the 12th of September found me back at Empire in Springfield, Virginia just two days after seeing Obituary, Broken Hope and Decrepit Birth there (see my post on that show here). The first band I saw Wednesday was Cormorant, a sort of proggy, melodic metal band from San Francisco. They played a long set but since there were no local openers for this show I suppose they had the time to. They were pretty good live and I liked how they mentioned that one of their songs, Blood On The Cornfields, took place in Virginia as it was about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and subsequent execution in 1831. Like the other bands on this tour their songs were long, but they kept it interesting and I wasn’t bored at all. The second band to play was While Heaven Wept, which is loosely based in the Northern Virginia, however some members live outside of the area. They drew the biggest crowd of the night probably due to their friends coming to see them play since this was their first area appearance in many years. I’m not sure how to describe their sound, it had some elements of power metal and prog and even some thrash and goth parts. I didn’t mind the music so much but frontman Rain Irving’s voice just didn’t do it for me. I’m sure there are some people that really like that style of clean singing but personally, it isn’t my thing. I’ve got a video of them from this show posted below so you can make up your own mind. It should also be noted that, according to the Metal Archives, While Heaven Wept’s guitar player Tom Phillips was once a member of the NSBM band (that stands for National Socialist Black Metal, aka Nazi black metal) Grand Belial’s Key. I refuse to cover or promote bigoted bands on this site and I don’t think While Heaven Wept are a bunch of racists but I thought it should be noted that at least one member of the band has ties to that nonsense. I don’t know the guy personally and maybe he has changed his ways, or perhaps the Metal Archives are simply incorrect but that’s the info I have.

UPDATE: Tom Phillips replied in the comments below, which I will quote here as well, to clarify his association with GBK and I’m inclined to believe him. I hope this makes things more clear for everyone.

Woah dude. Let’s get something clear immediately; yes, I was once involved with the first version of Grand Belial’s Key backing them up on keyboards…this was during the demo era, which was strictly LaVeyian/Anti-Christian Black Metal; that version of the band ended in the early 90′s when Lord Vlad left to join Ancient…the band was done/over/defunct. Fast forward several years and Gelal formed a new version of the band that had more extreme views and lyrical content. I personally had nothing to do with this 2nd incarnation, and it should be noted that While Heaven Wept is neither religious nor political in any way at all; all of our lyrics for the past 23 years are based upon real-life experiences and emotions – and it would be greatly appreciated if this were made clear. Metal Archives does not know or tell the whole story, and while I am proud to have been part of one of the first American Black Metal bands, neither myself nor anyone in WHW have anything to do with NSBM or fascism of any kind. – Tom Phillips

Anyways, let’s move on to talk of the headliner…

Primordial is an Irish folk/black metal band that has some truly epic songs that, to me at least, really separates them from the less serious mead chugging bands that seem to be dominating the folk metal genre these days. Primordial’s set list (see it here) featured a lot of material from their latest album, Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand, which was fine by me since I love that album. This was my first time seeing Primordial and the band’s frontman, A.A. Nemtheanga, was a true showman. He kept the audience constantly into the show and he seemed to always be up to something on stage, be it posing dramatically or walking right up to the audience and sharing the mic. Unfortunately the crowd thinned out considerably after While Heaven Wept finished playing when most of their local friends left. Sucks for them because they really missed a hell of a performance by a band that doesn’t tour the US very often. The show ended on a very high note with the entire crowd going crazy and singing along with the chorus line on their closing song, Empire Falls.

I’ve posted lots of photos and a few videos of each band that played the show below. Some of you might have noticed that Arkansas based doom metal band Pallbearer was playing at the Rock & Roll Hotel the same night Primordial was at Empire. I knew I couldn’t make it to both shows on the same night so I caught Pallbearer at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia last Saturday (the 8th). They were very heavy live but if you asked me which show was better now that I have seen both I would definitely have to say Primordial. September is a busy month full of some great metal concerts so be sure to check the upcoming concert calendar, get out to a show and support the scene you’re a part of!


Nick Cohon of Cormorant

Matt Solis of Cormorant

Arthur von Nagel of Cormorant

Arthur von Nagel of Cormorant

While Heaven Wept:

Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept

Rain Irving of While Heaven Wept

While Heaven Wept at Empire

Rain Irving of While Heaven Wept

Scott Loose of While Heaven Wept

Jim Hunter of While Heaven Wept


Primordial at Empire

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial

Ciáran MacUiliam of Primordial

Primordial at Empire

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial

Pól MacAmlaigh of Primordial

Primordial at Empire

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial

A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial