This is
your brain on Diagonal, Antigama, Zoroaster, Children, Buried Inside, Plague
Bringer – any questions?




Somewhere in between the bloated cries of emo frontmen and
black metal’s bludgeoning blast beats, a crop of metal bands has arisen that
bridges the gap between the 1990s’ post-hardcore-cum-grind breakout (from
Napalm Death up through Botch) and an unexpectedly acclaimed resurgence of
third-wave thrashers and bashers (The Sword, Mastodon et al). They’re bands
that satisfy the need for heavy music with greater intellect than screaming,
adolescent laments, while eschewing the one-note doom-and-gloom-saying of
Norwegian nihilists. Some, like England’s
Diagonal, harken back to the woodwind-wielding days of Jethro Tull and add a
proggy twist to their main course of brutal riffs and herky-jerky anti-rhythms.
Others, such as Buried Inside, take the legacy of epic sludge-crafters like
Neurosis and channel it through cinematic dynamics.


The following six bands are-in some shape, form or
arrangement-helping to evolve metal beyond its boundaries, while speaking
directly to both its cornerstone and niche influences and avoiding any
high-minded alienation of the genre’s loyal enthusiasts. But most importantly,
they will blow your minds as readily as your speakers.





Hometown: Brighton, UK

: Diagonal

Favorite Metal Band Ever (According To
Saxophonist/Woodwind Player Nick “Glenn” Whittaker):
hard to beat Slayer in their day for fury, propulsion and mood.”


British-and in accordance, often reminiscent of Deep Purple-Diagonal are an
anomaly amongst anomalies. The ensemble of multi-instrumentalists adopts a Mars
Volta-like instinct for indiscriminate influencing-mining, but filters it
through a distinctly UK
sausage tube of pastoral psychedelia, King Crimson-worthy jazz-prog and
Sabbath-siphoning, atmospheric heaviness. In short, it’s a fucking head trip. “We’ve
always just done what we’ve done,” explains Whittaker. “I think you have to do
it that way-whatever feels right for you.” The chaotic typhoon of sounds that
makes up their debut, self-titled full-length ultimately come less from a
desire to be difficult than an impulse not to cast aside anything that has
value, like a mechanic making use of all spare parts.  Or as Whittaker puts it, “We’ve been inspired
by the collected listenings of seven music obsessed men who have investigated
many varied sounds over the years.”





Hometown: Warsaw, Poland

: Warning

Metal Band Ever (According To Guitarist Sebastian Rokicki):
“There is too much good music on the globe to
just concentrate on one band for a lifetime.”


It’s not entirely shocking that Warsaw’s
severe conditions of Warsaw
would produce a pummeling slab of misanthropy like Warning, their second album for Relapse. Like Napalm Death in a
choreographed street fight with Dillinger Escape Plan, Antigama (whose four
members earn their metal are all either menacingly shorn-skulled or facially
pierced) are the new, more muscular breed of second-generation grindcore
aficionados. Although in reality they’ve been slugging it out in the harsh
winds of their homeland for almost a decade, which has also left them with a
liberated indifference to how their music is perceived in the larger
heavy-music zeitgeist. “The most
important thing for us as a band is that we make this music especially for
ourselves and for our own sake,” says Rokicki. “We like to feel that we are a
part of different musical communities and that’s a great thing about this band.”





Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

: Voice Of Saturn

Metal Band Ever (According To Vocalist/Guitarist Will Fiore):
“Bad News!!!”


While their hometown has been predominantly known in recent
years for crunk, the psych-metalists of Zoroaster are fighting for a bit of
regional repute. Given their self-proclamation that Voice Of Saturn brings to mind “dinosaurs taking a shit” (actually
a cheeky reference to a real Terminal Doom Explosion review), one gets the gist
that the album is fairly monstrous and sits around steaming for a while before
taking on its ultimate form. And that the guys possess a sense of humor
characteristic of modern-day model bands, even if such tomfoolery was once
anathema to the genre’s aggressively nonplussed mystique. “Any band trying to
come off that way these days would definitely have their work cut out for
them,” offers Fiore. “You could easily slip up and be videotaped helping an old
lady across the street and lose all your “evil points.”  Plus, with all
the crazy fucks out there killing their kids and cutting people’s heads off, I
don’t care how evil you look playing your guitar, it’s not that terrifying.”





Hometown: New York, New

: Hanging At The End
Of The World

Metal Band Ever (According To Guitarists Jonny Ollsin and Skyler Spohn):
“Mercyful Fate.”


Of all the bands on this list,
Children (not to be confused with Finland
death-metal lords Children Of Bodom) skew closest to speed-metal traditions,
not hugely surprising given their pedigree as ex-members of lightning-riff
enthusiasts like Early Man. But the five epic tracks on Hanging At The End Of The World are an
inspiringly loose extension of the jam sessions that first brought them
together. “We just like fast music, and if it makes the hair on
our arms stand up when we figure out a cool riff, then that means we like it,”
says Spohn. “And then we laugh about it for a second and try to figure out how
we can make it into a song.” And what’s ultimately emerged on seven-minute
rippers like the “Nuclear Bummer,” despite the casual understatement of its
title, is a slacker-improvisational spirit that occasionally dances with Ride The Lightning-worthy complexity. It’s
a contrast that might have something to do with the hybrid of influences that
have shaped Children’s sonic offspring. “It [used to be] punk/Maiden, now its’
punk/Halen,” says Ollsin. “But only cause I don’t really listen to Maiden





Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario,

: Spoils Of Failure

Metal Band Ever (According To Bassist Stephen Martin):
circa the ’80s. In reality, that band was done September 27, 1986.”


While their contemporaries from cities like New York and Chicago
are constantly grappling with pressure-cooker scrutiny and oversimplified
categorization, Buried Inside has-apropos of their name-remained comfortably
cocooned in the Great White North. “Being a band [for] nearly 12 years, we’ve
seen many flashes in the pan,” says Martin. “Shape-shifting is not something
that ever crossed our minds. If it were I doubt we’d still be around.” And while
they may not have entirely restructured their DNA, Spoils Of Failure is a substantial ascent to the plateau of
post-grind euphoria that bands like Isis have
dabbled with, but sans the uber-arty pretense. Martin acknowledged the 1990s
hardcore scene was “clearly an early influence,” but that at this point the
group is single-mindedly determined to be their own muse, because as he puts
it, “Ultimately, you can’t really worry about outside perceptions.”





Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

: Life Songs In A Land Of Death

Metal Band Ever (According To Vocalist/Guitarist/Programmer Ratajczak):
Metallica, I would have never gone to the ‘dark side.'”


Sort of like Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste-era Ministry on metabolic
death-thrash steroids, the two-man, blast-beat machine that is Plague Bringer
represents one of the most innovatively avant updates on a prototypical
black-metal onslaught. Live percussion is replaced entirely by drum  machines, freeing Ratajczak (who’s done work
behind the decks for such unlikely artists as Modest Mouse) and fellow
axe-wielder Kasparian to focus on punishing guitar tones, growling vocal
overdubs and a sound that mutates into something nightmarishly human and
despite its industrial underpinnings. “Contrary to what many other
‘drum machine bands’ seem to do, I’ve attempted to keep the drum programming
somewhat realistic sounding throughout,” says Ratajczak.  “I have always
been put off by those extreme blasts… I’ve tried to remain a metal band,
allowing other influences in, but staying true to the vision.”



[Pictured, above:
detail from Zoroaster
Voice of Saturn record sleeve]


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