Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Show Me Your Metal: Exploring the sounds of metal music II

I'm continuing my series on metal music. My first post of the series was a flushed-out introduction to melodeath metal. This one will be an impulsive quickie-post which I may or may not elaborate upon later. The reason why is because it is not so much a primer on a sub-genre of metal as much as it is highlighting a subject that is influencing metal music, arguably much more so than in any other genre of music - Environmentalism.

Say what? Michael, you seriously mean to tell me that the same genre of music known lyrically for brutishly admonishing the worst traits of human nature and exhorting the impending rapturous apocalypse is down with treehugging? Well, yes, Reader. Exactly that. Hear me out, because it is actually quite a perfect fit.

Metal music is known for being angry, cynical, and critical; particularly of humans - those deceitful, destructive, devious, diabolical humans. Another popular subject matter in metal music is death and destruction. Apocalypse, fire and brimstone, all that jazz. What better avenue for metal music than to channel that spite and malice towards those irresponsibly contributing to the environmental degradation and eventual destruction of our hospitable planet?

Well, it's not just a perfect hypothetical. Environmentalism is already a focus for a lot of metal outfits. Here are some good examples:

Tool is known for having cryptic lyrics, but this one is not too hard to interpret. Global warming raising sea-levels, washing the earth clean of the human scourge. A more apocalyptic take. Learn to swim -

No interpreting here, Testament is straight-in-your-face with this thrashing anti-ballad. Simple ultimatum proposed: Take a stand, or Environmental Holocaust -

Global Warming, Ocean Planet, and Toxic Garbage Island are the names of just three songs from French metal outfit Gojira. If any metal band could be considered an "environ-metal band" Gojira would be it. Environmentalism has been THE dominant concept of their albums and driving influence of their music. I really am quite enamored with Gojira at the moment. I don't know if it is their unwavering passion for their subject, their unique stylistic blending of progressive metal, groove metal, and technical death metal, frequent  incorporation of atmospheric sounds and instrumentation, or their uncommon song structures and rhythm patterns. I think it's all of those things. Here is a beautiful and accessible (for those not accustomed to Gojira's more avant-garde style) song from their album From Mars To Sirius. Lyrically it is more magical, mysterious, and ambiguous and it ends with potential hopefulness rather than pessimism - something the first two examples from Tool and Testament did not -


I Hope you liked this installment. So the next time you hear a metal song with guitars riffing, drums kicking, and lungs screaming, you can think about how much they probably care about recycling.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Grew Up on Corn Dogs and Zucchini Bread

We had a zucchini bake-off on the farm on Sunday. Prior to the event I told everyone I was going to make something unorthodox. I did. The inspiration came from my childhood. I ate corn dogs growing up. I ATE corn dogs growing up. Hella. I had a lot of fun making the Dogz (the z is for zucchini) and watching Wes try to restrain from eating them all. I didn't win but Wes' approval was more than enough consolation. Needless to say, the vegetarians didn't like my dogz quite as much. Katherine won and she deserved it. Her Zuc cakes with Phil zauce were awesome - in taste, complexity, and appearance - and she hustled votes like a true victor. Her double-zucchini traffic-controlling needed some work however.

Farmer Michael's Zucchini Batter Corn Dogs

For deep frying
1 qt peanut oil

Dry ingredients
1 c all purpose flour
1 c yellow corn meal
¼ c white sugar
2 ½  tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce
Mini picture for
mini dogz
A few grinds of black pepper

Wet ingredients
1 ¼ c of buttermilk
1 FCF egg
1 c grated large FCF zucchini

2 lbs dogs (cut in half for minis)
BBQ skewers (cut in half for minis – cut side not in dog)

-Bring oil to medium heat, ~375
-Combine dry ingredients in a bowl
-Ad the wet ingredients and mix
-Dry off dogs with paper towel before coating them in batter so the batter sticks
-Insert wooden sticks into the dogs, dip into batter and shake off excess
-Fry to desired color, ~4 min for golden brown
-Drain on paper towels
-Om nom nom!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Show Me Your Mettle: Exploring the sounds of metal music

In this multipart series I’m going to shed light upon some of the more well-established sub-genres of metal, as well as share with you my favorite metal acts within them. You may be surprised by the diversity in tempo, song structure, vocal style, and instrumentation within the metal genre, and hell, you may even come to discover that you too like metal!

I like metal.

Not that kind of metal.

No, those are medals.

Those are no good, meddling kids. I certainly don’t like no good, meddling kids.

Limp Bizkit


Fucking Ridiculous

Err…Well…Hmph. At least now we are finally in the musical realm, but I said I like metal, not shit. Kidding aside, I understand your misconstruction, Imaginary Reader Who Enables Me To Write In Second-Person Narrative (I’ll just call you Irwem for short). Metal is a very broad, expansive genre Irwem, but also one that receives relatively little recognition and even less appreciation from the general public (at least here in the states). This is not your fault. It is mostly an issue of exposure. It is rare for you to hear metal in everyday life; It is not played on the radio, in TV adverts, movie soundtracks, hotel lobbies, diners (Enya is played in diners), etc. If you are exposed to metal, it is probably because the douche-bag with truck nuts on his Dodge Ram is blaring Nu-metal (shit) with his windows down at the intersection you’re stopped at (and now you’re regretting that you didn’t run the yellow). So I understand why you may have a general aversion to metal. But if you are thinking, “You know what Michael, I honestly can’t say that I have actively explored this deep, complex, and powerful genre of music before,” Then I’d say to you, “Irwem, turn up your speakers and show me your mettle! Let’s delve in deep and explore some metal!”

Melodic Death Metal/Melodeath Metal/The Gothenburg Sound

Melodic death metal or melodeath metal is a subgenre of death metal that emerged in Europe in the early 1990’s. The style rose to prominence in Scandinavia with Gothenberg, Sweden acting as the epicenter of the musical scene. In fact, Gothenburg was such a hub for this style of death metal that before it was classified as melodic death metal, it was referred to as “The Gothenburg Sound” or “Gothenburg Metal”.

In Gothenburg, the North Sea is so cold
women wear Uggs to  the beach.
Although I don’t listen to as much melodeath metal as I used to, I still hold a special place for it in my cold, dark, metal-loving heart because melodeath was the first and only sub-genre I enjoyed when I started exploring metal. And by exploring metal I mean accidentally stumbling upon it. I will never forget the level of peculiar wonder I felt when my Pandora player inexplicably cued Dark Tranquility’s “Lost to Apathy”. What was this ruckus, I thought? I didn’t know metal could sound like that. It was unique, intense, yet complex and subtly beautiful. I was piqued. I had to hear more. From there I found fellow Swedish acts; In Flames, Arch Enemy, and Soilwork. Eventually my audial lust exceeded the corporeal  bounds of "The Gothenburg Sound", but I could never forget or abandon my first metallic love. You do understand how it is with first loves Irwem, don't you?

Is this music or math?
Melodic death metal distinguishes itself from traditional death metal in that – you guessed it – it is more melodic in nature. Some of its more melodic characteristics include the use of guitar harmonics and melodies over the heavy guitar riffs of traditional death metal, the occasional use of acoustic guitars and keyboard, and the interspersion of cleanly sung vocals among higher-pitched screamed or growled vocals as opposed to exclusive use of low-pitched growls found in traditional death metal. The melodic nature often makes melodeath metal more accessible and appealing to those not as accustomed to the dissonant, heavy sounds of traditional death metal. It worked on me. I hope you give it a chance. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it interesting too. Or even like it!

“Lost to Apathy” by Dark Tranquility. This was my first ever exposure to death metal. To be fair, I didn’t like it right away. Because I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I was not conditioned to handle sounds like that. But it blew my mind and I was intrigued by it. I wanted more intriguing of said blown mind.

“Reroute to Remain” by In Flames. Another Swedish progenitor of melodeath metal, In Flames has a classic, melodic, “Gothenburg” sound. This track is a good example of the mix between sung, screamed, and growled lyrics, as well as melodic guitar work.

"My Apocalypse" by Arch Enemy. Arch Enemy doesn't utilize clean vocals but I think their guitar work and bridges are classic melodic death metal and their lead singer is a super cool badass (i.e. hot). “My Apocalypse” is really heavy. Straight-up, it's demon-worshiping music. The bridge at 1:56 is awesome.

More Angela Gassow:

Look so pretty, sound so scary.


“They Will Return” by Kalmah. Hailing from Finland, Kalmah blends melodeath and power metal. Fast tempo and blazing guitar work is the name of the game here.

So Irwem, I hope you found this post and the sounds contained in it somewhat interesting. I love when people share new things with me, and it sounds like you are not too familiar with metal, so I hope I got to share a new experience with you. Let me know what you thought, or if you actually liked any of it!

Coming in future installments of Show Me Your Mettle:

-Viking Metal
-Doom Metal
-Progressive/Alternative/Technical Metal

And more?