In an interview conducted in the summer of 2004, Alex Varkatzas, lead singer of the shameless, SoCal, screamo outfit Atreyu emphatically stated, “Fuck Black Sabbath. I don’t give a fuck about the fucking ‘roots.’ Those aren’t my roots, so I don’t fucking care. Everyone goes, ‘Gasp! You don’t like Led Zeppelin?’ I’m fucking 22 years old! I don’t care! Green Day was more important to me, you know?”
For a band that was born and raised in the hardcore scene and not the confines of Gilman Street, the statement served not only to be ignorant but also ill-timed as Varkatzas and his band mates were gearing up for a two month summer stint on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ozzfest” which featured none other than the aforementioned Black Sabbath. While many disregarded the statement as a disrespectful and uneducated stunt to garner publicity, Varkatzas was actually speaking for legions of his fans and peers, whether he knew it or not. The hardcore scene that Atreyu and Victory Records caters to is far devolved from the days of NYHC circle pits and five dollar Sunday matinees at Coney Island High. These days, the scene is saturated with shattered hearts and cinctured by studded leather. The band leaders worship at an altar that is 75% Steven Patrick Morrissey and 25% Jaccob Bannon. Their music is more melodic than it is ferocious. Their feelings are always hurt, their hair is always perfect. Their knowledge of music will hardly ever translate before Nevermind. They think Blue Cheer is a detergent. They have livejournals. If you’re anything like me, you know this is how heavy music was not supposed to turn out. From Ray Davies to Ray Beeze, all the forefathers of the breakdown had grander plans. In short, where have all the headbangers gone?
Fear not, young hessians, for heavy metal has its home and that home is the New York based label Kemado Records. Though relatively obscure to any guy wearing eyeliner, Kemado Records boasts a small but impressive lineup of today’s premiere acts. INVADERS is a compilation of mostly unreleased material from more than 17 bands (5 of which call Kemado home) of a similar stomping ilk, all unafraid to wear their Sabbath pride on their sleeves and all guaranteed to leave your neck sore the next morning.
“Circle of Servants Bodies,” the first track by Saviours, lives up to its imagistic title utilizing a sludge friendly guitar riff and drums that signal a Viking funeral march of pounding proportions. The vocals fluctuate between a distorted howl and a throat raked scream each style not overpowering the other one and both accenting the sheer intensity of the music.
The compilation continues with Kemado Records’ very own Danava and their epic “By The Mark,” a seven-minute plus track that’s more ’60s psychedelic San Francisco than it is Satanic. Reverb leaping from the speakers and wailing wah wah pedals give way to a tidal wave of cymbal crashes and ascending guitar work while the singer’s high ended echo vocals channel a young Osbourne shouting at a demon trapped in a well of his parent’s home.
The highlight of the compilation comes in the form of the Austin, Texas band known as The Sword. After amassing critical kudos from their 2006 debut Age of Winters and an equally impressive stint at this year’s SXSW festival, the Sword unveils “Under the Boroughs,” a pummeling clap of dropped d thunder that shakes all in its path and demonstrates that maybe one should think twice before engaging in any sort of altercation with the state of Texas.
Dungen provides a light-hearted, 2 minute acid-washed romp that’s one part Strawberry Alarm Clock, one part Jethro Tull with their instrumental cut “Christopher” while guitar geek extrodainares the Fucking Champs get heavy in the most technical of senses with their equally instrumental, though more classically trained track “The Loge.” Pelican provides listeners with a peek into their progressively peculiar psyche with “Ran Amber” from their latest release and Diamond Nights’ previously unreleased “12 Walls” fall somewhere between glam gone bad and early Iron Maiden. Rounding out the release is Parchman Farm’s “Curtis Franklin” a soulful, bass heavy, frantically drummed head bobber that deserves a spot in the garage and on the dance floor.
The year is 2006 and Alex Varkatzas has since rescinded his hatred of Black Sabbath and is looking forward to another summer spent on Ozzfest. MTV is embracing the Hot Topic culture with more tenacity then ever and dudes are still wearing their girlfriends’ pink belts to shows. Somewhere an aging scenester is scowling at all of this from the confines of his parents’ basement proclaiming that the heavy music he once knew is now dead. No, it’s not. It’s right here and actually, it’s better than ever.
Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
The Sword – Age of Winters
Torche – Torche