Headbanging on Earphones
I’m an earphones junkie. Ninety-nine percent of the time I spend listening to music I do it by using earphones. It wasn’t always like that. The move to earphones came with the advent of the mp3 format and the pretty swift move from collecting music in physical formats (CDs, vinyl and tapes) to collecting them in mp3, FLAC and other non-physical formats.
Obviously, when you are listening to music more on portable mp3 players (in my case, iPods), you use earphones. But there’s another reason I have for using earphones, even at home where if you want you can easily hook up your iPods to an amplifier and speakers. And that reason concerns the kind of music I listen to. At least half the stuff that roils about on my five players is deemed not acceptable by the other members of my family. That, and, of course, the fact that most music sounds much better channeled via earphones has made me, as I said, an earphones junkie.
I’ve amassed many varieties of earphones over the years—pricey noise-cancelling ones, reasonably priced in-ear snug fitting types, el cheapo ones for rough use at the gym, for instance, and so on. The thing common between them all is that all of them allow you to experiment with all sorts of music without causing discomfort or offence to other around you. So, last week when I started dabbling in a particularly loud genre called Black Metal, my ears took refuge between the soft ear-pads of a new pair of noise-cancelling phones that I got as a gift last month.
I’ve never been a big fan of headbanging fare. I mean yes, I did do my time with the early heavy stuff—Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc.—but frankly they always left me a bit cold. Well, maybe not Led Zep but my issues with heavy metal then and now have been the needless loudness, the distorted guitar solos and, most of all, the shrieking. So imagine my surprise when I actually started listening to a band called Krallice and liking it. Their music had it all—shrieks, a superfast tempo, distorted tremolo picking of guitars and heavy amplification. And I was enjoying it. Then I read that Krallice was an experimental black metal band formed by New York City musicians who were associated with other metal acts with stranger names than Krallice.
That’s how I discovered the instrumental metal bands called, Behold… The Arctopus and Dysrhythmia and the tech metal (which fuses intricate progressive rock techniques with metal) band called Orthrelm. The Krallice album I was listening to was released in 2009 and is called Dimensional Bleedthrough. I rather liked it. It may not be for the faint-hearted, but the album’s seven tracks that stack up to more than 77 minutes are deeply satisfying. Take a listen at one sitting and you’ll have taken care of your craving for good, heavy sounding rock for a few days, at least.
From Krallice, I meandered into another territory and the music of Long Legged Woman, a band whose album, Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere, I heard about on a podcast. You can find influences of Nirvana as well as Neil Young (whose album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, probably influenced the title of this Athens, Georgia-based band’s album). I thought they were a great band to begin exploring today’s new metal genre but then learnt that this album is their first and last commercial release!
Things got a bit weirder after that when guided by the podcast I came upon another American metal band called Sunn O))) (pronounce that as ‘Sun’; what follows is a symbolic representation of the Sun or so I am told!). On Sunn O)))’s new album, Monoliths & Dimensions, I discovered what you could probably call a metal sessions man—Attila Csihar, a Hungarian black metal vocalist who seems to be a kind of freelancer, collaborating with many bands, including the Norwegian black metal band, Mayhem, well-known for their violent stage acts where band members cut and stabbed themselves and used dead pig and sheep’s heads as props. But getting back to Sunn O))), their music, particularly a song from the album called Big Church, was quite addictive. Atilla who sings on the album has an extraordinary ability to both growl at low frequency levels and also sing in a beautifully high falsetto.
Metal, black or in any other hue (and there are several sub-genres) as you probably can tell, is a new musical experience for me but after shunning this unapologetically loud genre for years, I’m getting hooked. Thanks to the earphones, people around me are safe.
This week’s reccos:
- 2009 Mashed Up: Missy Elliot with Animal Collective? Bat for Lashes with Doors? There’s more here to have fun with.
- Stuck Between Stations: The Hold Steady are a great bar-soaked band; great vocals; great lyrics.
- Revolution or Heroin: A live set, recorded in 1987, by the Spacemen 3, a British psychedelic band worth checking out.