The ongoing consternation about metal music and its fans – a phenomenon based primarily on classism and stereotypes surrounding the general uncleanliness of the genre’s fan base, along with their drug and alcohol consumption – has created a strong sense community among those fans. It means that they’re both extremely passionate and also sensitive to perceived criticism of their favorite artists. Because of this, there are legitimate apprehensions about metal lists appearing in non metal-centric online publications.
Nevertheless, here’s an extremely subjective opinion on bands you should check out this year. These bands represent a musical dexterity and innovativeness within the underground metal scene, one that not only challenges the definition of the genre, but also challenges the well-known, mainstream metal bands whose logo-ed bootleg T-shirts are sold at B-grade retail franchises — you know, the ones the kids wear to boost their “street cred” without ever having to listen to the bands in question. Sure, Slayer and Mastodon have broken through to the mainstream, and both have highly anticipated releases coming out later in 2014, but there are a plethora of lesser-known yet extremely talented black, death, grindcore and doom bands whose upcoming releases deserve your consideration. With so much variation under the metal umbrella these days, there’s something to appeal to any music fan.
Indian — From All Purity (January 17)
Lord Mantis — Death Mask (April 14)
Both nihilistic, blackened doomsters Indian and their musical and philosophical sludgy counterparts Lord Mantis (the Chicago-based bands share members) create music that’s uncomfortable, yet glorious. Their work evokes the physical feeling of living in congested yet lonely urban environments, but both bands do so without completely soaking their sounds in sorrow — their songs encourage the listener to look in the mirror and be honest about their deepest, darkest desires.
Indian’s sixth album, From All Purity, is an accurate interpretation of all these deep, dark, pathological feelings, the ones we are all socialized to bury. The album serves as a soundtrack to the cathartic unearthing of these emotions. For their part, Lord Mantis’ 2009 debut Spawning the Nephilim was a gritty, rhythm-heavy album that integrated sludge and insolent ‘80s-era punk sounds into a masterpiece of near-hypnotic despair. 2011’s Pervertor was a sexually disturbing yet liberating masterpiece that appeared on several year-end lists, and early reports are that Death Mask will be a continuation of their exploration of the seediness of the human condition, descending even deeper into murky waters.