We’re pleased to bring you the following guest post, penned by Daniel Mitchell, frontman of the Halloween-themed heavy metal band Autumns Eyes. Find links to the band’s album, Ending Life Slowly, which just dropped on October 31st, at the bottom of the article.
The origins of heavy music are rooted in overlapping themes of evil, power, and rebellion. Its a form of music that gave some people an outlet they never even realized they needed. Over the years bands like Metallica and Pantera became giants of the genre, and brought heavy music into the mainstream. People outside the genre actually reflected fear towards it, as its brutality and power were beyond intimidating at times.
During the transition into the new millenium heavy music started to become comedic. People began mocking the genre, and laughing at its representatives. Granted, Nu-Metal didn’t help the cause much, but even black metal bands were being mocked for their ridiculous garb and attitude. Once people realized most of these band names originated from Lord of the Rings, they became nothing more than a group of nerds dressed in face paint.
As technology progressed throughout this time, it opened a door to musicians everywhere who could never afford the high cost of booking a recording studio to create an album. The advent of digital recording gave every musician across the globe limitless opportunities in making a record of their own. Something that had once been a highly sought after prize that only bands with large amounts of money could attain. This turned the world of heavy music from a pond into an ocean. There was now an endless sea of heavy musicians clogging the ears of listeners everywhere. Some of them good, some of them horrible, but all of the up and coming bands lacked a sense of direction.
In the past, heavy music had various outlets like magazines, tv shows, and even radio play to act as a central hub for all the headbangers to get their fix. With the rise of internet technology, these media sources disappeared into a vast wilderness of endless blogs and websites. Much like music itself during the home-studio invasion, the media supporting heavy metal seemed to be just as lost over time. Heavy music had gone from a powerful source of inspirational evil, to an art form drowning in mockery and ineptitude. Nobody could have predicted the one thing that was about to change the trajectory of heavy music would be a simple chart full of band logos.
2005 was the year Metal: A Headbangers Journey debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, and metal heads everywhere were screaming its praises. The catalyst for this films popularity was an enormous family tree of heavy music. A chart separated by sub-genres listing all the bands at the top of their class. It was the first time in a long time that fans were able to see their favorite form of music visualized on screen with immense attention to detail. The film also featured a plethora of interviews where fans finally had a chance to hear directly from their favorite underground artists like Mayhem, Arch Enemy, and Cannibal Corpse.
The company responsible for the documentary was Banger Films, a Toronto based production company created by metal mastermind Sam Dunn and director Scot McFadyen. Fast forward to where we are today, and Banger has created a central hub for metal heads to share their love for all things heavy and all things metal. With a handful of various metal focused productions, they even gave people outside the genre a chance to see heavy music as a respected, devoted, and honest form of expression. People were now able to see the sheer amount of passion and dedication that makes heavy music one of the most honest and true forms of sonic therapy we have today.
Much like heavy music itself, Banger Films is also evolving well into the future. With subsidiaries like BangerTV, the company is branching off into various paths to create even more compelling content such as album reviews and live sub-genre discussions. Its more metal than an old church burning devil worshiper can shake a stick at. Needless to say, Banger is carrying the torch and using it to start a fire that the whole world can see. Heavy music is entering a new era of dominance, with bands coming out of the shadows and expressing new forms of music that we’ve never experienced. In the forefront is Banger Films, a company devoted to bringing us the content we (as metal heads) so desperately yearn for.
As both a metal head and a metal musician, its important for me to share respect for the genre so as to ensure its longevity. We, as metal fans, have a duty to uphold this music for future generations. While an article like this could seem like ass kissing, its a point I needed to share with whoever was out there willing to absorb it. On the off chance that theres one single fan of heavy music out there who has yet to experience the pool of content Banger Films has to offer, this article has done its job. So even if you have or haven’t heard of Banger, and you love what they do, share it with the world. Let truth be told that metal is a form of music that deserves respect, and we now have proof of that documented by a company who is just as passionate as we are.
For a few years now, whenever October rolls around, my friend Greg and I discuss our top ten Type O Negative songs. The list changes every year, and each song sparks a specific emotion or memory for us. Instead of keeping my list hidden beneath a chain of bickering emails, I decided to share it with everyone out there who has some time to kill. Its also a great place to start if you’re building an autumn inspired playlist. So without further adieu, here are my top ten Type O Negative songs that are sure to set your soul on fire this Fall!
Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family)
The piano lead in this song makes me feel like Im sitting in my basement room as a teenager, incense lit, drinking coffee, and having nothing to do but figure out what forest Im going to explore that day.
Its a song that carried me into adulthood and reminds me of how lucky I am to still be here after so many seasons abusing my brain cells.
12 Black Rainbows
I remember getting the “least-worst-of” album that Type O was contracted to release, and thinking it was just going to be another crappy radio-friendly “best-of” song collection. This was the first track I skipped to, having not recognized its title, and was blown away from the opening riff onward.
Its a song Peter wrote for his mother, and without getting too sappy or personal, its comforting to hear during a time when my own mother is going through some pretty heavy shit.
I often experience times of desolate reflection during the Fall season, and a song like this is such a perfect compliment for those times when life could poke you with a thousand needles and yet you’d still be numb to the touch.
In Praise of Bacchus
It reminds me of the days when lusting over females came hand in hand with the turning of the leaves. Something about the season brought out the devil in me, and Id always be on the prowl for a female who wanted that devil inside of her.
This track is what Id always listen to whilst roaming around the woods with headphones on. The only other sound I could hear was the leaves crunching and swooshing under my feet, and I was completely at peace.
Sparing the longer version of this songs title, I’ll just cut to the chase and say the harmonies here are hauntingly good. This is back when Type O had a lot of unquenched anger. Combine that with a lush overlay of gothic overtones, and you’ve got a match made in hallowed hell.
Who Will Save the Sane?
About halfway through the song it goes into this great vocal melody with a reverse reverb effect bathing Peter’s voice. Its pure pleasure for my ears, and the subtle guitar accents in the background only heighten the level of sonic bliss.
World Coming Down
What can I say about this song that hasn’t already been expressed by numerous years of agonizing self loathing? Its one of those tracks I consider to be so good, it hurts.
Its easy to get lost in todays ever expanding landscape of heavy metal bands. A landscape so saturated to where anyone with a guitar and a credit card can release an album, such a drastic contrast of where the industry was not long ago. This recent musical evolution has made it hard to pinpoint which musicians are driven by genuine passion, and which ones are simply following the flock so to speak. Often times its even more difficult to locate such an honest musician when their position in the band gets overshadowed by singers and guitar players. This is why I felt it necessary to shine the spotlight on Daniel Firth, a bass player with enough heart and passion on his sleeve to inspire legions of metal fans for years to come.
Daniel has a unique ability to expose his low tone in such a way that it feels secure and steady, without becoming muddy and overbearing. His attention to detail is a clear reminder of why more musicians like him need to be brought into the forefront, so as to lead by example. Especially in a time when so many younger musicians are using software presets and copy/paste techniques to achieve their sonic vision. Bass guitar should never be treated as just a lower tuned guitar that plays the same notes as its seemingly cooler and flashier cousin. Its a craft that requires skill, precision, technique, dexterity, and dedication. All qualities Mr Firth displays each and every time he picks up his bass.
I chatted with Daniel in the cavernous halls of his deepest darkest dungeon located in the demonic depths of Scotland’s most haunted…okay I emailed him some questions. However, his level of depth and detail rivals any interview Ive ever done. He covers everything from his first steps towards becoming a musician, to his love for his Scottish homeland.
How did you first start your journey towards becoming a musician, and picking up the bass guitar?
I’ve always been very enthusiastic about music, maybe thanks in part to a copy of Queen Greatest Hits I that started me off on the right path from a very young age. I can’t actually remember a time when that tape wasn’t in my life. I would listen to it on a Walkman until the batteries ran out and Freddie’s voice started going all deep and creepy as the tape wound to a halt. My tastes moved around a fair bit over the years, but it was when I started really getting into heavy metal around the age of fourteen that I started to think about picking up an instrument (a short foray into the world of trumpet notwithstanding).
I got my first guitar when I was fifteen and had already set plans in motion to start a band with some close friends, even before the purchase had been made. None of us could play very well to start with of course, and none of us took lessons. We just learned by picking songs of our favourite bands and trying to work them out each week in my garage. We eventually started writing our own material and cut our teeth playing live gigs around the Scottish island we lived on, called Orkney. It was a proud moment when, after competing in a battle of the bands competition, the local newspaper described us in its review as ‘Too different for Orkney’.
It wasn’t until years later when I had been living in Glasgow for a while that I first started playing bass. I had bought a cheap one for getting ideas down on home recordings, and when a work colleague of mine got wind of this he asked me if I’d be interested in joining a Misfits tribute band he was starting. I agreed, and suddenly had a setlist of about twenty songs to learn. I went about it with great enthusiasm, which didn’t go unnoticed by the singer in the band, who also happened to sing for Man Must Die. They were looking for a bassist, and I was quite taken aback to be offered the spot. I invested my meagre savings in a quality bass, spent my evenings after work practising harder than ever and from there things just snowballed. These days I find myself a bassist first and a guitarist second!
How does your bass playing differ when it comes to approaching a band like Cradle of Filth, versus a band like Man Must Die?
I’d say my technique is quite similar for both bands, and even my approach in terms of writing. With MMD being in drop tuning, that takes a bit of a mental shift, but I think what’s going to sound best on bass in most heavy bands boils down to a few simple things. I make a point of trying follow the drums and lock in with what they’re doing rhythmically, especially the kick drum. Melodically, although it’s sometimes appropriate to closely follow what the guitars are doing or go to town on a more outlandish melody, I find it’s almost always better for the song if the bass provides an anchor and keeps things simple, giving context to complex riffs. Funnily enough, I’d say when I write whole songs for Cradle, as I did for ‘Yours Immortally…’ and ‘Hammer of the Witches’ on our most recent album, they end up with some of the simplest bass parts throughout them, because I really like to push the guitar riffs to the forefront in my songs.
Who do you draw inspiration from, and what elements of their style do you try to incorporate into your own sound?
My two biggest bass idols are Geddy Lee and Steve Harris. I wouldn’t say I’ve consciously tried to adopt aspects of their playing, but I’ve definitely picked up their tendency to play rather hard! I’d say the single most important thing I learned from these two is the power of the rest. Well timed moments of silence in basslines can add so much punchiness and percussive power.
What are some of the essential elements that create your signature bass sound?
In terms of tone, I keep my rig incredibly simple. I have a great sounding bass in the Schecter Hellraiser Extreme. Coupled with the fantastic and versatile Darkglass B7K, I find I have all the tonal options I need. As for signature elements (it goes without saying that you need punchy mids and rumbling low end), I find I like a little bit more top end than a lot of players. I think the occasional sound of bass strings slapping off frets is brutal, and the sound of the pick attack adds definition when playing fast. I make an effort to pick that out with my tone without invading those high frequencies in the overall mix too much.. The brightness of fresh strings is essential to me as well. As for playing, it’s hard, percussive, fast when required and not shy with the fifths!
Often times it can be difficult to translate the energy of a band like Man Must Die with such low notes on a bass, what approach do you take to ensure your low end is tight enough to keep up with such intricate parts?
I learned very early on that in extreme metal, playing constant sixteenths on the bass is not the way to go, tempting though it may be. You can gain so much more clarity and thickness by underpinning fast riffs with eighths instead, so that’s what I tend to do in MMD. It helps the whole song groove as well.
Do you notice any differences with the audience that shows up to a Man Must Die show in comparison to those who show up to a Cradle of Filth show?
Cradle attracts quite a diverse crowd. There are more women than most metal shows for one thing, which is great, and many people like to dress outlandishly or put on corpse paint. At an MMD show it’s a bit more punk. For example, in the venues we tend to play, it’s a lot more viable to encourage stage diving. If you do that at a Cradle gig you invite all sorts of problems. Both crowds are generally very energetic though, with lots of moshing, crowd surfing and singing along.
When you got the job with Cradle of Filth, what was the first thought that crossed your mind?
I need to buy a five string!
Cradle of Filth has an extensive back catalogue of songs, many of which contain elaborate arrangements, is there any song in particular from the past that you find challenging to play live?
It was a bit of a challenge to play certain songs when I first joined Cradle, but these days I’m pretty comfortable with everything and can concentrate more on what I’m doing on stage. That can depend on the quality of the monitors though! For example, if you can’t hear what’s happening during that triplet alternate blast on ‘Heaven Torn Asunder’ things are likely to get a bit messy. Having said that, some of the hardest parts to play have actually come about from the new album, as I do have a habit of trying to push myself when in the studio, and of course we’re now playing those songs live.
What is your opinion on the current state of heavy music, is there anything you’d like to see more of or less of?
I have some complaints, mostly to do with the various production methods employed these days that make everyone sound like robots. I’d like less of that. In terms of what people are playing, there are certain trends I have no interest in. Playing music as fast, technical, or de-tuned as possible at the price of writing an actual song is something that bores me extremely quickly. There are loads of great new bands out there though, maybe even to the point of saturation. You have to do something pretty different to stand out these days.
Are there any goals you continue to strive towards as a musician?
I’ve had plans for my own metal project brewing for years now, but I count myself lucky that I’ve been too busy with other big projects to make it happen. It’s definitely still a goal though, and I plan to do everything but the drums myself, in the studio anyway. Hopefully that will come about in the next few years, and all the songs I’ve been writing since I was a teenager can finally see the light of day!
I’ve also just started a new crossover band in Glasgow called Rat Gash, in which I’m playing guitar. Our writing has been very fruitful so far, and we’re hoping to play some gigs later on this year.
You’re a native of Scotland, so what are 5 things you’d recommend every metal fan do if they visit your homeland?
I’m utterly in love with the Scottish countryside. I’ve made it my mission, as have many others before me, to climb all 282 mountains greater than 3000 feet in Scotland, known as Munros (so far I’ve done 55). I think such a challenge is a fantastic way to go about exploring and getting to know my homeland. Anyway, the point is that I think the best way to experience Scotland is by getting out in the beautiful countryside to climb some hills or walk through some glens, drinking it all in.
If you ever get the chance to visit Orkney, the island where I was born and grew up, there are some amazing things to see – the kind of things you don’t fully appreciate as a youngster living there. You can find the 5000 year old ruins of a neolithic village called Skara Brae, ancient stone monuments and tombs too numerous to mention, natural wonders like the Old Man of Hoy, which is the biggest sea stack in the UK. Or, if you’re into more recent history, there are the rusted remnants of a scuttled German fleet from the First World War still poking up from the waters of Scapa Flow. Those suggestions should be enough to get you started, but there’s so much more.
Spend a day checking out the sights in Edinburgh. I lived there for a couple of years, and though I eventually decided it wasn’t the place for me, it’s a tourist’s dream. Check out the castle and a museum or two. If you’re the active sort you could split it up with an ascent of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano in the middle of the city, for the best view in town.
Glasgow has plenty of great attractions too, with my personal favourite being the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where you can see Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’. Catch a gig if you can too, because we’ve got the best crowds around. You may well meet some characters! Finally, try some haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce. And whisky. Those suggestions are almost enough for a Buzzfeed article!
Where to Find Daniel Firth
The amount of professional musicians who take the time to craft answers with such detail is few and far between, and its clear in doing so that Daniel Firth loves his craft and has a deep respect for its roots. My only hope is that this will inspire more musicians to take better care of their music, and not treat it as such an expendable commodity. The songs we create will outlive us all, but passion is unmistakable, and nobody will pay any attention if you don’t devote all that is in you towards everything you create.
They don’t follow trends, they don’t have rock star egos, they don’t have a fancy wardrobe, and they don’t wear makeup. The only thing Meshuggah has focused on for over two decades, is playing the most brutally heavy music you will ever find. Im not going to dive into the bands history, so if you’re looking for more information on the band Id recommend their Wikipedia page. The purpose of this article is to express my distinct respect for a band which I believe has reached the pinnacle of what heavy music represents.
When you strip away the backstory and overall look of a band, all you are left with is their music. Often times with metal bands, you’ll find a long and arduous history filled with turmoil and ego ridden stress. Many musicians in the heavy metal world make the decision to allow substance abuse and deviance get the better of them, thus distracting their attention from being a better musician. Granted, there are times when such debauchery lends itself to the favor of said musician, but such cases are extremely rare.
Mesguggah is a whole different breed of metal band, one that is devoted to their craft so much that they are willing to strip away everything except for raw power and jagged emotion. They hone their craft to the point where their live shows are often indistinguishable from their studio albums. That is a rare feat in and of itself, given that so many metal bands perform out of breath and can barely keep up with their songs on stage. Need some proof? Take a look at the live video below, where Meshuggah performs their insanely strategic song “Bleed” in front of a live audience.
Their ferocity is unmatched, and is responsible for injecting fear into the black hearts of any metal band who has to share the stage with them. Several bands have stated in the past how they dread being on the same bill, because they know how devastatingly heavy Meshuggah will perform. Its a difficult entity to compete with when you’re in the business of playing heavy music only to have the most pure representation of what heavy music is, right there on the same very stage.
Obviously there is no better or worse when it comes to music, and its all an expansive pool of creative expression. This article simply reflects my opinion on the subject, which is surely going to differ from other peoples own thoughts. Its important for us to share those opinions though, so as to widen the landscape and spread the gospel of heavy music to those who have yet to experience its glory.
Ive introduced many people who have never given metal a second glance to the following song, only for them to fall in love upon first listen. So if you have a passionate devotion to any particular band out there, make sure to do that band justice by sharing what they love with the rest of the world!
Its easy to see that heavy metal music has drifted into a diverse and expansive genre over the years. Long ago we were limited to a few sub-genres with drastic lines that divided fan cultures. Today the landscape is much broader, and metal fans are commingling with each other as they embrace diversity. As we continue to progress forward, its important to remember the roots of where this genre built its foundation. Everyone will have their own opinion on what songs best represent metal in their eyes, and these are just the ones I consider to be the cream of the crop when it comes to my favorite form of aggressive sonic therapy.
Guitarist Tony Iommi opened the worlds eyes to what was known as the devils interval, a series of chords that were once believed to be so evil, they would invoke the dark lord of all that is unholy. Of course, that was back in the middle ages where they banned the use of such musical atrocities. Thankfully, society became a bit more lenient, which allowed Black Sabbath to lure peoples dark curiosity into their twisted realm of dark rock.
A great song transcends its time period, and snowballs into a timeless creation thats beloved far into the future. The second a metal-head hears those first notes and bombastic drums from Raining Blood, it triggers instant recognition. Slayer was able to brilliantly channel their controlled chaos into a track that reflected just how brutal the band was, both live, and in the studio.
Run to the Hills
A great deal of metal songs had always featured heavy guitars in the forefront, which is why Run to the Hills was such a refreshing change of pace once we heard a bass guitar take center stage. The galloping rhythm is what carries this track, and its all thanks to the frantic fingers of Steve Harris, Maiden’s bass player who also wrote the song.
Master of Puppets
Speaking from a musicians perspective, Master of Puppets is one of those songs that gets so deeply embedded in ones subconscious, that often times its structure is reflected in the majority of heavy tracks recorded since its inception in 1986. The song has it all, heavy parts, melodic parts, emotion, and unparalleled intensity. Many times a band will get lost writing complex riffs that tangle the song into a web of confused time signatures and frustrating contrasts between drums and guitars. Master of Puppets is a great example of how to weave complexity into a simplistic presentation that translates perfectly to the listener.
There are bands who prefer musicality over vision, and bands who use their image to fuel their sound. Then there are bands like Venom, who represent chaos and darkness in its most raw and emotional form. Granted, today many of us might be desensitized to the sound of these old school bands, but the respect they garner will always remain strongly rooted in this genre.
Like many of the bands mentioned on this list, there are numerous tracks in Pantera’s catalogue which could be listed here. I chose Im Broken simply because of the way it grabs my attention, and extracts all forms of aggression from my brain, body, and soul. This band struck lightning in a bottle with its perfect combination of rhythm, groove, power, and precision.
Blood and Thunder
Every couple of years, metal needs a swift kick in the ass to knock itself out of whatever trend is tiring itself out. In the early 2000s, we were plagued with Nu-Metal bands who caused all of us to favor removing our eyes with forks than listen to anymore whiny rap-rock. Mastodon revealed themselves at the perfect time, and gave us all a breath of fresh, evil, and sadistic satisfying air. They had a unique sound, which has continued to evolve into a massively embraced world of storytelling and musicality.
Over time the metal genre has become overwhelmed with bands claiming they are the most brutal, evil, diabolical thing since Satan himself. However, its no secret that most of us are not scared of these bands or their music in any way shape or form. Its all just been part of their act, and while we respect it, we don’t necessarily fear it. Except when it comes to Meshuggah. Countless metal musicians who have toured with these guys will always tell you how Meshuggah is both respected and feared on the stage. They don’t partake in backstage rock star nonsense, they play heavier than anyone out there, they play tighter than anyone out there, and their ferocity will never be surpassed.
Its that time of year again, and Ive been working on a special treat for all you tricksters out there. Since there has been such an overwhelmingly positive response regarding the Autumns Eyes cover of Love You to Death, I decided to cover yet another Type O Negative song as a Halloween gift to everyone. This time around the track is Blood and Fire, and you can download it for free right now! Download the track from the Autumns Eyes Bandcamp Page, or select your format below to download either a high resolution WAV file, FLAC file, or standard MP3 file. Thank you for all of the support, and HAPPY FUCKING HALLOWEEN!!!
So we already covered the Ultimate Halloween Heavy Metal Playlist, but now its time to count down a few classic tracks from yours truly. These are ten of my personal picks from 2004-2013 that would make a perfect addition to your heavy metal playlist this Halloween.
Broken Leaves & Haunted Streets
Blood In the Woods
Please Deceive Me
Red Wine and Resin
Please Deceive Me
Haunting Your Daughter
Please Deceive Me
Whats Left of Flesh
Surrender the Fire
Feast of the Dead
Surrender the Fire
Seeded With Vengeance
The Awakening Of the Sleeping King
Malice and Bliss
In a Sense
Swimming the Witch
In a Sense
In a Sense