heavy metal

Certain styles of music seem incompatible with long careers. Death metal is high on that list, with the focus on brutality and shredded vocal chords standing at odds with the rigors of aging. If it's true that people tend to mellow with age, it would stand to reason that death metal would not be populated by elder statesmen. Yet it seems to be that conventional wisdom, once again, is wrong. Death metal finds itself seeped in figures from the early days still cranking out new music.

Still banging out original, old-school metalcore after more than fifteen years on the circuit, God Forbid continues to pound heavy on the hearts and minds of fans across the country. Fresh on the road with thrash legends and fellow Jersey-borne musicians Overkill, God Forbid is bringing their new album "Equilibrium" to the masses. Singular front man Byron Davis sat down with me to talk his band, the music industry, New Jersey and how Predator owns everyone.

Fewer things test the patience of a rock or metal fan more than hearing the word 'pop' used to describe the music they love. Is it a stereotype? Yes, but not without merit. Rock and metal fans love their music for the power and aggression, the aspects that keep their favorite bands from breaking into the mainstream in almost every case. When they hear the word 'pop' come from a reviewer, or a press release, there's fear dripping from their pores. Pop music is for teenagers and people who never had the good taste to discover Led Zeppelin, not for tenured fans of 'real music'.

Allegaeon took the internet reviewing world fairly by storm with their heady debut "Fragments of Form and Function" in 2010. Critics saw an aggressive but honest extreme metal band, tap-dancing on the boundary between noise and craft. 2012 sees the band follow up with "Formshifter," an album that takes cues both visual and musical from the latest incarnation of heavy metal stalwarts Fear Factory. While commonly seen as European, extreme metal is mostly a shared invention of countries on both sides of the Pond, with Allegaeon simply carrying the torch for those before.

What does a progressive metalcore musician do with their down time? For most, the answer is to start another death metal band and continue making and playing their favorite style of music for as long as they can. Band-hopping and side-projects are not a new thing, nor a bad thing, and they aren't going away anytime soon. They don't often hold the kind of interest they should, because they rarely extend beyond being a continuation of the artists' main project.

On a rainy, bitter night, Overkill came to town and brought friends. The fans tolerated the chill and the dowsing with quiet fortitude, standing stoically in line awaiting their chance to pay tribute to the thrash legends and the crew they brought with them. This is the type of following and faith engendered by Overkill as they make headway in their fourth decade of writing and performing. Armed with their new album "The Electric Age," the Jersey veterans came to kick ass and chew bubblegum. You can venture a guess what they were all out of.

Recent years have been awkward for power metal and its fans. Guitar Hero opened the door for a renaissance of the genre, with Dragonforce making it cool to play happy, major-key metal. Despite the opportunity being presented, the genre has instead seen countless bands taking a turn away from tradition, injecting large doses of classic metal and hard rock into their sound. Always unappreciated in the eyes of most metal fans, the bands did little to take advantage of their chance in the spotlight, ironically by moving in more commercial directions.

You remember that classic Chuck Jones cartoon "Hare Way to the Stars," where Marvin the Martian sprouts a bunch of 'instant martians' from tiny pills by dousing them with water, then hastily sends them chasing off on a fool's errand after Bugs Bunny, who has absconded with the 'Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator'? That's kind of what Iron Maiden's new live release "En Vivo!" is like. (Albeit without the slapstick.)

As a band, Blackguard is a lot of things to a lot of people. Symphonic metal. Power metal. Folk metal. Death metal. A band that knows how to raise the rafters, bring down the house and entertain the multitudes. A band that puts on the same show, gives every effort, for forty or four thousand. The public face of this non-stop touring train is Paul "Ablaze" Zinay, lyricist, vocalist, frontman extraordinaire, who beneath all the intense metal carousing is a man with a gregarious personality and an easy smile. He and I sat down just a couple hours before he and Blackguard would take the stage to talk music, his native Canada, the nature of subgenres, where the band has come from and where they're going next.

The time-tested axiom holds that a person, by proxy a leopard, cannot change his or her spots. The jaws of this seemingly ironclad tenet have firmly clenched themselves around the world of music, backed up by a fervent fan base who reliably and predictably ridicules a band that attempts to do so.