The Underground Metal Scene
The Secret Society of the Music World
Written By Christy Lee
The definition of underground is a group or movement organized secretly to work against an existing regime. “I listen to underground metal music.
The definition of Heavy Metal (or simply metal) is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness.
The metal music genre is a culture with mixed feelings from their followers. They are either disappointed the genre doesn’t garner enough mainstream attention or they prefer their music to remain underground.
We all know the great cautionary tale of what happens to metal bands once they become successful. Let’s bring up a band we are all familiar with, “Metallica.” They began playing in a garage, started playing shows. Their fan base grew and they eventually reached the kind of fame most people dream of.
There are bands in the game just to play and stay true to their fans remaining underground and there are musicians who rely on their art for financial support as well as expressing themselves with hope to become famous. Some would argue this would be classified as selling out and letting down their true fans but not only is music an art form it can also become a rewarding career with the possibility to earn a decent living which would ideally be the ultimate climactic outcome. But to what price would someone have to pay to gain legendary status. It’s a double edged sword.
There is a definite division among fans of the metal genre with passionate opinions about the outcome and quality of music a band produces and their ideals.
This brings me to my current topic of discussion which is “An Intimate Interview with George Misanthrope of the band “Monument of Misanthropy.” A band dedicated to making music and staying true to their fans by remaining underground.
Q&A With Christy Lee and George Misanthrope of the band Monument Of Misanthrope
GM: Brutal Death Metal.
CL: What is the basis of your lyrical theme? GM: Misanthropy, Hatred, Animal Cruelty, Evil.
CL: How old were you when you first got into metal?
GM: Well I must have been 10 or 11 when I traded some mainstream records with a friend at school and got AC/DC “Back in Black” and “For Those About To Rock” in return. I guess it was a good deal thinking of it. My friend got Police and Supertramp-vinyls from me (laughs). Now people may say AC/DC is not metal but hard rock… But you know at that time AC/DC was seen as pretty hard and badass and newpapers were full of shit like AC/DC and Kiss are satanic bands and stuff. Whatever it didn’t take long then till I owned my first Iron Maiden (“Iron Maiden” and “Killers”) and Judas Priest-albums (“Unleashed in the east”) which paved the way for harder stuff like Metal Church, Metallica, Anthrax, Testament.
CL: How did you guys end up with Romain Goulon formerly of the band Necrophagist in your band?
GM: Romain is a very good and old friend of Jean Pierre Battesti. They were jamming together before Romain got famous for being the drummer of the technical death metal innovators Necrophagist. Unlike Necrophagist the stuff JP and Romain played at that time was pretty much brutal death metal with old-school death metal and grindcore elements- Brutal and fast but with some Napalm Death & Terrorizer groove in it.
JP who álready knew me from “Raising The Veil” one day asked me if I want to try out some vocals on some songs he had pre-produced with Romain. And I of course said yes, because I liked the brutality and straight in you face-punch of the songs.
So for all of us in “Monument Of Misanthropy” the album is also kind of a tribute to the early days of pure, upright and unpretentious death metal, which defined the 3 of us as young musicians.
CL: So which modern metal bands would you say influence your band as a whole or who you guys admire?
GM: To be honest I don’t think too many modern bands had any influence on our music (talking of MoM) because it’s pretty much old-school death and grind. But of course we listen to modern bands too. Speaking for myself I’ve been of course listening a lot to Necrophagist, The Faceless and Origin, but also a lot newer technical death metal bands lately like Beyond Creation, Archspire, Fallujah and Rings Of Saturn. I feel like this technical part of death metal is the most promising branch of metal and able to carry on the torch Chuck Schuldiner handed over with his work. I mean metal – at least for me – has always been about technicality and virtousity on each instrument. So I think it’s just logical that those outstanding musicians in those newer bands are able to set new trends and benchmarks withing metal music in the future.
CL: So on a personal note, have you ever gone to an authentic Octoberfest in Germany?
GM: Hahaha. Well you can’t escape those fests being in Germany and also all over Europe during the end of September. I like the beer and stuff, but you know all those “ordinary” people getting drunk once a year, trying to be funny or starting fights after one “Maß” of beer [1 litre] just fuel my misanthropy. I’d rather drink beer with my friends and listen the music I like to listen to, than sway to Alpine folk music with superficial snobs and blowhards… [laughs]
CL: What is the music scene like over there and what places do you play at most, cities, venues?
GM: Well I guess the European metal scene has always been a bastion of die-hard metal fans. Once a metal head always a metal head. It’s always been an escape from mediocrity and bourgois snobism that exists mainly in the big cities and capitals here. We have a lot of young and motivated metal bands throughout Europe. Many bands come and go as they fail on the circumstances of today’s music business. Bands have to play for free to get known and rarely are able to sell their CDs. Even signed bands are struggling hard to survive and almost every musician has a day-job to pay his bills. Even most of the well known European death metal musicians have a steady job when they’re not touring. So you have to be very dedicated to metal if you want to stay within public perception for a longer period of time. As an unsigned underground band you mainly play local venues, pubs and smaller festivals, just the way we think metal was meant to be…
CL: I think you’re a really great vocalist, do you play any other instruments or contribute to the band other than front man?
GM: Well thank you Christy. – I indeed played guitars for some unknown forerunner bands of “Miasma” (most known for their debut “Changes”) which got produced by Martin Schirenc [Pungent Stench] btw back in the days…
I also used to play “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy” as a kid on my keyboard for my parents and relatives on Xmas-holidays, but never pursued this carreer ever after…. [laughs]
CL: How do you come up with your lyrical inspirations, how do you approach new material?
GM: That really depends on the band and the mood I associate with new material. When doing the lyrics for Monument Of Misanthropy things were pretty much clear because of it’s bruteness and speed. It HAD to deal with aggression, anger, frustration and sick minds reacting to a sick society. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to write lyrics with cosmological or other scientific content, which I actually do writing song lyrics for Raising The Veil and Disfigured Divinity.
When I had to sit down and write lyrics for “Anger Mismanagement” I just listened to the instrumental version feeling the vibes and wrote down the first line that came to my mind. It’s not that I already know where this journey is going to take me from the very beginning. It evolves and crystallizes by itself. So you can read the lyrics as my “stream of un-consciousness”. It’s really what springs to my mind while listening to the music. It’s nothing artificial or designed to be “extremely brutal” it sometimes really feels like someone else is making me write it and nothing done really on intention. It’s a bit frightening now that I think of it (laughs).
When I read some other bands lyrics I sometimes have the feeling they tried to put as many brutal sounding words into their song as possible, just to show off with their “brutality”. You can feel their struggle to become the most brutal band in the world and you can also feel it is not coming from their heart as well and that there is no real substance behind this faked angriness…
CL: Do you listen to heavy metal and its sub-genres exclusively or do you listen to other genres of music also?
GM: I am always feeling sad when someone tells me I only listen to metal. Man you’re missing a lot if you do so. Sure metal is the kind of music I listen to most of the time for many reasons and of course I don’t listen to the mainstream pop media wants you to listen to. But I think I am not the only metal musician and fan that listens also to stuff like Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Wagner or Liszt. Moreover I dig jazz-fusion like Tribal Tech with the brilliant guitarist Scott Henderson. All the newer technical metal bands like Animals as Leaders etc. wouldn’t exist if those guys haven’t existed and done their exceptional music.
CL: How do you feel about how today’s society likes to categorize metal sub-genres?
GM: I think its human, which doesn’t mean it is ok or that I like it. People especially growing up kids long to be part of something they can or want to be identified with. It also has to do with insecurities during adolescence. Anyways what really matters is that someone really likes the music genre and it’s a message and ideals which he or she’s listening to. I never thought it was cool to be a thrash metal fan when I listened to thrash or later a death metal fan listening to death metal. I just liked the music and the people I met in metal record-stores (yes we had to buy our music at that time), clubs and at shows. But it has always been and probably always will be that people of one genre try to tell you that his genre is the best ever and that what you’re listening to is total crap. I never tried to persuade someone to any kind of metal genre. If a friend didn’t like what I listened to it was ok I kept listening to it. Best practice for dealing with metal elitist preachers: Ignore them, end of story.
CL: If you were to evolve heavy metal, how would you do so?
GM: That’s a tough one. I really don’t know into which direction metal could evolve anymore. I mean it’s almost impossible from today’s point of view. It is almost impossible to play faster or more technical as metal is being played today. Also do we have that many sub genres that it’s almost impossible too to “invent” any new crossover genre too. I guess only time will tell where the future of metal will be heading to….
CL: “Tell me something about you that you never talk about in interviews.”
GM: Well only few people know this: In the beginning of the song “Monument of Misanthropy” there is this 1 min sequence of an old song “I like to like people” by “Bozo the Clown”. This in fact is an old single that I used to sing a long with when I was a small boy of 3 yrs- or so, My father even recorded me singing to this song. He still has this on an audio cassette and we listen to it from time to time. (laughs)
CL: Where do you see your band going in the future?
GM: We’ll be playing probably some select festivals in Europe in 2015 and then start with another album which will be self-produced, self-released and self-promoted again. We’ve done great with this independent path taken. After all we’re doing it not for fame or becoming rich or whatever, but for the passion for death metal music. By the way I don’t think that any new band is getting really rich in metal in the nearer future. Whenever a known or semi-known band drops a new album it’s getting officially promoted via pre-release free streaming of the whole album on YouTube or Soundcloud. All the kids of course know how to get the music for free from all those portals. So I assume labels don’t really rely anymore too much on music sales but merchandise sales and money they can make of the bands when they send them on extensive tours. Only the collectors and die-hard fans will buy the CD and HQ download-albums. Music has become a side-product which gets consummated “en passant” while
surfing the net or chatting on some social-network. Looks the days when you bought a CD or vinyl and cut yourself off from anything else just to listen to the music and read the lyrics are definitely gone forever. So if you don’t do the music for your own passion and believes you will be frustrated pretty soon. It’s no coincidence that many very gifted musicians and bands are calling it quits after a few years in the business…..
CL: What were your experiences working together with the famous Romain Goulon (drummer of Necrophagist)?
GM: It’s like in the normal working world: Those who have an amazing talent and extraordinary working skills don’t brag about it. They do their brilliant work and let the other ones be jealous about it.
Same with Romain: He does his brilliant drumming like it was the most natural thing to do. No cocky star behaviour and conceited acting. I’ve seen and met so many local nobodies with zero talent that behave like they were the biggest rock stars on earth…. They’re playing in front of their high school friends and think they are the new metal gods. It’s so ridiculous sometimes.
The real big metal stars are 99% down to earth dudes and drinking buddies (laughs). CL: How long does it take to record your vocals for an album?
GM: As an unsigned band you cannot afford to stay in studio for 3 weeks or longer to record your stuff. So when I am entering a studio, I already know a 100% percent what I want to sing on every part of every song. There’s not much time for experiments. Normally my vocal trackings don’t take more than 6- 10 hours split on 2 days for one whole album. Usually it takes 2-3 takes for each part. More wouldn’t even be possible. After 4 or 5 hours of intensive growling without long breaks in between my voice is past it’s best. Longer tracking seasons would put my voice at risk. So we usually stop to have some beers and preparing for the 2nd recording-day.
CL: What’s your opinion of Satanism in metal?
GM: Well in the 80ies and early 90ies it was some kind of “shock value” to do the satanism thing as a band. And yes I have been wearing a turned up cross and Deicide-Tees to with pride then just like the Slaytanic Wehrmacht-Tshirt, which was also a big provocation to authorities and church. Especially here in Austria (homeland of Hitler). And of course all the bands whom had Satanism as one of their main- message back then like Deicide, Morbid Angel or Possessed would be stupid if they started to change their official attitude. They have to keep up their credibility to their loyal fans. And this can become pretty much schizophrenic, when you think of Tom Araya, being a stric catholic father back home in Texas and then sing “I am the antichrist all love is lost…” in Wacken. So to answer the question. I don’t believe in god as a person who sits somewhere , watching each individual in this uni- or multiverse like all the religions are trying to make us believe. Religions just like politicians main purpose is not to help you but to enslave you. Both are working with phobocratic strategies. Be it religion that tells you to go to hell when you sin or politicians creating fear via CNN or FOX TV. I am spiritual but in a more scientific way. I love nature and all what makes me understand the architecture of our micro and macrocosm. For me for example quantum physics has much more mystical aura than all this heaven and hell fairy tales (laughs).
CL: Even bigger bands have problems selling their CDs and concert tickets. How does this affect the underground and unsigned bands?
GM: Well this actually IS a big problem for all bands, signed and unsigned. First the big labels realized “hey we don’t sell as many CDs due to music-piracy. ok let’ s send the bands around the globe for years and let them sell their merch and all will be good.” But what happened now is that on one hand many promising bands called it quits due to burn-out and frustration and even more self-destructive: they created and overflow of bands touring so that the live-gig-branch got over-saturated in the big cities too after some years. So what to do now? Next solution-strategy was to re-activate all the old bands that still had a big name but have disbanded or retired already and send them around the globe as well. Well that’s where we’re standing now. As an unsigned and most likely also unknown band you can decide to play local gigs or buy yourself in on some bigger tour or even into a label if you have enough change saved. On the other hand if you have the passion and the right musicians you can also succeed using the internet to make yourself heard on YouTube, Soundcloud and Facebook etc. and then try to grab some interesting gigs and festival slots. We decided for the latter and I think our success proves us right.
CL: Any last words you have to say to your fans?
GM: “Thanks to all our awesome fans that supported us on our way to independently deliver you the most brutal of underground death metal. A ride in which we have full control of the production but also artistic freedom in music, lyrics, cover, booklet & T-shirt design. In many ways this feels like a return to what metal was and again should be all about!”
You can check out Monument of Misanthropy by clicking HERE.