Tales from the Jugular

Indy Metal Bands That Need Signed

By: Eric Compton & Frank Hill
Published: Sunday, February 15, 2004
Frequently we will stumble on a band that for whatever reason or another has yet to be signed by a major label. When we say MAJOR LABEL, we mean that in the heavy metal use of the term. For instance, one would think of Capital, Columbia, MCA, etc. when the words MAJOR LABEL come to mind. In the heavy metal universe, a MAJOR LABEL would mean labels like Massacre, Century Media, SPV, Nuclear Blast, AFM, Metal Blade, Limb, Sanctuary, etc.

Last year seemed to be the year of the indy release, with a ton of great bands releasing self-financed records that in some cases rivaled releases from the bigger metal labels of the world. With this new regime of indy madness, we have broken down the lot a bit and showed you the bands that we would like to see signed, and which label we feel the band's work belongs on.

CATCH 22 - This ferocious metal act dazzled the metal legions with their 2003 release "Awaken", bringing to mind 80s top-rung acts such as Savatage and Overkill but mixing in their own modern sounds, creating a lethal formula that devastated newer fans and pleased fans of the old world. Catch 22 are a fairly young group with three professional recordings notched in their gunbelts, making them prime-time catches for just the right promoter. These guys can be marketed in the same way as newer, popular bands like Cage, Nevermore, Brainstorm, etc., keeping the modern doses of ground and pound, but making it powerful enough to reach the classic audience. Century Media has proved to be the label to do that, but in 2004 they look to be adding more death metal clones of In Flames and Morbid Angel, and don't seem too impressed with many power metal acts right now. This leaves the door open for Nuclear Blast, who still display the traditional metal flag in all its glory (Edguy, Helloween, Manowar). The same can be said for smaller labels like AFM, Limb, and even Massacre if the dollar amount works out. It's time for someone to take a chance on these fine Americans. Nuclear Blast, AFM, Limb, or Massacre. All are good choices for this group.

CIRCLE OF NERO - Trendy Nu metal is dying in the charts, but it's no reason for modern sounding metal which weaves its way down the fine line between metal genres of Nu, Prog, and Thrash to be dropped by the wayside. Circle covers a lot of ground with their stutter bass and vocalist Gary McCaffery's lucid switching between a Pantera-type growl and higher pitched Manson. Any fan of modern, heavy bass, rhythm-oriented metal should do well with Circle of Nero and their amalgamated sound. These guys from VA can appeal to more than a niche audience and should be recognized be a label with ties to a more modern sound.

CONQUEST - Look out Godsmack, the new breed of crushing groove has arrived. For those young fans that roam America's plains, delving into the mess that is Godsmack, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, etc., there is now a new contender to smack those heavy metal ropes. No more will the masses "unrock" to the likes of trendy, "too uptight", talentless acts that make their money and take their toll on America's youth, all forging ahead to tap the life and money from the real deal, bands like Conquest, who break their backs making their own way, never following, always innovating, taking the brutal chug-chug riff to the next realm of possibility, combining Pantera, Priest, and power metal in a bone-crushing display of raw aggression. That is if we can get some record exec out there to take a look at this band. Conquest are better than Pantera, better than Damageplan, and better than the entire Roadrunner roster combined. Lets make way for the new kings of pain, Conquest! So, lets see, now with the ultimate introduction behind us, who can promote Conquest and move records for them? I think the best choice here is Sanctuary. They have no problem with groove riffs, just look at their roster which contains Super Joint Ritual, Jack Frost, Seven Witches, and Pissing Razors. If that doesn't work, stick these guys with Century Media or even Nuclear Blast. Forget labels like Limb, Remedy, and AFM because Conquest are going to be too damn heavy for that. Stick to Sanctuary, Century Media, Nuclear Blast, or if push comes to shove, SPV could be a home.

FRAISE - This young metal group from Sweden shows an extreme amount of passion for the power metal genre. On their debut, indy pressed album "Hellicornia", Fraise showoff an amazing ability to bring the sounds of German power to the forefront, mad-dashing to the finish line with the likes of early Helloween, Gamma Ray, Reactor, and even the early stages of Scanner. This band's future is certainly full of promise, but a great deal of intrigue as well, with the right label or contact making or breaking this band it is hard to say what the future will hold. It will be hard for them to achieve immediate success doing their own promotion and financing, but with the right label relationship, this band could be huge. I say Limb, SPV, Nuclear Blast, could do great things for these guys. The most popular choice here, however, is Shark or AFM, both which specialize in this sensational epic power sound. The labels should get on board with "Hellicornia" since the album is brand spankin' new, and a real keeper in the long run. I honestly believe you will see this album issued again later this year on a "real" label.

JOHNNY LOKKE - Winter's Bane came and went. War Machine doesn't even look like it will ever happen. The beast-like machine that was Wade Black and Seven Witches is over. Agent Steel aren't doing anything remotely interesting right now. We don't even have new Steel Prophet, Destiny's End, Crimson Glory, or Exciter material to cherish. Johnny Lokke is all that is left, and in my opinion, should be all that one needs to fill the void left when Priest and Maiden take their long vacations, or put out bad albums, whichever comes first so to speak. Johnny Lokke is a talented, mostly one man metal project that delivers the goods, speeding along like a bullet train aimed at the heart of 80s metal, Lokke bringing the noise like Rob Halford, Wade Black, and Tim Owens, hell-bent for leather in all its shining glory. Putting out two awe-inspiring records and a wonderful set of cover tunes that sees Lokke running the show, stepping up to the plate and belting out classic tunes from his vision of the "metal gods". Now, with a sort of absence right now for US/Canadian traditional metal, and all of the MTV/mainstream publicity focusing all efforts on the next In Flames/Morbid Angel clone, Johnny Lokke is pumping out fistfulls of good, hard working, blue collar metal, loud and proud & forever free. Now, with Johnny Lokke proving he can put two very good back to back records out, its time for label negotiations. I think Sanctuary is the place for this, with that group seeming to focus attention to the high screams and melodic riffs that go with it. Sanctuary/Noise have signed Seven Witches, Jack Frost, and Halford of all things, making Johnny Lokke a nice fit to the roster. If that doesn't work, Nuclear Blast have had success with Helloween and Primal Fear, which may work to Lokke's advantage. As a last resort, AFM (U.D.O, Annihilator, Masterplan) could work, or even Limb.

SELFINFLICTED - Though the name suggests it, SelfInflicted is hardly content to cause themselves harm. They come out from the opening to pound you through   round after round of modern metal with big slamming basslines and heavy throttling guitars. Right when you think you have the patterns figured out, they take you off your step with more bludgeoning riffs. It's a little disconcerting how the music can switch and knock you in other looping directions each time you start to get your bearings. The vocals, likewise, are also freed from the usual constraints of metal structure with some looser delivery from lead vocalist Rob Berard. These guys pack a heavy punch a may do well under a label that knows how to promote modern, sometimes quirky-paced metal.

SUPERVILLAIN - Hard rock is starting to come back around, as is the doom genre that has been dormant for so long. New York doomers Supervillain are the logical choice to carry this sound into the big-time. They have terrific vocals, great chemistry, a pounding metal attitude, and a sure fire way to please all the metal maniacs out there, ranging from the KISS soldiers to the Black Sabbath army that seems to have made its way back out of the trenches. Even your hardcore and grunge fans will find something to like here, with Supervillain reminding us why Soundgarden and Life Of Agony were cool. With only one demo recorded, these guys are ready to be signed! So the question to ask now is, which chef can serve up this nice dish? Well, Earache Records looks like they are in the mood for doom, signing doom front-runners Cathedral for their last album. A smaller label out there called Dead Teenager showcased the fantastic debut of Dirty Power while Nuclear Blast unveiled their wicked monster last year with the Sabbath worship of Fireball Ministry, and their debut record which made it all the way to Headbanger's Ball. I think the logical fit here would be Nuclear Blast or Dead Teenager, both whom seem to show genuine affection for this type of sound. If that falls through, possibly someone like Century Media, who released three Marauder albums.

WINDSEEKER - Starting out as a classic power metal band, the Italian-based Windseeker went through line-up change after line-up change until they finally became what they are today, a power-thrash band with the sound of a young Iced Earth with melodic influences from Maiden. Their lead guitar riffs are usually slower than the backing rhythms which gives you a chance mentally to relax and get into the songs on a listenable level. Regardless of a low-quality mixed demo, their demo "By the Seed of the Same God" was surprisingly good.  A good Euro-power metal label, maybe AFM or Limb, could mold help pull these guys up to the next level.

WOLFS MOON - Man, will someone please take a chance on these guys! Wolfs Moon plays the ultimate German power, keeping the pace of Grave Digger, Paragon, and Accept while throwing out creative sci-fi storylines ala Primal Fear and Metalium. Wolfs Moon is pure magic, with plenty of guitar frenzy that blends Overkill, Grave Digger, Priest, and Sabbath in one entertaining batch of tunes that have been refreshing and creative over all five professional albums. Having self-produced, self-recorded, and self-promoted all of their work thus far, the load finally needs to be taken off the guys. Let them concentrate on making quality music and leave the rest of the business to the suit and tie guys that do it best. Best bets for Wolfs Moon are Remedy Records, which shows a true passion for the gritty German sound, Iron Glory who manage the same type of roster, and Limb who have signed other great power acts like Cryonic Temple, Gun Barrel, and Dungeon.

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