Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence contributing writers Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.
Peter Griffin once asked, “Where are those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely?” While he was talking about entertainment at large when he posed that question, stroking his inappropriately-shaped chin, it’s debatable if he’d ask heavy metal, the genre that holds onto its good old-fashioned values with a Mankind-Mandible-Claw-like grip, that same query. This is to say that metal is laden with refinement more than drastic innovation.
Now, this is actually good in that metal has arguably never been better than it is now, but it makes the style difficult to enter for newcomers. It’s tough when you’re not someone who roams Encyclopaedia Metallum for new releases and instead is just looking to start listening to more metal. Heavy metal scratches a particular itch in particular people, which is why some listen to symphonic metal while others prefer to brush their teeth on a regular basis.
However, how are you supposed to find the itch that needs scratching if you lack the diction to define it? For example, what would it matter to you if a hypothetical old-school death metal band combines Morbid Angel’s solos and atmosphere with Cryptopsy’s vascularity if you don’t know what distinguishes either of these traits? Thus, some of these reference points are null and void, while to some people, that combination amounts to their favorite band.
The point is that metal’s self-referential nature compliments its self-reliance while making it difficult for those looking to engage with its decades-old framework for the first time. The hidden benefit is that likely, if you enjoy a particular subgenre from a specific time, then you can find direct descendants of that scene who are active today. Metal’s stubbornness is both its weakness (for the aforementioned reasons) and its strongest aspect. The music has an expiration date as far-flung into the future as uncooked lentils. That’s why people seldom throw “antiquated” or “dated” around when talking about metal, even when it comes to legacy acts. As such, metal’s core appeal is — and can be found in — its endurance.
That endurance powered us through the most dismal month of the year. November delivered an overabundance of high-quality metal, ranging from poppy black metal to dead-as-a-corpse death metal. Read our eight choices for the most impressive underground albums of the month below.
— Colin Dempsey