Metal and Movies

A monthly round-up of the writer's two big loves – heavy metal and big-screen releases

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Things are changing a bit here. They say “write about what you know” so welcome to Metal and Movies! And what better place to start than a film about Mayhem, the Norwegian black metal band, and its creator Euronymous?

Mayhem and their genre contemporaries, known as the Black Circle, gained notoriety through a disturbing set of “publicity stunts” that included suicide, church burning and murder.

Director Jonas Akerlund is one of the most sought-after music video creators, but his feature films are less well known. However his dark, humorous and simplistic approach plays well for the story of Lords of Chaos, plus as founding drummer of 1980s Swedish black metallers Bathory it feels appropriate he directs this.

Lords of Chaos definitely isn’t for everyone. Sometimes genuinely hilarious, other times apathetic, bleak and difficult to watch, it never shies away from what’s happening. Although it doesn’t condemn the band’s actions, neither does it glamourise. This helps convey the feeling of the characters and what they were going through. The film is often confusing and disturbing but, considering the original story, this is hardly surprising.

Equally as disturbing, after his 2017 hit Get Out Jordan Peele releases his anticipated new film Us. As with Get Out, details on Us are scarce but expect lots of suspense-filled twists and turns as a family deals with haunting doppelgängers of themselves after a day at the beach.

The more family-friendly Dumbo continues Disney’s run of live action re-imaginations. Although we’re all familiar with the flying elephant story, this new version, starring Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton and Eva Green, apparently has the baby elephant airborne from the outset rather than culminating with him taking flight, as with the original animation.

Also on release is comedy What Men Want, which spins the old Mel Gibson movie What Women Want on its head, giving the power to read men’s minds to Ali Davis (Taraji P Henson), a female sports agent in a male-dominated world. Obviously sometimes it’s best not to know what a man is thinking, if he’s thinking at all. Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener, Max Greenfield and Aldis Hodge also star.

Also, Captain Marvel is out this month. We’ve covered it before but with only a month to go before Avengers: Endgame it’s worth a reminder.

Spotify recently revealed metalheads are the most devoted of music fans. Metal music streams globally outrank every other genre, and country by country metal consistently falls in the top five genres.

Thankfully, not all Scandinavian metal fans or bands take the same publicity approach as those from Lords of Chaos. Although some do go for dark theatrics and the likes, gimmick-free Swedish melodic death metal pioneers In Flames kicked off March with their new album I, The Mask. A continuation of the alternative metal style they’ve had since the early 2000s, mixing screamed and clean vocals, it’s not an album that will win back fans of only their old – pre-2000 – albums but cements them as a consistent mainstream metal act.

Released on the same day as In Flames’ offering, Demon Hunter serve up their War and Peace double album. They’re a Christian metal band – which seems to be a dirty word to some – but, religious connotations aside, musically it’s another strong release from the band. War is full of fast-paced, crushing riffs and gruff vocals, while Peace shows off the more melodic side of the band.

This split is both the advantage and problem with War and Peace. It separates two sides of the band that usually blend together seamlessly. It’s all black or white, heavy or soft.

As always the albums are elaborately and lovingly packaged, as frontman Ryan Clarke runs the Grammy-nominated design studio Invisible Creature with his brother and former DH guitarist Don, and have previously put together covers for the likes of Foo Fighters, Kendrik Lamar and Norma Jean.

Towards the end of the month Forever Still’s cyberpunk and Philip K Dick-inspired Breathe In Colours comes out. Frontwoman Maja’s vocals soar over a mix of deeply grooved and fuzzy, droned-out riffs in a sound that is reminiscent of early Evanescence, but with a more modern twist.

Folk metal is usually a genre that instils me with dread, but The Spell by Cellar Darling is an intricate mix bathed in modern heavy prog with folk interludes and operatic vocals. Should I like an album that uses a hurdy-gurdy? Probably not. Do I? Yes!

Finally we have Empath by Devin Townsend, a mix of all his previous material and influences. On paper it’s an album that shouldn’t work but for fans there will be no surprise – it just does.

After a brief intro track, the album kicks off with the already released Genesis. This serves as a bit of a showcase track for the album – ethereal choirs, tonal screams, operatic vocals, funky pop aesthetics and prog bleed into full-on blistering metal, then all of a sudden kittens meowing.

The album shifts from sections reminiscent of Jim Steinman Meatloaf ballads and parts that wouldn’t be amiss in any Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman or Disney soundtrack to riffs that would make Devin’s former band Strapping Young Lad sound like Nickleback.

Speaking of which, fellow Canadian Chad Kroeger actually appears on the album, but don’t let that put you off. Long-time collaborators Anneke Van Giersbergen and Steve Vai are just a few of the names who have lent a hand to this ambitious album.

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