As someone who’s been active in the Buffalo, NY metal scene for the last 15 years, I can tell you without a doubt that attendance at local shows has been consistently trending down. My question is- Why? Because as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason whatsoever for our metalheads to be unmotivated about our scene. We have a ridiculous amount of talent in this area. We’re so fortunate in that regard, it’s disgusting. But don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about show-goers neglecting bands and venues. Promoters in this area have a hard time catering to the show needs of all our active bands; especially in the summer. Since our winters typically crush us and keep us housebound for nearly half a year, people have to realize that there are only about 24 weekends of nice weather to work with per year. And with the plethora of metal bands in this city, you’re bound to have weekly conflicts of interest. The same can be said for the winter months; it just doesn’t happen as frequently. For example, I just got back from a kick ass metal show in Tonawanda, NY, without even realizing that there were 3-4 other great metal and punk shows going on at the same time. This type of thing happens every weekend here and I’m sure it’s the same with most larger cities. Tonight one scene supporter quoted: “We need to get organized. We’re just taking away from each other’s audiences. It’s stupid.” And while they may be right, I can’t help but understand the plight of most promoters, having been one myself years ago.
So, anyways, enough rambling about the things that contribute to our poor turnouts that are out of our control. It’s time to talk about the things that are well within our grasp; the most obvious of which being mass promotion. Odds are, there are a ton of metalheads out there in our city -and the surrounding burbs- that are completely unaware of some of the amazing local talent we have to offer. That’s what I’m hoping this article will help correct. In this piece, I’m going to talk about 20 bands who have really made me realize one thing over these last few years- there’s no reason that things can’t be the way they used to be around here. We have it all:
1. Theatre Nocturne:
How do you like your riffs? If you answered- “I like Euro-influenced melodic death metal with some versatility”, then Theatre Nocturne is your band. Do you like At the Gates, older In Flames material, older Dark Tranquillity material, AND The Black Dahlia Murder? Then, imagine if you will, that those four bands had an angry lovechild, with an American accent, fast fingers, even faster feet and an overwhelming desire to level music venues to the ground. I cannot think of a better way to describe this great band. Driven by precision drumming and the almighty riff, this is a group you don’t want to sleep on.
Have you ever thought, “Man, I wish death metal bands still sounded like death metal bands…”? Look no further! Seplophile is a hardworking, passionate, textbook death metal act, after the hearts and minds of the original fans of the genre. This band is loaded with scene veterans who understand that both quality and quantity are foremost in the minds of their audience- and they always deliver. Fans of Incantation, Death, Vader, Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Morbid Angel, Aborted (the list goes on), are simply forbidden from ignoring this band.
Ever think to yourself, “Man, when the fuck did thrash die?”? It didn’t. Cain is a devastating 3 piece thrash act fronted by the one and only, Eareckson Murray, whose tireless efforts – on and off stage- have contributed greatly to our scene’s perseverance. Fans of early Slayer material, Death Angel, Testament and Kreator will really like these guys. They’re also fun to party with, as is just about every metal musician I’ve ever met from this area.
4. Circus Grenade:
How about some breakdowns? Are you the kind of person who wakes up on a Monday morning before work and thinks, “Fuck, if I don’t get some balls-to-the-wall downtempo chugging in me right now, I’m gonna start fisting all my coworkers!”? Well, Circus Grenade is the band that’s going to cure all your ills. This is another band of scene veterans who have the talent to shred with the best of the best, but instead, choose to ride e-chords and high end dissonant chords. You might think this is a waste of talent. However, in my humble opinion, they are the most entertaining band to watch in Buffalo. These five guys have more fun playing breakdowns and not having merch, than a lot of shredders appear to have on stage. They’re very open about the fact that they just want to have fun, ram into each other, dominate clubs, and be the most memorable band of the night. 9 times out of 10, they succeed. If you like this kind of stuff, and you love an energetic live show, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Circus Grenade up close and personal.
Have you ever wanted to know what a cold, lifeless, Norwegian winter sounds like? Enthauptung will be more than happy to provide the next best thing. These gentlemen are by far, the loudest, most hypnotic and atmospheric black metal band I’ve ever heard. You get lost in the screams, symphonic progressions and intense drumming so often, you’ll feel like you’re caught in some kind of time warp. It’s a remarkably terrifying, yet undeniably ear-pleasing experience. Fans of Emperor, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Darkthrone, or even some older Dimmu Borgir won’t have any choice but to appreciate the eerie sounds of Enthauptung..
And while we’re on the subject of black metal, let’s talk about the only band in this area -that I know of- that takes the genre “all the way”. I’m of course referring to chaotic screams, evil riffs, blasting drums and corpse paint. There’s something about a band that strives to convey black metal in its purest form that you can’t help but respect. There’s a true art form and culture here that makes for an intense show and an even more intense aftershock. I’d recommend the almighty Hubris to fans of the same artists I mentioned in my segment about Enthauptung.
Now, if you’re one who likes a hard dose of truth with your metal, but you’re not willing to go to the same extremes as some of the bands mentioned above, well, we have something for you too. If you love America, but you’re not too thrilled with your government, or maybe you just find yourself worrying about the future of our society in general, then I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help’s brand of metal might be right up your alley. These guys have catchy choruses, great riffs and very powerful, meaningful lyrics about the world we live in and the trials we all face. If you like more straight forward, melodic bands like Lamb of God, Unearth, Killswitch Engage, or even Megadeth, these guys have a tasty lick or two for you. They’ve got a great live show and know how to entertain, while keeping genuine emotion present throughout.
Here in Buffalo, we have a rule: You can’t have a conversation about thrash without mentioning Hellcannon. These guys do it like no other and they speak to diehard Slayer and Death Angel fans with nearly every note they play. Now, I don’t mean to imply that they rip off thrash legends- far from it. They have their own sound that simply makes fans of old school thrash feel nostalgic and enthralled right from the get-go. Having recently toured Europe, Hellcannon has already spread the word of Buffalo thrash overseas and I sincerely hope that if you’re unfamiliar with what they have to offer, you’ll give them your undivided attention at your next opportunity.
Now, here’s a band that’s a little difficult to classify. But I think it’s a good thing. Siegewyrm has your heavy crunch, your death metal guitars, your melodeath guitars, amazing scream-work, the occasional catchy clean chorus, and even a little power metal influence -and let’s not forget the badass dragon backdrop. I don’t get the impression that they’re trying to please everyone, I just think they write what they write. I’d recommend them to fans of As I Lay Dying, Dark Tranquillity, Amon Amarth, or even Machine Head. This is a great group of dudes who are very professional on and off stage, and put on a great show for their tight fan base.
10. It’s a Dinosaur!:
Aside from having a killer name, they’re hardly lacking in the musicianship department. Hailing from Niagara Falls, these guys aren’t afraid to toy with music theory and love walking a thin line between melody and dissonance. The vocals are just as diverse as the music, forcing their listeners to compare them to Protest the Hero or The Human Abstract. I’ve also heard a little Dillinger Escape Plan in their sound, along with some classic death metal and thrash. If you’re looking for a heavy, captivating live show with jaw dropping guitar and drum work, It’s a Dinosaur! is definitely worth a listen. Personally, I’d see them live before even checking out their recordings (which is the whole point of this article anyway), but either way, this is a band that deserves to take off.
Herod, quite simply, is the epitome of heavy metal. While it’s true that they’ve had their fair share of lineup changes and experimental phases, there’s no denying that they’re one of hardest working bands in Buffalo. They’ve been together for 15 years now and I don’t see any sign of them slowing down. Their discography is just as extensive as it is diverse, able to cater to fans of every sub genre of metal. Their sound covers it all, from classic bands like Metallica, Pantera, Judas Priest or Black Sabbath, to newer metalcore acts like Unearth, Killswitch Engage or As I Lay Dying. Their lead guitar work is quite impressive, as are their harmonies, heavy riffing and overall song structures. If you’re starting a band in the area, I almost feel as though you need a respectful nod from the members of Herod, before being granted passage into the Buffalo metal ranks. Herod’s live show is truly an experience worth having.
For the progressive metal/rock listener, there’s Pollock. They’ve been on the scene for a handful of years now and always deliver heavy, crushing guitars, enchanting melodic vocals and well composed song structures. When you first hear them, Tool or A Perfect Circle should instantly come to mind, but with a slightly heavier edge. Others have also compared them to Katatonia. They’re the perfect band to just take in and enjoy, while banging your head of course.
Now, if you want to talk a little more about progressive metal, there’s a band called Weaponex that you should really look into. Fronted by Mike Willard, one of the most talented, versatile guitarists I’ve ever heard in this area, Weaponex delivers a precise, surprising and commanding prog sound that is seemingly effortless. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, or that you’ve got the song figured out, you’ll hear and see twists and turns that will boggle your mind. But somehow, it always comes together in the end. Fans of Rush, Dream Theater, Megadeth, Zero Hour, To-Mera or Periphery will appreciate Weaponex.
Simply put: The young thrash attack! At least, that’s how they like to refer to themselves, and nothing could be closer to the truth. These are pretty young guys compared to most of their comrades in the scene, with an age range of 13- 19. But it’s easy to forget all about that when they’re melting your face with their personal brand of thrash. But it’s not all windmilling and fast beats. Armageddon have their epic sounding moments as well, which usually remind me of Battlecross. Do these guys a favor and go get a generous helping of what they’ve worked very hard to create.
Jumping back to prog- fans of Periphery, Intervals, Tesseract and Between the Buried and Me, are bound to appreciate the music of Buffalo “proglem” solvers, Amputecht. They’ve only been around the last few years but have already made quite a name for themselves. They possess an uncanny sound, blending all the catchy elements of progressive metal into seamless song structures that keep your head bobbing, while you’re struggling to pick your jaw up off the floor. Prog fans would do well to keep their eyes on these fellas. They’re preparing to unleash some new material as you’re reading this, and I’m clueless as to what they’re going to think of next. All I know for certain is that it’s going to be a good time.
16. Murder City Outlaws:
There’s nothing like a good fusion of energetic punk and punishing metal. The Murder City Outlaws do this perfectly. They combine older Anti-Flag material with older Against Me! material, add a dash a crust punk, the likes of Toxic Narcotic, then throw in some bludgeoning thrash metal, the likes of Slayer or Kreator. There’s really not a whole lot you can say about them, except that for as simple as their formula is, it is also perfect. Simply put- if you don’t agree with something, stand up and speak your mind until people are sick of hearing you, and then scream your point of view in their faces even louder. And it’s the correlation between old school thrash and old school punk that conveys this message better than any other genre split. Want a high energy, pissed off, in your face live show? Go see MCO.
These self-proclaimed “Deliverers of Doom” couldn’t be more right in their assessment of themselves. This band has some of the most brutal gutturals I’ve ever heard, along with disgustingly heavy/bendy riffs played in g# and g standard. In terms of a blunt message of death, destruction and mutilation, nobody does it like Darkapathy. Imagine Crowbar or Lord Dying, drop tuned even lower and with the lowest of all low growls, and you’ve got a match. They just released a brutal new 8 song album called, Condemned in Black. Needless to say, if you love brutal doom as much as I do, this record is more than worth your time.
Oh, none of the bands already mentioned gave you a strong enough death metal fix? Well, one more band comes to mind that might be able to help you out. And if any of you local veterans are reading this and you remember the band, Grady’s Ax, then you already know where this is going. Varices delivers more great traditional death metal with slight traces of grindcore, fast enough and brutal enough to drive you into a temporary state of madness. Frontman, Michael Woods is no stranger to the stage and gives his front row an incomparable deranged look, providing a perfect face for the music backing him. We’re still awaiting some recordings from these guys, as they are fairly new to the scene (although their members are not), but their live show should be more than enough to hold any death metal fan over.
Downtempo at its finest. Much like Circus Grenade, these guys deliver a heavy crunch all their own, with tasty grooves and brutal vocals. They remind me of Volumes and I Declare War more than anyone else, but some compare them to Reflections. The pits for these guys can get kind of rowdy, but if you’re looking to get injured by flying fists and spin kicks, then by all means, come visit these boys for a nightcap.
20. Goblin Hovel:
Last but certainly not least, we have Goblin Hovel, who much like Siegewyrm, are a little difficult to classify. Within their live set, you’ll find traces of folk metal, thrash metal, death metal, classic heavy metal and classic rock. This is an eclectic group, merging musicians from both the Buffalo, NY and Rochester, NY metal scenes. At a GH show, you’ll be treated to epic tales of fantastical lands and creatures, all the while wishing you’d remembered your kilt and dancing shoes. They’re one of the most fun bands to watch around here and really bring their A-game every show.
Well, there you have it- 20 bands and 20 reasons to attend metal shows in the Buffalo area. But don’t assume this list is as good as it gets. There are many more talented bands out there that I know I neglected to mention for the sake of the length of this read. Furthermore, there are probably dozens of bands hiding in Buffalo area basements who have yet to grace my ears, that are in all likeliness, even more inspiring then any of the artists mentioned above. Needless to say, I love this scene and all that it has had, currently has and will have to offer audiences. If you took the time to check this out, you have my immense gratitude. In the near future, I plan to compile info on some key area bands that set the tone for our scene in the late ’90s and early ‘2000s, that are no longer together. I’d like to take our Buffalo readers on a trip down memory lane, where I will pay tribute to the bands and musicians that got me involved in this awesome metal utopia in the first place. Cheers and thanks for reading.
– Mike Marlinski