The 10 Best Metal Columns of 2015

The holiday season is winding down, and we at Phoenix New Times hope that you had a great 2015. As we look forward to the New Year, I wanted to re cap some of the best Metal Mondays blogs of the year.

These were picked based off of social media shares, how much they got music lovers talking, as well as my own favorite interviews. Here's looking forward to a very metal 2016!

Rock Biz Veteran Alan Niven Thinks the Arizona Metal Scene Can Thrive

Alan Niven set up shop in Prescott a few years back with an AZ label, Tru-B-Dor Records. Credited with kick-starting the careers of Mötley Crüe, Dokken, Great White, and Guns N Roses, he sees lots of potential in the desert music scene, comparing it to the same energy he felt in LA in the mid-‘80s: the ability to create timeless yet contemporary music.

"There was a camaraderie, but also a sense of competition. Each band raised the bar for the other," says Niven. "Now L.A. is impossible to afford, and that's why it hasn't had a good music scene in ages. But in the Phoenix socioeconomic environment, you can put your energies and focus into making good music, and you can just about get by and do it.”

"The yardstick of that is, are any of these bands what you would call 'national quality'?"
Otep Talks Spiritual Intercourse and How Slipknot’s DJ Convinced her to Perform Again

Most people either love or hate Otep. The singer/poet/activist/screamer/illustrator/rapper/The Hobbit voice-over actress challenges just about everybody and everything—but that’s also what produces the good shit. This is a woman who has some really thought-provoking opinions about the direction of the music industry, and stays true to why she got into the profession over 20 years ago.

Plus, the conversation is never boring: We talked about "spiritual intercourse," record companies fighting over her again, kids being named after her, and the incident she was involved in that has act Terror Universal dismiss their lead singer.

Rock TV Host Eddie Trunk: “There’s No Mystique or Surprises” in Music Anymore

Eddie Trunk is easily one of the most knowledgeable personalities in hard rock and metal. He’s always been known for getting to the meat of the matter (metalheads don’t care about who's-dating-who or fashion feuds), which has made his show, That Metal Show, not only the longest running program in VH1’s history—but the only hard rock/heavy metal-oriented show on cable TV.

We talked about the show’s 14th season (and all the changes that came with it), social media's affect on the music industry, and his most anticipated albums of 2015—let’s see how on his predictions were.

AZ Metal Bands and Comedians Come Together for Desert Frostover

Earlier this month, Desert Frostover took over Marquee Theatre. For the past three years the event has evolved in impressive ways, moving from a 600-capacity venue in 2014 to one with 2,500 this year, as well as incorporating live art displays, food trucks, comedians, and more than 20 top local bands.

“One of the biggest challenges is breaking through people's preconceptions about what we can or can’t do: Two-day festival of all Arizona-based music? Can't do it. Biggest and best venue in town? Can't do it. 22 bands? Can't do it,” says Jeremy Jalowiec, event organizer. “We had to fight to change people's minds every step of the way to make a dream reality. We want to be a part of and help create something bigger—something no one has thought of to do in Arizona. We love this scene, this state, and want to show everyone how great they—and we are.”

Marky Ramone Talks Punk History, Phil Spector, and Italian Food

There’s no denying that the Ramones completely redefined American music, creating a blueprint for the future of hardcore and punk, and that the members were all ahead of their time. In Marky Ramone’s autobiography Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, readers get to hear many of the stories behind the writing, touring, and collaborations that have never really seen the light of day.

During our interview it was clear to see how Marky Ramone helped influence the world of heavy metal, hardcore and punk. Just one example? His high school band Dust (one of the first heavy metal band in the U.S.) signed with a major label, opened for Alice Cooper, and broke into the Billboard Top 100 chart. 

The Ghost Vs. Religion Debate is Silly 

This piece touched on the age-old controversy of heavy metal (really, just music in general) versus religion. It’s the same argument, over and over again — but the most ridiculous part of it is that it doesn’t have to be. Ghost, for example, derives from Sweden where everything is secularized. The band’s whole act isn’t about degrading religion — it’s about bringing to light how devout Christians are failing to understand certain aspects of what life is about. It’s refreshing performance art, incorporating everything from classical and church choirs to prog and catchy pop hooks. It’s as much cinema as it is music.

Incantation’s John McEntee Describes the Band’s Organic Death Metal

As one of the pioneers as the New York death metal scene back in the late 1980s, Incantation has continued to stay relevant over the course of nine studio albums with their style that leaps from down-tuned and sludgy to fast and suspenseful. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is that with over 30 lineup changes over the years, the band's sound and influence hasn't faltered. In this interview, sole original member McEntee admits that Incantation is just as much about evolving the sound so much as tightening it’s original style that helped pioneer the underground death metal scene. He also hints to a 2016 album that might already be written.

The 25th Anniversary of Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell and the Reason it Matters

When the 25th anniversary of this album came around, I was fairly surprised that there wasn’t any media coverage, reissues, or anniversary “lists” floating around. But as a heavy metal journalist for the past 13 years (and hardcore Pantera fan), I not only wanted to celebrate what the album truly did for music; it was also the first piece I was able to write after a terrible family tragedy.

While it was cathartic for me, it seemed to be cathartic for fans, as well, reaching 32,000 Facebook likes within a week. And while you probably think I’m going to say grunge almost killed metal and Cowboys From Hell saved it from extinction — you would be wrong.

Metals’ First Female Frontwoman Talks About Playing in a Man’s World

This 45-minute interview with the first female bandleader in heavy metal, Doro Pesch, was a favorite for me. It wasn’t just because she has 30 years of insight into the industry, and has an incredible back story (as well as lots of comedic tales from the early days)—but because her demeanor was that of a debut artist doing press rounds for the first time. She was open, charming, and genuine while talking about her 17th album, her first time in Phoenix in '88, and the time she opened up for Metallica (and didn't even know it).

Slayer’s Kerry King Tells How Jeff Hanneman’s Death Affected New Album

Slayer’s world has been turned inside out over the past five years, but with hardship comes payoff: 2015 might mark one of the band’s most visceral, raw albums in its 30-year career. Repentless was released on September 11, 2015, and was the band’s first album since the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman and departure of founding drummer Dave Lombardo.

But the concept of “time” doesn’t mean much to the band. In our interview, Kerry King confirmed that some of the songs were written 15 to 20 years ago—except for the one song he absolutely had to write for Hanneman. We also touch base on Slayer’s set at Bonnaroo, and his desire to be born 50 years later.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise