Friday, July 20, 2018

From Worst To First: Metallica albums

So our journey through the discography of Metallica is now over, and unlike my previous look backs, I will just settle with a simple ranking of the album, mostly so I can stop myself from rambling too much. But before we go into the ranking, what did I learn from Metallica's roller coaster of a career. Well, they have maximized every opportunity they have gotten to become even bigger, gaining a fan base that goes well beyond the realms of regular metal heads, even if some quality had to be sacrificed along the way to fulfill those prophecies. I also learned that this is one tough band, having dealt with death, betrayal, and a lot of other shit over the years, but some how have gotten out of the tunnel stronger than ever. Yes, Metallica is a metal band that could be seen as larger than life, one that everyone knows of and has an opinion about, no one is left untouched. A true telling that their music is important, whether you like it or not.

Anyway, enough rambling, let us rank the albums, from worst to first, and just like the review series, I only count original full length albums by the band, so you will not see "Garage Inc." (because it is a cover album), "S & M" (because it is a live album), or "Lulu" (because it is more of a Lou Reed record, but we all know where that would have landed if I included it).

10. St. Anger

Out of all the ten records Metallica has done over the years, there is no album that is sparked as much discussion as "St. Anger". This angry record was the bi-product of the band's inner struggles, creating a complete mess that no one could enjoy, not the thrash lovers of the 80's, nor the fans that got into the band during the more mainstream 90's. For many, it is even in the running for the worst metal album ever created, and while I personally do not think "St. Anger" is wretched enough to be in that particular discussion, I honestly can see why others would. It is a chapter of Metallica we all would like to forget.


9. Load
8. Reload

Separating the "Load" and "Reload" records apart is a tough task since they are basically twin brothers, being written at the same time and released one year apart from each other. Both are overly long and boring, filled with a lot of failed experimentations that (fortunately) did not make a lasting impact in the future sound of the band. I like "Reload" slightly better since it has a couple more interesting ideas, it has the two best songs in "Fuel" and "The Unforgiven II", and it is a little shorter. Still, the improvement is minimal, so it cannot crawl out of the bottom tier of this ranking.

7. Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

It has been almost two years now since this record was released, and it seems like it is the first Metallica record since "The Black Album" that has at least gotten a stamp of approval from the metal community. "Hardwired..." certainly turns out some strong material and show that the fire in the band burns stronger than ever. The reason it is this low though is because it is the most inconsistent Metallica record to date, with some magnificent highs like "Moth Into Flame", "Spit Out The Bone", and "Halo On Fire", but it also has some unbelievable lows like "ManUNkind" that just kills the flow of the record. I really do not like that it is split into two discs as well, but that is more of a minor issue. Great that you guys seem to like this one, and to some extent, I do too, as long as I can skip some of the tracks.

6. ...And Justice For All

Now this album is a classic, an album that has spawned several amazing songs like "One", "Dyers Eve", and "The Frayed Ends of Sanity", so naturally it should be higher up on these rankings if it was not for one crucial flaw. Yes, I sound like a broken record when I say that the production on "...And Justice For All" is garbage, but it is the most glaring problem with this record, one that cannot be ignored all that easily. It is the only thing holding this album back from reaching those crazy levels that both "Lightning" and "Puppets" reached, and it is still a discussion about who is to blame for this mistake. It is still a strong record, and it is only down here because it faces some stiff competition, a testament on how good Metallica actually has been.

5. S/T (aka The Black Album)

Since it is the most popular metal album to date, "The Black Album" automatically becomes overrated simply because there are more people speaking up against it. While I am kind of with these naysayers that this album does not deserve the immense success that it has gotten, it is still a record with a lot of quality in it. Yes, songs like "Nothing Else Matters" and "Sad But True" are just boring, but we have several songs like "Enter Sandman", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Of Wolf And Man" that still hold up very well today, showing a new side of the band that we have not seen before. We cannot ignore the importance of this record, and even if it is not as good as the sales numbers suggest, it is still a pretty darn good effort from the band.

4. Kill 'em All

Ahh, the dirty little debut record that put the band on the map. "Kill 'em All" has a very primal feeling to it that really makes it stand out amongst its more polished brethren, speaking a good tone to that inner caveman. The simplicity in riffs and song structures merges really well with the aggressive tone the band had during their early days, setting up for great success in the future. Gotta give some credit to Dave Mustaine though here, because "Kill 'em All" is basically a Megadeth record, this just would not have been the same without MegaDave.



3. Death Magnetic

So this is probably my most controversial placement in this edition of "From Worst To First", but I have to be brutally honest here, I freaking love this record. "Death Magnetic" is a fun as hell ride from first to last minute, showing off some fantastic riffs and solos along the way, stuffing your ears full with it like a turkey gets stuffed with stuffing on Thanksgiving. It is an album that I know as well as the back of my hand, I know every riff, word, and tempo change in here, and I would not want the band to change any of it... well, with the exception of that 10 minute instrumental "Suicide & Redemption", fuck that song.


2. Master of Puppets

A lot of hearts will be broken here when I have to decide which of the two clearly best Metallica albums gets to be the first loser, and I am sorry "Master of Puppets", but you are the runner up. It is still a brilliant album through and through, kicking a ton of ass with a lot of challenging songs, both length wise and through complexity in riffs and structure. I do not think there is any metal head who can dismiss the title track and its massive nature, the highly addictive main riffs, the tempo shifts midway through the song, the seemingly endless solo, and those classic words that is burned into most of our brains. "Master, Master, Master of Puppets pulling your strings". Oh how they pull mine.

1. Ride The Lightning

"Ride The Lightning" is the perfect bridge between the simplistic "Kill 'em All" and the progressive "Master of Puppets", combining the two styles into one magnificent record. It has the aggression in songs like "Fight Fire With Fire" and "Trapped Under Ice", but it also has the smart delicate delivery in the title track and "Fade To Black". And to top it all off, the band pulls out some extremely creepy emotions in the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu", like it is a ritual taken straight from the "Nekronomikon" to start the apocalypse. Man, this album has it all, it has every little bit in what makes Metallica such a great band, and for them to gather it all into a single record is nothing but an incredible achievement. A magnificent masterpiece of near perfection.

And as a bonus, here are also my 10 favourite Metallica tracks, in alphabetical order

All Nightmare Long
That second solo alone gives it a spot here.

The Call of Ktulu
One of the best instrumentals out there.

Fade To Black
The emotions are taking over completely.

Fight Fire With Fire
Speed! Shredding! More speed!

Master of Puppets
It is the master for a reason.

No Leaf Clover
A very underrated song made exclusively for the "S & M" record.

One
No other song has turned up the intensity so god damn well.

Ride The Lightning
A early rendition of "Master of Puppets" is still a fantastic rendition.

Wherever I May Roam
Wherever it may roam, I shall follow.

Whiplash
It makes me act like a maniac.

So now that that is settled, let us attack another band. I think I am a little hungry for some German power metal.

Until next time, do not forget to stay metal.
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Metallica - Death Magnetic (2008)

So after the extremely turbulent time during the making of "St. Anger", Metallica was ready to move on. First on the agenda, recruit a new bassist, and after a three month long search, the band settled down on Robert Trujillo, who at that time was most known from Suicidal Tendencies and being the touring bassist for Ozzy Osbourne. Looking back at it, I think most of us are happy the band chose Trujillo, he is a fantastic showman on stage, and did bring some extra energy to the band, which was certainly displayed on their 9th studio effort, "Death Magnetic".

To help out the band in the recording process, they reached out to Rick Rubin to produce the record. Rick ordered the band to go back and listen to their older stuff, to be inspired when the time for writing was nigh. The result ended up being kind of a direct opposite to the primal nature of "St. Anger". Instead of simple, angry songs with no solos, "Death Magnetic" offers a style that is more like "...And Justie For All", long and complex songs with riffs to the absolute brim.

So all is well, right? Wrong, because everyone started to find new ways to complain. The songs are too long, they all sound the same, the production is way too clean. Out of those three main complaints, I can only really agree with the last one. Sure, Rick Rubin did a nice job on the production, but just like with most of his recent productions, the cleanliness takes away the soul and personality of the album, turning it into a sparkling clean machine, something that certainly does not fit Metallica. It does not bother me that much though, but I would have liked it even more if it had some dirt under its nails.

As for the two other complaints, I can only agree to disagree. Sure, the songs are long, and so is the album (1 hour and 14 minutes), but unlike "Load" and "Reload", there is a pace to the songs that makes that time go by much more smoothly. Instead of getting bored to death, you fly by at the speed of sound, so while the "Load" brothers might feel like 1 and a half hours, "Death Magnetic" feels more like it sits just around the hour mark. And while I do understand that there are similarities between the songs in structure, they still have their own personalities thanks to the riffs, solos, and choruses being as strong as they are. Songs like "End of The Line", "That Was Just Your Life", and "The Judas Kiss" certainly have a similar feel, but are still strong, catchy efforts.

This is certainly no flatline record, and one song that definitely shows that is "All Nightmare Long", a riff fest that transitions smoothly from segment to segment, turning out one of the heavier performances from the band in several albums. Also, that second solo gives me the goosebumps every time, makes we wanna live this nightmare over and over again. Then we have "The Unforgiven III" as another stand out, and it is pretty clear that the "Unforgiven" series are sort of like the "Toy Story" movies. The first one was good, second one was arguably better, and the third one is the best, but both number two and three are completely unnecessary. I do like though that there is a new structure to this song, even if the opening piano intro is overstaying its welcome.

Unfortunately, we also do have some lows in here. Besides the production, I feel like the song "Cyanide" could do better with a tougher chorus, the current one is really lame. It is not as lame as the instrumental track though, because "Suicide & Redemption" is literally all suicide. This is a 10 minute instrumental that repeats itself a couple times too many, and never really seems to go anywhere. There is no real emotion to the song, so it becomes an agonizing slog. Worst part is that it might have the best solo in the entire album, buried 6 minutes into the song, with Kirk taking the first half and James the second, creating a sort of guitarist duel that is cool to see. Two guys, same segment, two completely different solos.

Despite those issues, I still love this album to death. This is an extremely consistent record that knows what it is, and knows what it want to accomplish. After a bunch of bad and boring records, "Death Magnetic" was the fun pill that not only the band needed, but that the fans needed as well. It is not a full on back track to the glory days (I consider this to be more of a straight up heavy metal record than a thrash one), and it might be one of the less experimental albums from the band in a while, but there is one simple fact it has going for it, it kicks ass, a lot of it. That is good enough for me, time to take it for another spin (minus the instrumental).

Songs worthy of recognition: All Nightmare Long, The End of The Line, The Unforgiven III, The Judas Kiss

Rating: 8,5/10 Cyanides

metallica.com/
twitter.com/metallica

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
S/T
Load
Reload
St. Anger
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group H

So we have finally reached the end of this series that I definitely should have started before the World Cup even began, but I am a spontaneous bastard (great band name btw). I hope you enjoyed it, because I certainly did, discovering a lot of other bands and cultures. Four countries are left though, so let us get to them.

Colombia

The darlings of the 2014 World Cup are back again to once again win everyone over with their exotic style, and there is certainly reason to believe that they can reach as far, if not further, this time. James Rodriguez is back, getting a much needed confidence boost in his short stint in Bayern, Falcao finally gets the chance to play a World Cup to, and we got one of the most intriguing centre back pairings in Davison Sanchez and Yerry Mina. This is certainly a dark horse, one that can take it all the way.

So when it comes to metal, it gets a little awkward, because the biggest metal band out there are... not something we should really discuss. The recent allegations of the blackened thrash metal band Inquisition and its frontman Dagon about child pornography is a really touchy subject, and not something that should be encouraged. It does not help the fact that Dagon also has a history of being a Nazi, so let us leave this band, never to speak of them again, and see what else Colombia has to offer.

Well, it is mostly death and black metal from this South American country, with some of the stand outs being Internal Suffering and Thy Antichrist. Not my personal cup of tea, but they have obviously found their fans. While there seem to be a healthy amount of bands from the country, there is not a lot of true stand outs that have punched their way into the sphere. Hopefully, that will change in the near future.

Japan

Yeah, Japan has seen some better days. Some of their biggest players (like Honda, Okazaki, and Kagawa) are reaching the end of their careers, while there are few talents who can cover for them. Looking at the roster, there is a lot of routine here that play all over Europe, but it will take some real effort to even make it through the group stages. I am interested to see Takashi Inui though, he has had some good seasons in the Spanish club Eibar, so maybe he is the one that shall lead the Japanese to glory. That samurai mentality is much needed here.

Well, let us start this discussion by bringing up the hottest things that has come out of Japan since Anime. The entertaining, but also controversial, three-piece Babymetal has taken the world by storm with their unique blend of heavy Slipknot like beats, and cutesy J-pop. It is a combo that brings out the cringe in about 95% of all metal heads, but once you get into it, it gets sort of infectious. Not saying that Babymetal is the new coming of Judas Priest (even with the blessing from the Metal God himself), but they certainly have the potential to reshape the landscape. In other words, this is as much Japan as it can ever get, and for every face palm song like "Karate" and "Gimme Chocolate", there is a "Megitsune" that will blow your brain away.

But before Babymetal, there has been a pretty good amount of Japanese that has come out to the scene successful. We got the death/black metal band Sigh, a lot of power metal from Galneryus, Blood Stain Child, Versailles, and X Japan, some more alternative styles from Dir En Grey, some drone from Boris, and some classic hair metal from Loudness. There is a lot of interesting, passionate, and really fun Japanese metal out there, which really is a reflection on their fan base that is said to be wild as hell. As said, Japan is fun, and it is a dream of mine to go to one of their metal festivals, hopefully dying with a shit eating grin on my face while I get destroyed by that mosh pit.

Poland

Well Poland, it is finally time for you to show what you are made of. This golden generation, which includes stars such as Lewandowski, Blaszczykowski, Piszczek, and Szczesny, have not really accomplished anything. This is the first World Cup they have qualified for since 2006, and their best Euro record is a quarter final two years ago. A lot of the pressure will be on the shoulders of Robert Lewandowski, a magnificent goal scorer in is club Bayern Munich, and he scored 16 goals in the qualifiers. His knack for getting those goals will be needed if Poland shall reach their first play off game in the World Cup since 1986.

The Polish metal scene is as strong as ever, with a whole bunch of big guns. The BFG is still Behemoth though, and there is really no reason why they should not be, the quality that Nergal and his crew produce is simply amazing. Together with these masters of black metal we have the even more experienced death metal legends Vader, technical death giants Decapitated, progressive veterans Riverside, and yet another good death metal band in Hate.

It is certainly obvious that death and black metal is the forte of Poland, with Mgla, Batushka, Vesania, and Azarath as other examples. We got some good progressive metal as well, with Lunatic Soul and Blindead. Otherwise I can recommend the heavy metal band Crystal Viper, crossover thrashers Acid Drinkers, and sludge band Obscure Sphinx. Polish metal is surely in good hands for years to come.

Senegal

There are few teams in this World Cup that I am as excited to watch than Senegal. Despite this only being their second tournament (first one was in 2002), Senegal has an incredibly fun attitude that shows on and off the pitch. All 23 players are truly enjoying themselves, taking in every bit of the moment. Then we look at the roster, and we see that there is a good amount of talent to back it up. Biggest star is Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who have enjoyed a strong season, and he is joined by guys like M'Baye Niang, Salif Sane, Idrissa Gueye, and Kalidou Koulibaly. They will certainly be dancing into Russia, will they do the same when they leave?

Well, we got a Nigeria situation over here. There seems to be little to no metal scene in Senegal, with no bands registered in Metallum, and no real articles found. Sooooooooo... next segment please.

Thoughts on group

Both Poland and Japan have an impressive amount of quality bands, more than I originally imagined, while Colombia was kind of underwhelming. Senegal... yeah, let us not speak of them.

Reaction on competition

I called this the group of death, and it certainly delivered. Colombia went through as the winner, despite losing the first game, and Senegal and Japan was so even that for the first time ever, we had to use the fair play rules to separate them. Japan got fewer yellow cards, so they went through. Shame, I really love the joy that Senegal brought to the game.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group G

Getting close to the end here, but we still have two groups left to cover, starting with Group G.

Belgium

This is it, the last stand for Belgium's golden generation. This is a team that is literally overflowing with creative talent, with players like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Thibaut Courtois, and many more. They have played together in a couple of tournaments now, and never really succeeded, reaching the quarter finals in the 2016 Euros as their best placement (eliminated by Wales!). This is their time, all or nothing, make it or break it, going balls to the wall. Time to rise up Belgium, a better shot than this will not open up for a long time.

So Belgium has a pretty good amount of good metal bands out there, because when you think about Belgium, metal does not seem to be that big over there. Well, a bunch of bands are here to prove us wrong, starting with the highly respected death/grindcore band Aborted, who in their 20+ years of existence have piled up a good number of releases (9, with a 10th on the way), and quite a reputation. Does not seem like the rest of the country caught on though, since the rest of the higher profiled bands are all over the place, genre wise.

We got some black metal from Enthroned and Ancient Rites, some power from Iron Mask and Magic Kingdom, some doom from Thurisaz, Pantheist, and Amenra, and then we also have some speed metal from my personal favourites Evil Invaders. If you still have not listened to their last year sophomore record "Feed Me Violence", you should, it is some fantastic high quality speed metal. So yeah, Belgium is surprisingly diverse, but not too deep. Still, there are some bands out the wings trying to break through, and with a little luck, they might.

England

Every tournament is the same for the country where football was born. Everyone has some doubt in the team before the tournament, which eventually turns into extreme cockiness when the team starts off well. And then they usually get eliminated on penalties, probably against the Germans. It is an seemingly endless cycle that Gareth Southgate and his young squad is going to try to break, and while a couple of positions are pretty thin, there is certainly quality to go around. The magnificent goal scorer Harry Kane leads the charge, together with a lot of Tottenham team mates (Alli, Dier, Trippier, Rose), a bunch of speedy guys (Sterling, Walker), and a Harry Maguire, who watched the national team in the 2016 Euros as a fan. As always, it will be mighty interesting to see this England squad, even if it might disappoint you in the end.

Just like with football, England is where metal was born, with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest leading the hard working middle class to the magic of heavy music. England is still a big power in metal, and the growth is still good, so I am just gonna name a bunch of bands (like I did with Sweden and Germany in group H), and leave it at that.

So we got Anathema, Cradle of Filth, Paradise Lost, Porcupine Tree, My Dying Bride, Carcass, DragonForce, Alestorm, Napalm Death, Venom, Anaal Nathrakh, Saxon, Rainbow, Electric Wizard, King Crimson, Haken, Evile, TesseracT, Sylosis, Threshold, Gloryhammer, Bring Me The Horizon, Killing Joke, Hell, Slugdge, SikTh, Satan, and... *gulp* Asking Alexandria. Probably missed a few, but you can remind me if I did.

Also, not counting Bullet For My Valentine because they are from Wales (would not be surprised if any of the bands I mentioned were too though, once again, feel free to correct me).

Panama

It is always fun to see a small nation get into the World Cup, but if I have to be honest, I do not think Panama deserved it. Sure, they have a ton of heart, and did a lot of work to reach this stage, but they had a couple of lucky breaks along the way, like team USA performing really poorly, and getting a goal that was clearly not a goal. Still, I do not think Panama will have much in this competition to do, but they are probably just happy to be here, maybe hoping to score a goal or two, maybe even steal a point. Glad to have you guys here.

So, not surprisingly, the metal scene in Panama is not very big as well. What is curious though is that there seems to be three different types of bands from here. Bands that never really got any footing to begin with (just releasing demos or EPs), bands that started out in the 90's or early 00's, but eventually died off, and bands that has just started their journey. Not a lot of consistency here, as you could probably tell, with no band having a steady release flow or developed fan base. I still picked out three recently active bands for you guys to check out, the thrash metal band Atrofia, the heavy metal band Still Louder, and power metal band Valkeryon, all are decent bands that probably will speak to some of you, so some hope are still there for Panama's metal scene, even if it is not much to behold.

Tunisia

North Africa certainly had a good qualifier, with 3 of the 5 African teams here coming from that region. Out of the three (the remaining being Egypt and Morocco), Tunisia might be the weakest team, but they still have a good amount of technical skill that should keep them from being pushovers. The key for their success might be the defence, since the road to the play off will have to go through Belgium and England. Are they organized enough to make such a feat happen? I doubt it, but I would be glad if I am wrong.

While there is no star in their national team, they do have a band that every Tunisian can look up to. The oriental prog metal band Myrath is the clear leading force for Tunisian metal, and all of their four studio effort are a big proof of that. This is an excellent band that might have been in the shadows of Orphaned Land a little too long, but they deserve their credit, so go listen to them right now.

It definitely seems like Progressive metal is the jam of Tunisia, because there are a bunch of these bands here. Some of the better ones out there are Brood of Hatred, Lost Insen, and Nawather, and all of them are just in the beginning of their careers, and have their own special touch. I also wanna mention the symphonic group Persona and the doom/death band Omination, two completely different bands that also are just in the starting stages. Tunisian metal is certainly on the uprise.

Thoughts on group

England is the juggernaut here, no question about that. The rest is kind of middle of the road, even if Belgium has some fire power to throw at you. Definitely not my favourite group, at least when it comes to overall stability.

Reaction on competition

England and Belgium through... what a shocker!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group F

Hell yeah, Sweden is through to the quarter finals, let us celebrate by continuing our World Cup series, and wouldn't you know, we have reached Sweden's group. Let us check it out, shall we?

Germany

The former England player Gary Lineker once spoke that football is an easy sport, that it is about 22 men running around in a field chasing a ball, and at the end, Germany win. Now, that is not entirely true, but I would be lying if I did not say that Germany, together with Brazil, is probably the biggest football nation in the world. They are the reigning world champions after all, and by the looks of this year's squad, they could just as well defend their title. There is world class players everywhere, and just the fact that Leroy Sane, one of the greatest wingers this last season, is not in the squad is a testament to the massive depth Germany has, with both a lot of experience, and a lot of young and hungry players. Man, they are scary.

Despite that depth, it really does not even come close to matching what Germany does in the metal scene though. Just like German engineering, German metal is heavy, precise, and filled to the brim with quality. I do not need to go deeper into this, so let us just do a quick shout out to just some of the bands out there.

Ehem...

Blind Guardian, Rammstein, Kreator, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Sodom, Accept, Scorpions, Powerwolf, Running Wild, Grave Digger, Rage, Freedom Call, Edguy, Avantasia, The Ocean, Tankard, Van Canto, Vanden Plas, Doro, Obscura, Equilibrium, Destruction, Primal Fear, Suidakra, Heaven Shall Burn, Dark Fortress, Crematory, Brainstorm, Exumer, At Vance, Angel Dust, Words of Farewell, and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter. Did I miss any?

Mexico

Ahh Mexico, a proud land who take pride with their football, which their record has shown. They eased through their qualifiers, led by the Little Pea (or as his real name is Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez) and a huge veteran in Rafael Marquez, who makes his 5th World Cup appearance. This is a sneaky good team with some potential break out stars, like PSV Eindhoven star Hirving Lozano, who have gotten the nickname "Chucky" (after the "Child's Play" character of course). The question is though if they can break the curse. In the last 6 World Cups, Mexico has made it through the group stage, but got eliminated in the last 16 every time. Let us hope this frisky squad can go further.

While I like the team, I am really not loving the metal scene, mostly because the genres grindcore and deathcore are dominating. This type of music is not for me because it is just way too messy, too much chaos for my simple brain to handle. There is no denying that the country has a fair share of promising bands, the biggest of them all is Brujeria, a grindcore group that has thrived since the early 90's, and almost even more so when President Trump gave them some extra fuel to work with. Other notable -core bands are Here Comes The Kraken, Disgorge, and Paracoccidioidomicosisproctitissarcomucosis (try saying that three times quickly).

There are a bunch of other bands though that fight for some attention. The death metal band The Chasm has created a respectable career during their 25 years of existence, and so have also the progressive band Agora. They do not come close to being as productive as the death thrash band Transmetal, who between 1988 and 2014 have released 20 full length albums, that is a rate of about 0,77 albums per year. Probably more quantity than quality there, but still, that is some dedication, which I certainly see in a lot of other Mexico bands. Great to see that.

South Korea

This is easily the weakest opponent in this group, but you should never underestimate South Korea. This team has a knack to establish some impressive team efforts, making it very difficult for their opponents to gain any advantages against them. Sure, I do not think that they will even come close to the success they reached when they hosted the World Cup together with Japan in 2002 (bronze medal), but they might give Mexico and Sweden some trouble... maybe even Germany if they have their day. Everything rests on their star player though, the Tottenham star Heung-min Son, who have enjoyed a fantastic season prior to this summer's main event. Gonna be interesting to see this side, and what they can accomplish.

It is pretty obvious that South Korea is more into their own little sub genre known as K-pop, and they have not yet unleashed a Babymetal like clone out to the world. The most prominent metal band out there is surely Jambinai, a strange post-metal band that takes ancient Korean instruments, such as the Piri, the Haegeum, the Geomungo, and even some glockenspiel (Hey, isn't that German?), mix them all up into a very weird, but more importantly, interesting type of music that you most certainly would not hear anywhere else. As a European, it is confusing at first, but I eventually started to dig these infectious rhythms, go check them out.

Otherwise, it is not much else to report here. We got a melodic death metal band who have been around since 1993 in Oathean, and a gothic band in Ophelia. As said, not much else to report.

Sweden

So Sweden might be seen as one of the more boring entries to this World Cup, defending for long periods of time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Well, you cannot blame the result though, because this inexperienced Swedish squad (without Zlatan Ibrahimovic) managed to beat France, and eliminate both the Netherlands and Italy in their way to this tournament. This is a team, eleven players working their asses off to help each other, and they have to, because they have no real stars. Emil Forsberg might be the biggest out there, or maybe perhaps Victor Nilsson Lindelöf, but none of them are in the world class category, and other players, like Ola Toivonen, have gotten very little play time in their clubs. This is a team that trust each other, they win together, and lose together, which is something we all can admire.

You know what is not boring though? Swedish metal! Just like Germany, I do not really need to say much here, so let me just name a few bands, and call it a day.

Ehem...

Opeth, Amon Amarth, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Katatonia, Arch Enemy, Therion, Meshuggah, Bathory, Hypocrisy, Pain, HammerFall, At The Gates, Sabaton, Soilwork, Pain of Salvation, Candlemass, Ghost, Marduk, Scar Symmetry, Tiamat, Evergrey, Dark Funeral, Diablo Swing Orchestra, The Night Flight Orchestra, Entombed, Watain, Cult of Luna, Yngwie Malmsteen, The Haunted, Amaranthe, Soen, Vintersorg, Tribulation, Witherscape, Nocturnal Rites, Grand Magus, Europe, Spiritual Beggars, Avatarium, Graveyard, Andromeda, Avatar, Mustasch, Hardcore Superstars, and Twilight Force. Did I miss any?

Thoughts on group

This is quite an uneven group, to say the least, we got two heavy metal giants in Sweden and Germany, and two... let us say not as big nations in South Korea and Mexico. So while the two mastodons steals most of the spotlight, you certainly should not look past the little guys, they may not have the numbers, but they got heart. This is probably the strongest group of them all.

Reaction on the competition

Well, decided to do a reaction here instead of just writing my prediction before the tournament (besides, you guys probably knew that I was predicting Germany and Sweden to go through). It is clearly a shock that Germany went out on the group stage, but the Germans never found the harmony. They had a rocky start, was quite lucky against Sweden, and just flat out sucked against South Korea. Me think they relied a little too much on the guys who won them the cup 4 years ago, instead of letting in the younger talent (*cough* Sane *cough*). I am ultimately glad that Mexico and Sweden went through, they deserved it.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group E

We have already reached the play offs? God damn, time just flies, let us pick up the pace in this series, starting with Group E.

Brazil

The almighty Brazil is looking to seek revenge after a disastrous exit in the last World Cup, which they hosted. The whole country was left in tears after Neymar got injured, being completely demolished by Germany in the semis, and even missing the bronze medal to the Dutch. To be fair, I think we all were a little overly hyped over Brazil 4 years ago. After all, it was basically Neymar and a bunch of other good, but not great, dudes. This time around, Brazil comes with a ridiculously strong roster, with world class players on every position. This time, Neymar is not alone, we got Jesus, Marcelo, Allison, Casemiro, Willian, Firmino, Coutinho, Paulinho, Fernandinho, yes a whole bunch of -inho's. It is definitely gold or bust for this team.

Brazil is not only the leading South American nation in football, they are also the front runners in metal as well. The broadest genre is definitely power metal, where you can find a bunch of high profile bands. It all starts with Angra, the progressive power metal band that has been a force to be reckoned with since the early 90's, and are still producing some great records. We also got Almah, created by former Angra singer Edu Falaschi as a side project, which eventually became a strong full time project. Other notable power metal bands are Shadowside, Hibria, Hangar, and Shaman.

But none of these bands are even close to the level in which Sepultura is on. This is one of the more legendary bands out there, a group that has thrived on pushing the boundries with their combination of death metal, thrash metal, and local influences. With legendary albums like "Beneath The Remains", "Chaos A. D." and "Roots", this band has a huge mark on metal history. Add bands like KrisiunThy Light, and the all female Nervosa to this mix as well, and we got ourselves a strong line up of bands.

Costa Rica

In the last World Cup, Costa Rica was the big surprise of the tournament, reaching all the way to the quarter final, eliminating Italy and England in the group stage and beating Greece in the round of 16. Good news for this competition is that the main core of that team is in once again, with Real Madrid goalie Keylor Navas leading the way. The bad news though is that most of these players have had very little play time in their clubs. I am sure that Costa Rica could channel together that team spirit that took them so far last time, but a lot of opponents are aware now, so it will not be easy for them to get a surprise leverage on them.

Not surprisingly, there is no much metal going on in Costa Rica, but I did however discover a little band called Sight of Emptiness a couple of years back, a melodic death metal band that certainly showed potential. The 2014 album "Instincts" was not perfect, but I enjoyed what I heard. It definitely seems to be a bunch of interesting death metal groups here, like Advent of Bedlam, Catarsis Incarne, and the easily pronounced Pseudostratiffied Epithelium. We also got Pneuma, a progressive band that gives some more diversity to the country's metal scene. A small country with a small scene, but with some neat little bands out there.

Serbia

I have always enjoyed Serbia, because they are a physical team, with huge dynamos for players that can make those 90 minutes a living hell for anyone who faces against them. I definitely would not like to face Matic, Mitrovic, or the old Chelsea legend Ivanovic in a dark alley, they would probably eat me alive if they got the chance. Just like any other balkan country though, they have had some instabilities in the coaching department, so can they keep their focus and not just gain a ton of unnecessary yellow cards, then maybe they could go far.

So Serbia is in the Balkan region, a region that does not have many big bands to go around, but Serbia do have a guy that could be their equivalent to Steven Wilson. David Maxim Micic is an instrumental progressive artist that has a knack of creating some grand emotion through his music, which he has shown in both his full length releases "Bilo III" and "Who Bit The Moon". We got some more proggy goodness by Asymmetry and Burning Circle, but also some nice power metal by Alogia and Forever Storm. Then we got the hard working black metal outing The Stone, and thrash group Space Eater, probably one of the greatest band names I have ever heard. How in the hell can you eat space? I do not know, but color me intrigued with the idea.

Switzerland

Switzerland has had a pretty good generation of players. We got some nice attacking players in Seferovic, Dzemaili, and of course, the little meat ball magician Xherdan Shaqiri, and a solid defense led by Sommer, Lichtsteiner, and Xhaka. Still, Switzerland has had a hard time to really get that break through with these players, reaching the round of 16 in the last two tournaments at best. This might be the last chance for a lot of these players, so they better sharpen their skills in preparation for their final shot at World Cup glory.

Looking at their band roster, the Swiss are a sneaky good team, with some real quality throughout the board. It all starts with extreme metal pioneers Celtic Frost, who emerged in the mid 80's as one of the big developers of the genre. Even if it has been 10 years since the band broke up, their legacy still stands strong, but they are certainly not alone in the Swiss metal heaven. We go the consistent folk metal group Eluveitie, the ever boundary breaking Samael, the hyped gothic doom group Triptykon, the ambient dudes of Darkspace, and the classic thrash band Coroner.

Notice the grand diversity in sound here, which might be the only knock on Switzerland as a metal country, but it also shows that they have a scene that is willing to go their own way. One band that certainly did that, while also becoming one of my personal favourites, is the industrial metal band Sybreed, who mix that mechanic Fear Factory style with some more futuristic elements, creating some dense bangers. It is sad to see them disbanded, but at the very least, I still have the memories, and some killer tracks like "Doomsday Party", "Into The Blackest Light", and "Challenger".

Thoughts on group

Both Switzerland and Brazil has a lot of quality to go around, making this group a contender for sure, and while Serbia and Costa Rica may not have the same amount of high level music, they do still have some interesting bands for us to take in. Group E is certainly one of my favourites in a musical stand point.

Prediction on the competition (made before it began)

Well, Brazil should have no problem going through here, but who will follow them? Hmmm... I'll go with Switzerland, think their experience and technical skill will give them a slight advantage.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group D

After a rough midsummer celebration, I am back to continue our journey through all competing countries, and their metal scenes. Today, we dig deeper into group D, let us begin.

Argentina

It feels so wrong to say that Argentina is a one man team since there is an amazing amount of offensive talent in this team, but in its current state, it certainly feels like Messi is carrying a massive load in this World Cup. With a poor qualifying effort that nearly saw Argentina miss the competition, I am having a hard time seeing manager Sampaoli bringing this group together, and maximizing their potential. With players like Aguero, Dybala, Di Maria, Pavon, Higuain, and previously mentioned Messi, it really should not be that difficult. Yet somehow, it is. Lord help those poor souls...

In metal, Argentina is clearly behind their rival Brazil in their development, with no real stand out bands at all. Their most prominent band is probably Rata Blanca, a classic heavy metal band from that was formed in the 80's, but had their hey days in the 90's. Not really much to say about their style since it is pretty straight forward, nothing that surprising, only notable thing is that they sing in Spanish, but it does not really elevate their music that much.

Fast forward to modern times, and we can see that power and folk metal are the dominating genres, with Skiltron as the leader of the pack, a group that has five solid records of nice and enjoyable folk metal. Following right behind them are bands like Helker and Tersivel, maybe not the strongest brigade out there, but maybe worthy of a look nonetheless. I do wanna recommend Downfall of Nur as well, a fairly new atmospheric black metal project led by a guy who goes under the name "A.". I definitely see some potential in this striking music he has created so far, so it might be one to watch in the future.

Croatia

From one country having problems to another one, Croatia has had a rocky way to this World Cup, firing their manager right before the crucial stages of their qualifying. Well, they made it, and it seems like they have gotten their shit together, offering a very impressive style of possession football, which is reasonable since they have a couple of midfield giants in Modric and Rakitic. I also love their striker Mandzukic, a very underrated goalscorer who have both the length and the technical skills to succeed against any opposition. This is a potential dark horse, a team that have the quality, but can they keep their stability throughout the tournament?

So the Balkan region is not the strongest threshold for metal, and it shows when I take a look at what Croatia has to offer. There is no real direction the bands are going in, and very few bands in here have produced enough music for a prolonged period of time. Most popular band is probably the gothic doom band Ashes You Leave, who have created six albums since 1998. They could be seen as a poor man's Epica, and that is honestly the nicest thing I can say about them. The rest of the field is not that impressive either, the industrial band Omega Lithium has some power to them, but has not released any new music since 2011, and Risen To Reclaim is a neat little heavy metal band that caught my attention with their 2014 effort "Paradox". But if we look a little further, we do find an interesting progressive rock band called Them Moose Rush that released an interesting new album this year in "Don't Pick Your Noise". So not many gems to be found here, unfortunately.

Iceland

Ahh Iceland, the smallest country to ever qualify to the World Cup. We all fell in love with them two years ago when they made Ronaldo and England look helpless. This is the definition of team work, 11 guys on the pitch with viking spirit, helping each other out with every bit of strength their bodies can produce. Sure, they might not have the most exciting style, but you must realize that a lot of these players are not really professionals, they have other jobs besides being national heroes. I just love watching these guys, proving time and time again that nothing is impossible in the game of football.

So being a part of the Nordic union together with Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, Iceland sure loves their metal too, especially black metal. The big star in the sky is obviously Sólstafir, who in recent years have become one of the juggernaut in the atmospheric black metal scene. With albums like "Köld", "Ótta", and "Berdreyminn" the trio of Svavar Austman, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, and Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson (god damn, I do not even know how to start pronouncing that mess) have created an institution of quality.

Right behind them, we got a bunch of other black metal acts that have gotten some nice recognition along their careers. Just to name a few, we got Skálmöld, Kontinuum, Árstíðir Lífsins, and... what the hell? They honest to god have a band that is just a symbol, maybe called Null or Void, but it is literally just a big ring that is acting like a symbol. Oh well, one thing is for sure though, if you want some quality black metal, Iceland is a good choice.

Nigeria

The Super Eagles of Nigeria has been a main stay in the World Cup, but the successes have not really been there. Main reasons for this is probably that they are close to the perfect opposite to Iceland. Nigeria is always a "team" filled with a lot of individual talent, but they never seem to mesh well together, not even the great team builder Lars Lagerbäck, the man behind the success of Iceland, could make Nigeria act like a team. One thing is certain though, Nigeria is a dangerous team when everything is aligned correctly, they can certainly take advantage with players like Moses, Ighalo, Iwobi, and the old veteran John Obi Mikel. Rise, Super Eagles, Rise.

Well, this is where I would write about Nigeria's metal scene, but there is only one small problem, there is none. Yep, despite the incredibly massive and expansive library that we possess in Encyclopaedia Metallum, no bands from Nigeria is listed, and I tried a simple Google search as well that only led me to this article in some site called Audio Inferno. There definitely seem to be a rock scene in Nigeria, but taking that next step towards metal seems to be a steep task. I am not that surprised though to be honest, since the culture in Africa is completely different (which we obviously have noticed in previous installments of this series), but finding out that no bands are out there is interesting. Maybe in the future, maybe...

Thoughts on group

Despite its size, Iceland is obviously the big gun in this group, and it all comes down to culture. Coming from a remote, cold island where you basically know the entire population, it does stuff to you. It is really cool though to see the growth that Iceland has had during the new millennium. Cannot say too much abut the rest of the group though, the remaining three countries have very little to show for.

Prediction on the competition (made before the competition began)

Despite the problems, Argentina should squeeze their way through to the round of 16. Second slot is wide open though, and I am a firm believer in team work. LET'S GO ICELAND!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group C

It is now time to get to know one of the stronger groups of the metal World Cup, with two up and coming European countries, the only Oceanic team (even if it qualifies through Asia), and a South American team we have been dying to welcome back. Let us go.

Australia

The Socceroos have once again made it to the world cup, but it feels like the hype around the land down under has died down for quite some time. They had to beat Honduras in a final play off to get here, and it does feel like the weakest team in a long time. Their long time legend Tim Cahill is in the squad once again, but that is evidence on just how weak this team really is. They do have some nice players still, like Mile "The man with the beard" Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, and a good keeper in Mathew Ryan, but it will take a tremendous effort for this team to get any points out of this competition.

So we all know that AC/DC comes from Australia (and also AC/DC light, aka Airbourne), but in recent years, the Aussies have developed some great and inventive death metal bands. The most hyped up band right now is Ne Obliviscaris, the extreme progressive metal band that has made the violin one of their most deadliest weapons. It is a band I, and many more, have hailed ever since the release of their debut "Portal of I" back in 2012, and their development have been very good so far, taking step by step to become one of the biggest progressive acts out there. Not far behind though is Be'lakor, a melodic death metal group that have yet to disappoint so far in their14 year career, with 4 great studio efforts and a very nice live show reputation.

There are even more great bands from down under. The acclaimed metalcore group Parkway Drive is one of few driving forces around the genre, while Caligula's Horse is a quick riser in the progressive metal heaven. We got one of the more experimental death metal bands in Portal, a great blackened thrash group in Deströyer 666, the popular deathcore group Thy Art Is Murder, and also some underrated hard rockers in Wolfmother. Let me also throw in three personal favourites of mine, the epic power metal group Black Majesty has put together a solid number of good records lately, the progressive doom outfit Rise of Avernus is a band with a bright future, and not least, the progressive power house Teramaze needs some more love from the masses.

So yeah, Australia has a great, diverse group of metal bands, showing that the Young brothers are not the only ones representing their country.

Denmark

The obvious starting point when it comes to Danish metal is our favourite royalty, King Diamond. Together with the rest of Mercyful Fate, Kim Bendix Petersen rose up as one of the more prolific bands of the 80's, with the classic albums "Melissa" and "Don't Break The Oath". Might be fair to say though that the King has had even more success with his solo project, with the first four albums ("Fatal Portrait", "Abigail", "Them", "Conspiracy") as big proof to the man's greatness. In recent years though, the world has learned to love the "Elvis metal" band Volbeat, a group I do not personally get since it feels like they want to be heavy, yet still do not want to be heavy. Even I can agree though that they have created some great music over the years, and the fame is definitely not without its reasons.

Denmark has a few more gems though, more than one might think. It is mostly in the power metal genre where the Danes do the work, with bands such as Pyramaze, Royal Hunt, and Iron Fire, but they do have a good genre diversity across the board. We got black metal from Myrkur, thrash from Artillery and Hatesphere, industrial from Mnemic, classic heavy metal from Pretty Maids, and a good deal of progressive metal from Manticora, Evil Masquerade, and my favourites, Anubis Gate. The King showed his people the way, and the people followed.

France

I hold France as the main favourite in the competition, simply because there is a ridiculous amount of talent in this team. Sure, you can only chose 11 to play the game, but they could really put up anyone, and they would still be competitive. Here is just the sample size of talent they have, Griezmann, Pogba, Giroud, Varane, Lloris, Mbappe, Kante, Matuidi, Dembele, Fekir, and many, many more. God damn, the French are coming, and they are looking for revenge after losing the Euro final two years ago.

While the talent pool of metal bands may not be as large, there is still a good amount of talented bands to find, all lead of course by the environmentalists Gojira. The popularity of this progressive death metal band seems to be endless, and it is easy to see why. Their highly unique, crunchy style is one that no other band can match, a highly addictive sound that has spell bound a whole metal world.

Otherwise it is the black metal market where France has proven to be a force in, with highly respected bands as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Les Discrets, and Alcest. Don't really know why black metal (and shoegaze to some extent) has become so popular here, maybe because they like misery and death? It is still interesting, and while the pickings are a little slim in other genres, we still have some quality bands here and there, like Adagio, Nightmare, and the instrumental duo The Algorithm. Still a fairly good amount, don't you think?

Peru

It has been 36 long years, but Peru is finally back in the World Cup, and it feels like the whole country is already celebrating like they won the whole thing. Just like any country from South America, football means a lot for Peru, and it certainly shows with their energetic style. Their attack is certainly exciting, with players like Guerrero, Farfán, Cueva, and Carrillo. It is a group of players that will certainly play with passion, and hopefully steal some hearts along the way.

Now, there is not too many bands of notice from Peru, but they do have one of the earlier death metal outfits. Formed in 1986, Mortem is one of the more important bands for South American extreme metal, creating some real demonic music that would not see the light of day in album format until 10 years later. The band may not be one of the front runners of the genre today, but they are still relevant, with the latest album released in 2016.

Otherwise, there is not much to gather from this country. Peru does not have a single style that defines them, so they instead have a bunch of bands in a bunch of genres, and no one has so far taken that huge leap towards the top. So while the numbers might be there (over 400 band entries in Metallum), the impact is yet to happen.

Thoughts on group

Australia is obviously the power house of the group, but France and Denmark also have a good deal of quality metal. Even if Peru does drag the group down a little, group C is still one of the stronger groups in the metal World Cup, at least in terms of the overall average

Prediction on the competition

France should have no trouble going through, and I do think their European buddies Denmark will go through with them. Eriksen will be the difference maker for the Danes.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group B

Onto Group B in this World Cup series, a group that has been described as a 50/50 group, with two huge nations, and two smaller ones. Is it the same when we look at their metal scenes? Let's find out.

Iran

We first saw Iran in the last World Cup, and while they did not really impress at all back then, they have gained some much needed experience that could be useful in this year's competition. With the core of the squad returning, this team will not be beaten all that easily thanks to a rock solid defense, and a strong will. I will certainly keep an eye on the talented striker Sardar Azmoun, and as a Swede, I will definitely root for the Östersund player Saman Ghoddos to make a good impression.

Just like any other Arabian country, the sample size of metal bands are not that big. There is still a good amount of progressive bands here though, like Mordab, Kahtmayan, and Explode. None of them might be in the class of what we are used to, but still some nice attempts. There is obviously a good amount of other genres represented, like death/thrash band Arsames and black metal band Ekove Efrits, but none seemed to really peak my interest. It is a good step on the way for the country, but they do have some way to go.

Morocco

Seems like a lot of people have hyped up this team, and looking back at their qualifying, I cannot blame them. Morocco did not allow a single goal to be conceded throughout the qualifying rounds, so be sure that the defense will be tough to get through. This is a more technical team though, with a huge majority of the players being born in Europe, they have been thought football from the best academies. With interesting players like Benatia, Belhanda, and Ziyech, there is certainly a lot of positive vibes for this African team.

Well, I wished I could say the same about the metal scene though. I guess they might have a underground scene that might be growing, but nothing that has shown its ugly face so far for us. With only 22 entries in Encyclopaedia Metallum, Morocco is one of the poorest countries in this category. The only band that seem to have some sort of a career is the symphonic band Analgesia, and the nicest thing I can say about them is that they are a very poor man's version of Nightwish. Sorry, was not much to be found here.

Portugal

So Portugal are the reigning European champions and are going to try to accomplish what Spain did 8 years ago, follow it up by winning the World Cup as well. It is gonna be tough though, because their team consists of mega star Cristiano Ronaldo, and 22 other guys. In a way, they are like the Dream Theater greatest hit album of the World Cup, the other players are by no means bad, but it feels like no one is even close to where Ronaldo stands, which could hurt them in the end. They can absolutely win it all, but they might crash and burn as well if they have the same start as in the Euros two years ago (they ended third in the group and was lucky to even get through).

The question is though, which band is the equivalent to Ronaldo? The clear answer here is Moonspell, a band that has been in the game for almost 30 years, starting out as a black metal band, but has changed its sound multiple times, to folk, to gothic, and even a bit symphonic as well. It is a band that is just oozing of great quality, which their last two albums "Extinct" and "1755" are a great indication to. A masterful band who knows how to entertain their fans.

While no other band is at the same level as Moonspell, we do have a good bunch of nice doom bands, like Process of Guilt, Before The Rain, and Painted Black. Then we have Heavenwood, another gothic band that has created some great music ever since the 90's. So there is a good amount of bands to be found here at the western side of the Iberian Peninsula.

Spain

So Spain has been talked up as one of the favourites to win it all, but after the sudden sacking of manager Lopetegui, chaos reigns in the Spanish camp. Let us be honest though, will that really disturb the team? With a team that is bursting with talent in close to every position, Spain should go through to the play offs with ease. Then again, they have failed to go past the group in the previous two championships. I still believe in them though, with players like Silva, Isco, De Gea, Iniesta, Costa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, and many more, how can you not succeed?

But while Spain is bigger than their little brother Portugal, that does not translate in the metal side of things. There is certainly a good number of interesting bands out there, like the symphonic power metal band Dark Moor, the thrashers in Angelus Apatrida, the up and rising symphonic band Diabulus In Musica, and the heavy metal legends Mägo De Oz, but none of them are of world class standard. It definitely feels like the Spanish metal scene is there, but it is not growing at a noticeable rate. They would need a band that could make that gigantic breakthrough.

Thoughts on group

Not much to say about Iran and Morocco, both understandably have very small scenes. Spain and Portugal are both pretty decent, even if Portugal may rely more on Moonspell, while Spain has more of a broader array of bands to count on. So while no country in this group may not be any of the big guns in the metal world, they still offer something to the table.

Prediction on the competition

Everything is leaning towards Spain and Portugal going through, and I do think it will end this way. Do not be surprised though if Portugal somehow screw this up...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group A

Every fourth year, the football maniacs of the world gather in one of the most massive events we humans know of, the World Cup. 32 countries who have fought with all their might have now gathered in Russia to determine which of them has the best skills to kick a ball with their feet. It is a month long battle of blood, sweat, tears, tactics, and dives, and we are all invited to this party to witness history in the making. To celebrate this occasion, I have taken quite a task on me, to not only dissect each country, but also how their metal scene is. So get ready for a journey around the metal world, and let us hope that we discover some gems along the way.

Egypt

So we start out with one of the tougher countries to examine, the kingdom known as Egypt. Since they have not qualified for a World Cup since 1990, the happiness was seemingly endless when the national team finally managed to do so by winning their group in the African qualifier. Led by their own pharaoh, Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, and their own mummy, 45 year old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, the Egyptian squad is hoping to make their people proud by playing some exciting football.

As for the metal scene, there is not much of it, with only 35 bands officially listed at Encyclopaedia Metallum, but there are still some interest to be found here. Arguably the most well known band from the country, brutal death metal group Scarab has certainly caught the attention of the rest of the world. Formed in 2001, the band has released two studio efforts, "Blinding The Masses" in 2009, and "Serpents of The Nile" in 2015, two nice records that really showcases the band's connection with their own heritage, fusing that recognizable Egyptian tone with some nifty death metal. So if you have not heard of these guys yet, go listen to them now.

The Arabic influences does not stop with just Scarab though, other bands like black metal duo Odious and the more progressive group Sand Aura takes full advantage of it with their music, creating some really captivating music. So while the sample size is not too big, there is still some tasty bits to enjoy here.

Russia

On to Mother Russia, the hosts of the 21st World Cup of football. While I am certain Putin and his crew is doing everything in his might to make his country look at his best, he unfortunately cannot do anything about his national team. Russia is said to be the worst hosting nation of all time, with a squad that has very few stars, with most of the more well known names (such as Akinfeev, Dzagoev, and Zhirkov) not being in the best shape of their career. I believe Russia should be happy if they even get one win out of this competition, even with a relatively easy group.

In metal, folk and doom are the more dominating genres, with bands such as Arkona, Kauan, The Morningside, and Alkonost leading the charge. Just as Egypt, Russia uses a lot of their own culture in their music, mostly through the fact that they use the Russian language in their music, to evoke a different style from what we in the western world are used to. We got some other genres emerging through too, like the death metal band Katalepsy and nu metal band The Slot.

There is one band I would like to lift up, and that is the power metal band Hammerforce, a really exciting and relatively young band that completely blew me away with their sophomore effort "Access Denied" (which was released in a Russian and a English version). Their futuristic take of the genre is really fun, and the debut record "Dice" is not too shabby either. Been a while since I heard any news from the band though, so their status is a little up in the air, but I do recommend you guys to check them out if you love power metal.

Overall, Russian metal is certainly on the rise, unlike their football team.

Saudi Arabia

It has been a while since we saw Saudi Arabia in the World Cup stage, 12 years to be exact, but it feels like very little has changed since that 2006 competition. The country had its glory days during the late 90's, but has slowly but surely lost leverage in the football world. Close to all players in the squad plays in the Saudi Arabian league, and the few who play in the Spanish La Liga have not had much play time to speak of. I would be very surprised if they did anything spectacular in Russia, maybe steal a point from the hosting nation, but no, not even that seem likely.

As it turns out, the metal scene in the country is not that great either, with only 12 entries in Metallum. Not surprising really, since the whole Arabic region is not too keen with metal in general (as Egypt also showed). Most popular act seem to be black metal band Al-Namrood, and they play quite a weird style with some Arabic influences and a singer who sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. A strange band that did not peak my interest at all.

Rest of the bands are not much better, with most focusing around death and thrash metal. So sorry for all of you Saudi Arabians out there, I am afraid that you need to work a little harder.

Uruguay

Finally, we have Uruguay, the only country in Group A that has good experience from the World Cup, and seem to have a shot at success this year as well. With an electrifying attack starring Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, Uruguay has the opportunity to be one of the dark horses of the competition. South American teams always delivers some great football, and with a Luis Suarez on the field, we may never know what to expect. Goals? Mistakes? Biting? You never know when Uruguay plays.

The underground scene in Uruguay is quite big, but there are still no band that has managed to break through so far. Just like Brazil, thrash and groove metal is a good representation of the country, but there is also a good deal of basic heavy metal. Through my brief research, I did find a couple of bands that might interest some. Thrash metal band Epsilon delivers some nice meaty thrash in Spanish, Horror On Black Hills has some good black metal to offer, and then we have Elarcos, a progressive metal band that mixes in a lot of fusion influences too, creating a uniquely strange sound, one that you might have to hear to believe.

Thoughts on group

From a metal stand point, this is certainly not one of the stronger groups of the lot, might be one of the weakest actually. No real high profile band to be found here, but there is some interesting underground scenes that we hope will grow larger in time. So it is just like the football side of things, maybe not the sexiest group, but still worthy of investing some time at least.

Prediction on the competition

The strong attack of Uruguay will propel them forward towards the play offs, together with Mohamed Salah and his Egypt.