Music has always been a world commodity. This is part four of a multi-part series showcasing some sounds from around the world.
Today we finish up our ‘A’ countries by visiting a place that is home to tiny sausages and…whatever Azerbaijan is known for. It’s hard to bridge the gap between those two countries. One has a storied history in the fine arts, and the other, is trying to establish a foothold in the modern world.
Austria is a tiny nation of 8 million people who have given us such masterpieces as the composer Mozart, culinary master Wolfgang Puck, and Arnold Schwarzenegger for general well roundedness. Austria does not have the biggest of pop music scenes as they are largely overshadowed by their neighbor Germany and their focus on classical music. However, to me, Austrian music should begin and end with one person only.
As much as I would like to just wrap up the list with the be all and end all of Falco, that would be like just saying “Ok, WAC, New Mexico State. Next!” [Note: Prove me wrong Vandals, prove me wrong….]
The Adrenaline Kings are a straight forward rock and roll outfit from Vienna who sound like they were inspired by 80’s rock bands like Motley Crue (as implicit by the drummer’s T-shirt) In tribute to the 80’s rock sound, there are three guitar solos featured in this three and half-minute song. Here they are performing “Without your Love” NOTE: Cowbell Alert!
Staying in the 80’s rock ballad realm, Cornerstone is a female-fronted band from Vienna who has achieved a moderate level of success as they are on an American record label, ATOM records. If I had to describe their sound, it would just be “radio friendly rock and roll.” It doesn’t go out of its way to be edgy, they seem to know what they want, and they go down that middle of the road sound (not that there’s anything wrong with it.) Also, I would say soundtrack rock would be apropos. Movie credits seem to go on forever, and this band seems like they would fit in to round out a movie soundtrack. Here they are with the song “Stay.”
Nuclear Blast Records is one of the major official homes of everything death metal related others include Napalm, Earache, and Century Media. So, if any information of this band being loosely associated with that record label echoes the sentiments of Dennis Green – “They are who we thought they were!” Lots of loud noises, indecipherable band logos, and cookie monster voices. One of Austria’s contributions to the Nuclear Blast family is Belphegor, who is named after one of the princes of Hell. Music genres have always fascinated me. To just simply be “Death metal” is no longer satisfactory. You have to go deeper and deeper creating subgenres just to be unique. It’s not good enough to be just death metal, no, you have to be black metal – even more satanic, well that’s not good enough anymore. Belphegor is “blackened metal.” Now what does that mean? Well apparently it is a mix of Death Metal and Black Metal, some sort of hybrid of both. They are the Derek Williams of the death metal scene – are you a 3? A 4? What is your position? Anyway, here they are with their single “Hell’s Ambassador”
Just staying in this genre, Austria actually has a big underground death metal scene – which is kind of surprising considering their size and location. One of the more popular bands from Austria in the scene was Pungent Stench, whom even by death metal standards, were a tad bit controversial with their song topics. Here they are with “Just Let me Rot”
The Lead singer, it appears, has started to slow down as the years pass. He went on to become the lead singer of the symphonic death metal band Hollenthon. His inner 20-year-old would be like “no way man, adding classical music! You sold out!” This band, for reference, is on Napalm Records where his previous band was on Nuclear Blast. Here they are with “Son of Perdition”
Visions of Atlantis is a symphonic metal band, not like Hellenton above, but puts them in between rock-operish Nighwish and Alt-rock Lacuna Coil. They have had a lead singer change (or four). I will provide an example from singer 1 and singer four. The first song is “Lovebearing Storm” and the second one is “New Dawn” You can see how a much weaker vocalist changes the whole dynamic of the band (or at least that’s what I notice)
Marrok is an alt-rock/metal band who, thankfully, avoids having 35 sub-genres associated with them. This band has found some success in Europe as they have been nominated for a few Austrian music awards. For fans of Avenged Sevenfold and older Papa Roach, this band would appeal to you. The one problem I have with this video is that the lead singer’s head seems a tad bit disproportional with his body…maybe it’s just the way his head is always at an angle. It just looks photoshopped on 10% too large.
Feeling the need to break out your hipster glasses, your hipster hat, and hipster attitude? If that is the case, let me recommend this indie band killed by 9v batteries. I would say this band sounds a lot like Sonic Youth, but to me, most indie bands sound like Sonic Youth, and you would just tell me they sound like a that I haven’t heard yet, right Mr/Ms Hipster? Here they are with “Don’t Feel Groovy”
Moving on to the unintentional comedic hip-hip scene, we come to the Trackshittaz. Words cannot describe this rap group. This video for “Oida taunz!,” where do I start? One of the guys looks like Nick Swardson, there is an accordion sample, and it looks like something that would be an SNL Digital Short four years ago.
I honestly do not know if they are being serious or this is one big joke or what the deal is, so then I moved on to another song, “Touchdown,” which, much like its title is about American football…and then I learned that there is an Austrian Football League consisting of six teams that have been around since the mid 80’s. So, at least some of my questions were answered, but that quickly ends when one of the guys goes “Defense ruuuules”
On the actual rap scene, there isn’t really much, as there seems to be something lost in translation. In this video for Young M’s “Kush” (ft G Law) they rap about smoking and going to the studio, but something appears to be lost in translation. Could just be me, though.
Soizburga Rap appears to be an all-star rap collaboration (like we have seen in Argentina) of 9 rappers. Here, again, you will find various styles and flows of each person, however I would like to point out the intro of the video during the roll call- I was rather impressed with the production values of that intro (with the graffiti and all). Also, I thought the one guy was from “Tomorrow,” to which my initial reaction was “I want to be billed from tomorrow,” but then, disappointingly, he is from the rap group Twomorrow. To quote Ron Simmons, “Damn.” Also seen in this video: a “I love this game” NBA shirt. How old is that?
Ok, since I singled out Twomorrow on the previous track, it is only fitting that I reference one of their songs. So, to wrap up Austrian hip-hop, here is Moz with the presumably gangsta anthem “Facebook”
Azerbaijan is a landlocked country between such scenic places as Russia and Iran. The only things I know about the country: They are a former Soviet Republic, and the mother Russia sort of turned it into a dump. So, much like Pittsburgh did and Detroit is currently trying to do, they are trying to revitalize themselves. In the past 10 years, a positive stride or two has been made and a little cultural scene has sprung up. We shall start with the Eurovision Contest. Whoever wins the contest wins the right to host the following year’s competition. Azerbaijan won the competition in 2011, so they built a 25,000 seat arena for the following year’s festivities, which led to led to larger musical acts (like Rihanna and Beyonce) performing in the town, which then fast tracks the revitalization. As for the competition, the music is not necessarily representative upon the either a) the country or b) the pulse of popular music, much like how the Grammy’s don’t reflect what is the best in music. Here is the performance of 2011 Champions, Ell & Nikki, with their song “Running Scared.”
I don’t mean to imply by any means that everything is looking up for this nation as with anything, politics come into play. I will sum everything up by referencing the following article . So, on one hand a small art scene is emerging, on the other hand, the police are trying to keep them down. So, who are these punks of Bulistan that were detained for “petty hooliganism” you ask? Mothers hide your children, grandmas cover your ears, everyone avert your eyes! This is riot music ! Ok, yes, I get it. I can see the political tones of the video so the parallels make sense, however, when I think of dissident music, I think of Rage Against the Machine, not this song, that is all. Note: Song starts a minute in.
Unformal is a female-fronted alt-rock outfit from Baku. They have had moderate chart success in their homeland and participated in the Eurovision contest, never making it past the national rounds. Here they are with their hit single “Sonsuz Yol”
3,14 is a doom metal band that has been around for 10 years and produced three full length albums. I am going to spotlight their video for “Conscience” as it is a concert tour montage. Now call me crazy, but if you are a Doom Metal Band (which in general is a slower sound with lyrical themes of despair and misery) please don’t make a video of all the band members smiling and having a good time. It undermines the whole doom theme you’re going after.
That whole video reminds me of a scene from the film Dead Man on Campus. Come on 3,14- get with the program!
Silence Lies Fear is a metalcore act who released their debut album “The Storm Looming Ahead” last year. This is a band that sounds like they are in their infancy. They also sing in English, but it sounds like English is not their first language at all as the lead singer has some vocal work does have some growing to do. Anyway, here they are with the song “Lies”
Rap Group Dayirman (which is an anagram for dairy man…or man dairy) is perhaps Azerbaijan’s biggest national hip hop act. They, like a lot of other Azerbaijani musical acts, are political activists as well. Here they are performing “Milyonerler Mehellesi”
Xpert is an Azerbaijani rapper who….released an album that’s cover is a steaming poo. Yes, this happened. Here he is with the song “Fransızsayağı İşgəncə” featuring Paster (who sounds rather angry) and Melo…from their steaming poo album.
Uran (pronounced Ooh-Ran I swear) is the last rapper on this list. I assume he is as rough and tough as the rest and he shows it off in this video as he and guest Ramil Klan-a-Plan rap through a shopping mall. They actually spend the whole video in a shopping mall…I was trying to place who he sort of sounds like, and then it hit me – he sounds like Sean Paul (remember him?). . . but I still can’t get over the fact they’re in a shopping mall.
As always, hopefully you enjoyed the column and who knows, maybe there’s something that catches your ear…stranger things have happened. Thank you for reading.