Best New Band
The Welsh socio-political death metallers have got extreme music locked down
Are you surprised by your success so far?
Larissa Stupar (vocals): “We definitely didn’t expect so many amazing things, especially as we’ve only been a band for two years. Being nominated for the Gods wasn’t even on our radar a year ago, and winning has hit us by surprise!”
How do you think the perception of extreme music is changing?
“Extreme bands are starting to get more accepted within popular culture and are getting more recognition. You see bands playing festivals now, where you could never have imagined them being on the line-up a few years back. People are starting to understand it more and realise it’s not just noise or ‘Devil music’, and recognise it as something technical and creative.”
What’s this we hear about you playing house parties in Wales?
“Not everyone can afford to pay £20, £30 or £100 to see bands perform, and considering where we live and the fact that small venues are becoming extinct, sometimes you have to play in people’s houses. Last summer when we were touring Europe on our own and supporting Napalm Death, Cattle Decapitation and Dying Fetus on some of their shows, the dates in between we were playing in squats. We like having that balance between playing massive venues with bands like Suicide Silence and supporting the DIY scene, because this is where we all come from.
What social and political issues are you planning to address next?
“We’ve started writing new material, but I’m not sure where we’ll be heading to lyrically on our next album yet. It’s definitely going to be bleak and unpleasant, though, I can promise you that!”
Best UK Band
Brighton’s heaviest hopes continue to shine
Just three months after the blistering All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us was released, guitarist Tom Searle passed away from cancer. Architects made the decision to carry on his legacy. Impassioned, principled and downright heavy, Architects are leading the way on all fronts.
Best Underground Band
Not content with reinventing doom, the Arkansas quartet are aiming for world domination
Why do you think you’ve captured the imagination of the underground?
Joe Rowland (bass): “Hey, who knows? We’ve had a pretty specific vision in mind over the years, and I guess it turns out that a few other people out there happen to like it.”
Brett Campbell (vocals/guitar): “We set a trap for it, and waited patiently. Now we’re holding it hostage and will continue to do so until we sell out and make millions of dollars…”
Are bands breaking out of the underground more easily these days?
Joe: “I wouldn’t even consider myself that in tune with what people would consider to be ‘underground’ metal these days, but we’ve been working hard as hell for years, as have many of our friends and contemporaries – that certainly seems to help.”
Brett: “It may seem like we just blew up, but it definitely doesn’t seem as easy when living in a van for months on end. If anything, in order to become more well- known nowadays, beyond just having good songs, you have to tour as much as possible. Luckily, none of us have kids or anything, and we had nothing to lose, so we were able to just throw ourselves into it and work hard.”
What are your ambitions for Pallbearer?
Joe: “To play the first show on the moon.”
Brett: “Nothing short of WORLD DOMINATION! In all honesty, I’d like to make a decent living doing what I love, making music with my friends, without making artistic compromises. We have enough ideas and concepts already to last us years. So, if we’re lucky, we could do this for a long time.”
Best Live Band
The Atlantan quartet live and breathe riffs
Aside from releasing emotional seventh album Emperor Of Sand and busying themselves with numerous side-projects, Mastodon have consistently proven their worth with mind-bending live shows, taking their crowds on riff-fuelled odysseys of sound and fury.
Move over, Ziltoid – there’s a new master of the universe in town
What was the first song you ever learned to play?
Devin Townsend: “Simultaneously I learned Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash and Motörhead by Motörhead. To a certain extent they’re very similar, it’s just a different era. Johnny Cash was always thematically dark, and Motörhead was just visceral. When I started being known as prog music, I remember being confused by it because it never had that visceral aspect to it that Motörhead did. Both of those characters didn’t stand for fools.”
What guitarists influenced you most growing up?
“K.K. Downing from Judas Priest and Van Halen were huge influences, and when I was a teen, Steve Morse and James Hetfield. Of course, I loved Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore and all the shrapnel guys, but I think the most ‘outside’ guy would be Narciso Yepes. He was a Spanish flamenco style guitar player. When I was a kid, I had a cassette tape and I tried to convince my friend it was me. He showed it to his dad, who was blown away by it, and then when I went over to his house, his dad asked me to play his acoustic guitar, and I clearly sucked!”
How was writing a Strapping Young Lad riff different to writing something for, say, Casualties Of Cool?
“Technically, it’s the same process, just a different aesthetic. As you go through stages of life, things are pertinent to you on an emotional level, and the music becomes the byproduct. So with SYL, it’s the things that happen when you’re 25. Trying to understand my connection to anger and aggression and fear. With Casualties, it was a different age, different sets of emotional input. When you have to deconstruct your process, it sounds more clever. But it’s just instinct.”
Best International Band
The Orange County crew are reshaping metal
First there was the surprise release of epic seventh album The Stage. Then there was their impressive live show, produced with input from Cirque du Soleil. If the last year’s proved anything, it’s that A7X are determined to rip up the rulebook and take heavy music in radical new directions.
Gojira - Magma
The French metallers produced a masterwork that’s heavy in all senses of the word
How do you feel about Magma, a year on from its release?
Joe Duplantier (vocals/guitar): “This has been the best beginning to any album cycle we have ever done. We absolutely love playing these songs live! We have such a solid team around us, from management to record company, touring agents to road crew. All combined to help us surf this first wave of Magma the way we envisioned it. It’s been a blast. Reflecting on Magma from a producer standpoint, we definitely took some risks building our own studio [Silver Cord] and doing it ourselves. But overall we made all the right choices. We are still just as passionate about Magma now as we were the day it was released.”
What was the most technically challenging part of writing it?
“Building our own studio in New York City from scratch! From the day we started construction, to the day the album was mastered, it was all done in just over a year. It’s nice to have a place to call our own, and we’ll definitely be recording the next Gojira album there.”
And how was it emotionally, given you were dealing with the loss of your mother?
“It was very challenging to write during such a difficult time for Mario and I. At the same time, it was therapeutic for us to channel our emotions and turn them into something positive.”
What’s next for Gojira?
“A lot of touring! We’ve toured North America and Europe intensively on Magma, but there are still so many other places we need to bring this show. We’re going to try to cover more territory next year, and keep this momentum going.”
Best Independent Label
Thirty years of bringing incredible music to the masses
They started out with hardcore and punk, but Nuclear Blast has proved to be one of metal’s most definitive labels. They’re the HQ for giants such as Machine Head, Lamb Of God, Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish and In Flames, and their awareness of contemporary trends ensures they remain a towering entity.
The circus has crash-landed in town
After writing and playing for a decade, Sweden’s Avatar hit their stride with 2012’s Black Waltz, transforming themselves into gothic circus freaks. Last year’s Feathers & Flesh saw them venture into conceptual realms with a fable about forest creatures, while charming ever-growing crowds with their cane-twirling antics and twisted tales.
Dimebag Darrell ‘Shredder’
The Airbourne frontman can’t help running wild
When you want to kick back, crack open a cold one and have an awesome fucking party, Joel O’Keeffe is your boy. You’ll often see the Aussie vocalist/guitarist scaling the stage, dangling off the edge of something and shredding like a motherfucker, all to keep the good times rolling.
Legacy Of The Beast
Metal’s greatest band get digital
Maiden’s mobile game not only does justice to their stunning legacy and the mythos of Eddie, but is actually good fucking fun. With endless updates, new worlds and characters to come, there’s plenty of life left in it yet, too…
The Dillinger Escape Plan
The Party Smashers leave behind a glorious legacy
Over the last two decades, New Jersey’s Dillinger have become experts at bending metal into abrasive and beautiful forms, influencing countless bands across the globe. Their incredible, limb-shattering live sets, energy and authenticity will be much missed. It’s not too late to change your minds, guys…
Defender Of The Faith
Ben Ward & Sandie Soriano
Saluting two heroes of Hammer’s comeback
When the staff of Hammer and our sister magazines, Classic Rock and Prog, were made redundant less than a week before Xmas, these two fine people started a crowdfunding campaign to help us out. We were speechless. Thousands of you donated and left messages of support, raising our spirits and affirming our belief that this community is the best in the world. Horns up.
The thrash titans are true pioneers
The ongoing embodiment of heavy metal’s power to triumph over adversity, Richmond, California’s Exodus have weathered the deaths of bandmembers, breakups and more. 1985’s apocalyptic travelogue, Bonded By Blood, may have been one of thrash’s founding documents, but their pyre is still visible across the metal landscape.
Spirit Of Hammer
Prophets Of Rage
They know their enemies… and they’re not afraid to stand up to them
How does it feel to be here today?
Tom Morello (guitars): “It feels great, because we love metal and we love hammers, and the Spirt Of Hammer award is for breaking new ground and going against the grain, and we’ve done that in our music and our politics our entire career. We do feel proud to embody the spirit of Hammer.”
How Does it feel to play in the current global climate?
“We have a song out now called Unfuck The World, and the world is fucked, so it’s up to us and you and the readers of Metal Hammer to get to unfucking.”
What can Hammer readers to do unfuck the world?
“What people have done throughout history is where they work, where they go to school, to stand up for what they believe in. That’s what our music’s been about for 25 years now, and in a world where there’s great inequality, there’s injustice, there’s potential environmental disaster… people who like metal have a lot of strong opinions, and there are people who can gather in large numbers to do great things, and now it might be time for them to start unfucking the world.”
Prophets of rage is a new project. How long do you think it’ll go on for?
“There’s no expiration date. We’ve just begun. We have a record that’s coming out September 15, and we’ve played in front of about a million fans around the world already. The good news is that it feels as exciting to play together and the rock is as hard as it ever has. People go absolutely apeshit when we play, and that’s something we’re very grateful for.”
The Golden God
The legends. The ground zero. The reason we’re all here today. We kneel at the alter of Sabbath
How does it feel when you wake up and remember that Black Sabbath is no more?
Tony Iommi (guitars): “It’s weird, really. It hasn’t sunk in properly. I’m still running on full! I still feel like I’m on tour. It’s really peculiar. I haven’t come off it yet. I wake up and feel like I’ve got to go somewhere. I do go somewhere, but not to the stage, just some other bloody place. It does feel odd and I haven’t got used to it yet.”
Is it hard to accept that the band really has finished for good?
“Well, I drove the decision, so I can’t complain. It was mainly because of my health. It was a shame, but it just got to a stage where I was worrying about doing extensive touring. I didn’t want to become ill again. My outlook has changed, I suppose, and I’m just trying to stay alive, ha ha! I just felt that for me it was a good time to at least think about stopping. But I do miss being onstage. I love playing live. We may do something later as a one-off. You never know. I’d love to think we might be able to do one more show somewhere, but the touring had to stop.”
Have you spoken with Ozzy and Geezer since the last show in Birmingham?
“We’ve been in touch via text and emails. After the last show, Ozzy went off to do something with Jack for his TV series and Geezer went on holiday, to Italy I think… but yeah, we’ve been in touch. To be honest, this still feels like a gap between tours and we’ll all be off again soon, y’know? I’ve had this feeling before but then we’ve always gone on tour again… now, it’s like, ‘What do I do?’ I’ve got building work going on and I’m getting involved in that instead of writing songs. It’s weird, man.”
Do you feel satisfied with the way Black Sabbath bowed out?
“This last year or two with the band, I’ve really, really enjoyed playing, being with the guys and seeing the audience. We had some fantastic audiences. They are such great, loyal fans. You cherish those moments. The last shows we did were really emotional because you think, ‘Hang on, this could be the last time we ever play these songs!’ and you see people crying and all that stuff. It was very emotional for everybody, I think.”
Thanks for inventing heavy metal, by the way… does it ever get old hearing people say that?
“It feels fantastic. We came up with a style of music that everyone still likes today, and it’s still getting bigger and bigger. That’s fantastic. I’m really proud of it. All the bands that cite us as an influence, whether it’s Metallica or whoever, I mean, who wouldn’t like that, you know? This music has been hugely important in my life and I’ve always taken the music very seriously. I loved what we did and I loved creating that music, and I still do. Hopefully heavy metal will go on and on.”
What does it mean to such a decorated veteran to receive our Golden God award?
“Oh, it’s fabulous. To me, it’s great to receive any award… any good award anyway, ha ha! It shows that people respect what you’ve done and appreciate what you’ve done. That’s fantastic and I’ll never complain about getting one. And I’ve got a spot for this one… I’ll move the others over and make sure it fits. It’s brilliant, they’re great talking points! People come in and say, ‘Oh, what’s that one for?’ Ha ha ha!”