This Week In Metal (1/9/14 - 7/9/14)

20 years since their enigmatic debut Orchid first blended frosty Swedish death metal with then-heinously-unfashionable strands of 70s prog, Opeth are a Top 20 band. Eleventh LP Pale Communion entered the UK album chart at number 14, a remarkable achievement crowing an inexorable ascent which has been steady and assured across a generation. Mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt offered a dry, measured response: “Opeth is a band that doesn’t rely on charts or do cartwheels once a good result comes through, but I know our record label loves good chart placings, so I’m happy for them," the frontman commented wryly. “Seriously, thanks to everyone that made an effort to go out and purchase this record and all the others for that matter. It makes me real happy – not so much in terms of funds coming in but more about the fact that it makes me happy people still value physical records over a Spotify click on their smartphones." It could be argued that the only reason Opeth are able to breach the Top 20 is precisely because of declining album sales, meaning a band doesn't need to sell as many copies to achieve a chart placing these days, but Opeth's success is heartening and richly deserved and congratulations are in order to the Swedish maestros.

Doubtless hoping for a similar level of success after over 30 years of hard work and neck-aches, Exodus are gearing up to release tenth album Blood In, Blood Out next month. However, promo duties have been overshadowed by the disturbing news that Exodus fan James Evans from Greenville, Kentucky was arrested and jailed for posting the band’s lyrics on Facebook. The offending words were taken from the band’s 2010 song Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer), a response to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre: “Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate/Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gunfire ends in debate.” The 31-year-old man was then arrested on a charge of making a “terroristic threat,” the warrant stating “he threatened to kill students and or staff at school”. Evans spent an astonishing eight days in jail until his release on Wednesday pending a trial and mental evaluation. Exodus guitarist Gary Holt waded in with a robust, commonsensical statement of support, saying “The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics is something I never believed could happen in a free society.” The Bay Area string-mangler defended the provocative subject matter, arguing that the song “was written as a view through the eyes of a madman, and in no way endorses that kind of fucked up behaviour… These moments are the stuff of nightmares – and life, as well as music, isn’t always pretty. But when we start to overreact to things like lyrics and start arresting people, we are caving in to paranoia and are well on our way to becoming an Orwellian society.”

In happier Exodus news, it has been announced that the forthcoming LP (the first to feature singer Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza since 2004) will also contain guest spots from mighty Testament bellower Chuck Billy and a guitar solo from a long-departed founding member of Exodus, Kirk Hammett – the first recording the Metallica guitarist has made with the band since their 1982 demo tape. “He was totally gung-ho about it,” enthuses Gary. “He came down and ripped out a bunch of takes and we picked the best one and then had a barbecue and drank beer.”

In other Metallinews, it’d be remiss not to congratulate the Four Horsemen on entering the 2015 Guinness Book of World Records for being the first act to perform a concert on every continent in a single year, playing North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia in 2013 before clinching the record with their extraordinary ‘Freeze ‘Em All’ show in Antarctica, where amps were encased in isolation cabinets and sound transmitted to the crowd via headphones. James Hetfield described it as “the gig of a lifetime… 120 scientists and competition winners – not to mention the 300 very curious penguins!”

Oh yeah, and Pepper’s back with COC!

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.