overground scene

An auto-biography of gig attendance #3: The Haunted and Acid Death 1999

The gig by The Haunted and Acid Death in Peristeri, Greece, back in September 1999 is one of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever been. The reason is not because the bands in question were among my favourite bands (they were not), or because the gig itself was particularly amazing (it was good); instead, what makes this gig particularly significant is the circumstances within which it took place.

In September 1999, one of my best friends migrated to Italy to study economics. He also happened to be the only friend who would have joined me to this gig if he hadn’t left – none of my other friends liked The Haunted. I guess the sadness of his departure, combined with being at the concert on my own, marred the occasion. This is not, however, the only reason this gig has stayed with me. On September 7, 1999, a huge earthquake shook Athens. Many people died as the result of collapsed buildings, and for days people were afraid of staying in their homes. Many would camp out in public squares. My family spent several nights at my grandparents’ house, because our flat suffered damages and did not feel safe to be in as aftershocks continued for days. Being at the gig just a few days later (September 18), I was constantly worried that an aftershock might cause the audience to panic, or some lighting rig to unhook and fall on my head. The club (Woodstock, in Peristeri) was not in great shape, and that added to the stress.

Acid Death circa 2000 (source: encomium zine)

Anyway, neither of those things happened, and the vibrations caused by the sound combined with thrashing around would have probably concealed any minor aftershock. The gig was actually great. Sadly, I do not remember the opening band, Deadlights, performing. The main supporting band, Acid Death, was from Athens and played prog-death. By then they had a couple of great releases (an album and an E.P), and they were incredible live. On that night, they played a few songs from their debut album, which I loved back then, and, if I remember correctly, they may have also played “Apathy murders hope”, a little gem from the homonymous 1993 single (later on also appearing on the split E.P. with Avulsed).

By that point The Haunted had only released their debut, which I loved. Marco Aro had already taken the place of Dolving, and during the show they played a new song off their yet unreleased sophomore album. That song was “Leech”, which I thought sounded awful at the time. Two of the highlights were that they covered “Blinded by fear” by At The Gates, and “Raining blood” by Slayer. The tremolo-picked note after the final lyrics of “Raining blood” surreptitiously bled into the beginning of “Shattered“, and that was an awesome moment! According to the notes on the back of my ticket stub (see below), the band also played “World of lies” by At The Gates, which I faintly remember, and Judas Priest‘s “The ripper”, of which I have no recollection. Of course, the highlight of this gig was seeing two of my music heroes, namely the Björler brothers, whose music introduced me to death metal a few years before that gig. 

A night to dismember

The second time I saw Dismember live was in 2007 when they played the Mylos-Xylourgeio club in Thessaloniki. It was a great night which I remember every time I listen to Dismember’s Where ironcrosses grow (2004). Just like so many things, this album has come to mean so much more than what it was intended by the band when it was released. It is the album that marked the short-lived return of Cabeza, and that was awesome for a fan like myself who loved Richard’s contributions in the past. It also marked the return of Dan Seagrave’s art on a Dismember album after 13 years. It is also a piece of memorabilia, invested with the memory of the Dismember gig and the whole experience surrounding it.

I used to live in Piraeus, and Dismember were scheduled to play almost 500 kilometers away, in Thessaloniki. A friend and I decided to do the 6-hour trip by train to the gig. Whilst waiting at the train platform my friend rang me up to say that he could not make it because there was a chance for him to get laid… After bollocking him thoroughly and briefly considering canceling the trip, I decided to go by myself. Among the stuff I listened to during the trip was Dismember’s Indecent and Obscene (1993) and Entombed’s Clandestine (1991), which I had recorded in the same cassette-tape.

Upon arriving, I did what I always used to do in Thessaloniki, that is, visiting all record stores in the vicinity. Alone, a local record store dedicated to metal, was one of my stations on that day, and I ended up buying Where ironcrosses grow on vinyl. I also had it on CD at that point, but the vinyl version looked so beautiful, plus I thought I might be able to get the band to sign it at the gig. David Blomqvist, Dismember’s guitarist, ended up signing both the record and the cassette-tape!

Delicious cassette-tape with Blomqvist’s autograph

The gig took place in front of a small crowd of no more than a hundred people I would say. The band played a set representative of its entire career – with the exception of Hate campaign (1999) – focusing mostly on its formative years, with songs like “Deathevocation”, “Override the overture”, “Soon to be dead”, “Skin her alive”, “Pieces”, “Fleshless”, “Skinfather”, “Dreaming in red”, “On frozen fields”, “Casket garden”, “Of fire”, “Let the napalm rain”, “Tragedy of the faithful”, and only “Autopsy” off the latest album, which at the time was The god that never was (2006). Fred had just quit the band, so Thomas was the drummer. That put a dampener on the experience for me, to some degree. Anyway, after the gig was over the organisers took the band to a local club which, as far as I can remember (I was drunk by that point), did not play metal music, and some of us tagged along. There, it was both awesome, ‘cos I got to talk to David, Tobias and Martin, and a bit uncomfortable at the same time, as I felt extremely self-conscious; these people were my music heroes, and I didn’t know how to behave. I remember asking David who came up with the main riff of “Case # Obscene“, and he told me it was Fred. I don’t remember much more apart from leaving a while after David had left (maybe 15-20 minutes). As I was walking along Tsimiski road I saw David walking the opposite direction towards me and I waved at him. It turned out he got lost looking for his hotel and he didn’t want to take a cab for fear of being ripped-off. I pointed him to the right direction (I hope I did) and thanked him for the awesome gig and he thanked me back for the support. That night I slept at the entrance of a building ‘cos I had spent all my money on drinks and records, and I couldn’t afford to rent a room. 

Listening to Dismember whilst writing this post

Heavy metal in the classroom

Although I never admitted it to my parents, falling in love with heavy metal marked a steep decline in my performance at school. My parents noted this and were concerned, but I denied any link between becoming obsessed with music and increasingly worse grades. It is difficult to adequately describe my instant infatuation with heavy metal, and how totally it colonised my everyday life when I was 14 years old. The first heavy metal band I fell in love with was Iron Maiden, and the fascination spilled out of my bedroom, into the streets, and into the classroom. In my bedroom, I would listen to Maiden day and night, alone or with friends, on my stereo, and in this process foster friendships and build cultural competences; out in the streets, I would wear my Fear of the dark t-shirt and listen to The number of the beast (1982) on my Walkman (and, later on, Discman), and in this process perform the self (read Goffman 1959) and build a sonic bubble to isolate myself from my surroundings (read Bull 1999); in the classroom, I would decorate every piece of learning material (books, notebooks, desks) with Maiden-related texts, including the band’s logo, Eddie, and song-lyrics.

My drawings inside a Physics textbook – School year 1994-95.

I recently came across the drawing pictured above, in a box where my mom has kept the contents of my old desk at home. This is a typical example of poaching (De Certeau 1984) from my high-school days, an instance where I appropriate materials (textbook) and signs (Iron Maiden logo, mascot, etc.) that do not belong to me, and combine them with other signs that belong to the broader heavy metal lexicon (chains, hatchets, etc.), to pursue my desires, namely to entertain myself and keep myself busy in the excruciatingly boring school environment, a structure I found oppressive.

This type of symbolic work (Willis 1990) obviously shows how obsessed I was with Maiden. The songs blew me away, but the visuality of the albums was also unbelievably captivating. I couldn’t get used to the covers of all their albums up until Fear of the dark (1992). This little artistic masterpiece pictured above was inspired by the No prayer for the dying (1990) artwork, which is one of Maiden’s greatest visually, in my opinion. But although Eddie’s hair and the sparks in the eyes are based on the actual artwork, I also added my own touch with the bolts on Eddie’s head originally featured on the cover of Piece of mind (1983). Note how I modified the letter “o” into Derek Riggs’s (Maiden’s illustrator) famous signature. Back then I could not resist changing an “o” when I saw one. You can also see that I used Blanco correction fluid under Janick’s name. The reason is that, at first, I had written down “bass” where it now says “guitar”. I remember not understanding what each band member is supposed to be doing; I was not sure about the difference between bass and guitar, so Janick playing bass (alongside Harris) seemed plausible at the time. Also, including all the publishing/copyright information is quite funny to think about; it seems like every single signifier was meaningless and meaningful at the same time! Meaningless, because I didn’t really know what they signified specifically, but meaningful because they had something – albeit elusive – to do with Maiden, and that was enough.


– Bull, M. (1999) “The dialectics of walking: Walkman use and the reconstruction of the site of experience”, in Hearn, J. and Roseneil, S. (Eds) Consuming Cultures: Power and Resistance. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, pp. 199-220.
– De Certeau, M. (1984) The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
– Goffman, E. (1959) The presentation of self in everyday life. Middlesex: Pelican.
– Willis, P. E. (1990) Common culture. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Of birds and graves

This is a short trip down memory lane from the relatively early days of the internetisation of the death metal genre. It concerns Grave, one of my favourite death metal bands. Their second album, You’ll never see (1992), is one of my all-time favourite death metal albums. Into the grave (1991) and Soulless (1994) are also great albums, but in my opinion, the band hit the perfect balance between sheer brutality and memorable song-writing with You’ll never see. It is also the first album I heard from them, so it holds special significance for me. I bought it sometime in late 1996 from Metal Era, which used to be one of Athens’s most iconic metal record stores, specialising in extreme metal. From time to time I have dreams about visiting the old store in Emanuel Benaki street (across the street from where the shop currently is), a place in which I have spent a significant part of my teenage life, and have discovered amazing music.

The band line-up at the time of You’ll never see

So, I bought You’ll never see, and upon taking it home I realised three things: first, the vinyl was slightly warped, second, the labels where on opposite sides (the side A label was on side B and vice versa), and, third, it was difficult – impossible, actually – to see where one song ends and the other begins. This latter feature diminished the appeal of the album, initially. Music-wise, I instantly fell in love with the opening track, the homonymous one, and the closing song “Christi(ns)anity“. It took many listens to appreciate the rest of the album, but eventually I fell in love with the pure awesomeness of its brutal hooks and Jorgen’s unique delivery and vocal patterns.

Listening to You’ll never see. A timeless masterpiece.

A few years later, Grave had released Back from the grave (2002), and they had their own website. One day they announced a competition: Who can identify what kind of bird is featured in the song “You’ll never see”? You can hear the birdsong in question around the 3:00 mark. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed before that there was a birdsong in it. So, I quickly put the record on, but I had no idea what the bird was, so I took a guess with ‘nightingale’. I cannot remember what the prize was, but I did not win. The band announced the correct answer at some point, but I forgot what that was too. What I do remember is that it was meaningful, that is, it was not a random bird; instead, it was consistent with the topic of the song, maybe it had something to do with the biblical passage that accompanies the birdsong. So, if any bird-connoisseur or death metal fan out there knows the answer, please let me know in the comments.

Cassette-tape culture, and nostalgia for an age that never existed
March 30, 2020, 7:00 pm
Filed under: brutal memoirs, popular music | Tags: , , , ,

When it comes to commercial technologies I am what some people would catachresticaly call a Luddite. I am not against technological change, I am apathetic towards technological change; being against technological change would be like being against culture. Technology cannot remain static; people engage with it and inadvertently change it. Of course, there are good reasons to be opposed to technological change which is underpinned by a system – relations of production, and societal norms and values – which is alienating and exploitative, but this is not the real reason I am apathetic towards it. The real reason is that once I start engaging with a technology, or anything for that matter, I passionately participate in the building of a culture around it which ends up becoming more valuable than the supposed benefits of technological advancement. Despite that, cassette-tapes is a technology I do not miss, although a significant part of my music culture was built around them when I was young.

Some of my old cassette-tapes

Like any technology, cassette-tapes prescribed (for the concept of prescription see Johnson 1988) certain behaviours to their users. You had to learn how to use the cassette player, master the rewind and forward functions (i.e. getting used to the speed), how to save energy, how to remove and replace the write-protect tab, how to fix them when they broke, etc. We also had to learn to distinguish between good brands and bad brands, and the specificity of each brand. Moreover, given that pirated tapes lacked the aesthetics of original LPs and CDs, we would spend hours decorating them with nice band logos and other kinds of drawings. We would make mix-tapes and give them to our friends, girlfriends and boyfriends (and potential ones), or create our own personalised playlists for our own consumption. I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was to deal with all the problems cassette-tapes came with: damaged cassette shells, sticky guide-rollers, distorted sound, film chewed by the tape player, and the solutions we’d invent, like replacing or reinforcing the pressure pad, transplanting the film, and so on. All this symbolic work (Willis 1990) that went into engaging with these raw materials of our consumerist culture meant that using cassette tapes was much more than merely consuming cassette-tapes. It was a whole culture.

I used to listen to cassette-tapes on my Walkman ’till 2009. I didn’t want to buy an MP3 player; I had invested all this time, energy and creativity producing my own music listening culture, that I did not see any point sacrificing it for a new commercial technological trend. To use an economics concept, the sunk costs of switching from cassettes to MP3s were too high. Nevertheless, my then girlfriend got me an MP3 player as an xmas present, and once I started using it I never looked back. Around the time I stopped listening to cassette tapes, they started making a comeback in the context of electronic music culture (something about cassette tapes and Game boy music…). Eventually, the music business saw an opportunity to mobilise discourses of nostalgia and authenticity, to produce and market cassette tapes once again. I am not sure if this is a more generalised trend, but in the metal music business many of the big companies are now releasing new albums on cassette-tape. I don’t know who buys them. I assume it is people who think they will enjoy some kind of authentic experience. To me it is silly. It is like suddenly starting using the electrical telegraph to send messages to people. I have no doubt that people who buy cassette-tapes today will eventually create a culture around them, just like I did. But I think it is also important to be able to see through some of the schemes of the music business, and to avoid chasing the elusive “authentic cultural experience”. Listening to MP3s is as authentic as listening to vinyls and cassette-tapes, and equally legitimate a practice around which an authentic music-listening culture can be built.


Johnson, J., 1988. ‘Mixing humans and non-humans together: the sociology of a door-closer’, Social Problems, 35(3), pp. 298-310.

Willis, P., 1990. Common culture. Milton Keynes: OUP.

Once unwanted albums

I started buying metal albums in the mid-1990s, and, at first, the shops that I would turn to were local record stores in my home town in Piraeus, Greece. Then I started exploring the centre of Athens, and the first major stations there were the two Rock City stores (one at Sokratous street, one at Akademias road), Metal Era (at Emanuel Benaki street), the two Metropolis stores (both at Panepistimiou road), and Happening (Charilaou Trikoupi street). In all of those stores, but especially in Metropolis, we used to find rows of unwanted albums on sale that today are highly sought after. These albums were not second-hand, they were all new. I bought many of those albums back then, at a time when the cultural value of vinyl records was in decline. However, given the limited disposable income that I had back then (consisting in a meager weekly allowance by my parents), I also missed out on many great albums. This is a post about some of those vinyl records, each available in large quantities and unwanted. Now, in a different era where the discourse about the cultural value of vinyl has changed, they are exchanged in the global vinyl marketplace for considerable amounts of money.

1. MercilessThe treasures within (1992)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £89. The treasures within was released by Active Records, and Metropolis was literally (not really) giving away copies. Two of the albums in this list are actually from the same record label; for some reason in the mid- to late-nineties these records were sold for next to nothing. It is worth noting that the label went defunct in 1993, so maybe they had huge surpluses which they tried to get rid of. This album cost something between £2-4. I distinctly remember seeing a row of maybe 20 copies of the album every time I would go there, yet I never bought it. I had it on cassette tape back then and I did not particularly like it. Of course, I have regretted not buying it. It is still my least favourite Merciless album, but songs like “Lifeflame“, “The treasures within”, and “Branded by sunlight” are lush.

2. AtheistUnquestionable presence (1991)

Another release of Active Records. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £50. For months on end Metropolis was trying to get rid of this album in the late 1990s. There was a long row of albums at the basement of the shop, and if I remember correctly they were being sold at 2,000 drachmas (around £4). I already owned it by that time, I remember buying it second hand from Monastiraki for around 3,000 drachmas. My impression is that Atheist was kinda forgotten by that point in time, at least in Greece; I don’t remember any mentions in magazines, and even in my network of friends nobody knew them. I was the one who introduced them to our group when, in 1996, I stumbled upon Piece of time at a local record store and bought it because of the sticker which said “Death metal from Florida with a difference. You better believe it”.

3. DeathSymbolic (1995)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £176. This was released by Roadrunner Records, and, around 1997, it was sold for 2,000 drachmas (around £4) in 7+7, one of the most historic record stores in the Monastiraki area of Athens. I bought my copy of Symbolic on vinyl then and there. There must have been more than 10 copies of that album for a long time. It is worth noting that the review of Symbolic on the Greek Metal Hammer was far from dithyrambic. I think it got 8/10, and although I don’t remember the specifics I remember thinking, based on the review, that it must be a mediocre album. 7+7 was the first record store I went to the first time I visited Athens, and the first thing I bought from there was Seasons in the abyss, by Slayer, on CD. Later on I bought one of my first vinyl albums, Xentrix’s Shattered existence. This shop is still around today, but it has transformed over the years. In the mid-nineties it used to have this tiny space way in the back where all the vinyl records used to be. To get there you had to go through a short corridor where the floorboards felt as if they were about to collapse. Back then it felt really mystical and hidden, a place of initiation and discovery.

4. TankardTwo faced (1994)

I fell in love with Tankard back in high school. The first album I got from them was Chemical invasion (1987) during a school trip in Athens, and on the same day I got Benediction’s Subconscious terror (1990). Nowadays, I mainly listen to their homonymous album from 1995, which shares with Two faced the thematic emphasis on anti-authoritarianism and progressive social critique. I thought Two faced, released by Noise International, had some very impressive moments (for example, the awesome anti-nationalist tune “Nation over nation“), but by the time I found it on vinyl my tastes had shifted to death metal, so I never bought it. In hindsight, I wish I had bought it; now I like it more than back then, and the cover art is simply brilliant. Metropolis had many copies of these, not as cheap as the rest of the albums on this list, but not that expensive either. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £44.

5. MessiahPsychomorphia (1991)

I never got into Messiah, although a friend of mine repeatedly tried to initiate me to them by blasting Choir of horrors (1991) when we were young. The only album I ended up buying by them was the Psychomorphia EP, another one in this list released by Noise International, and that was because it was sold for next to nothing at Metropolis. I cannot remember the exact price but, just like all the albums on this list, there was a big batch of this on vinyl and Metropolis would sell it for around a couple of quid. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £17.67. Listening to the title track now makes me think that maybe I should check them out again.

A minor mystery solved, and life goes on…

Reading the information provided in the booklets or inner sleeves of albums – on vinyl, CD or cassette-tape – has always been an important part of my – and many others’ I presume – experience of engaging with popular music. Thanks lists used to be the source of finding out about affiliated bands, friendships between bands, and bands that I should check out. At the same time reading bands’ thanks lists would often obscure, rather than clarify, things. Responsible for that would often be the use of inside jokes, such as nicknames and references to events with which I, the reader, was unfamiliar. For example, I remember reading the thanks lists of Napalm Death‘s Harmony corruption (1990) being simultaneously entertained, intrigued and confused by the constant use of the word ‘chuffed’.

One of the oldest band-related mysteries that I can remember of originated in the inner sleeve of Entombed‘s Left hand path (1990). In the thanks list the band thanks Carnage and then, in brackets, Fred (presumably Fred Estby) who was the drummer in Carnage and Dismember. The sentence “Milli Vannili-Fred! Thanks for the riff mate!” fascinated me because it provided information regarding the relationship between two of my favourite bands – Entombed and Dismember – and also because it provided ammunition to my imaginary debates with annoying staff of heavy metal magazines, among whom it was commonplace to casually refer to Dismember as a “second-rate Entombed”. Yet, this was a piece of information that begged for additional information. For more than 20 years I have wondered, “which one is the riff on Left hand path that belongs to Fred?”.

Ten years ago I bought and devoured Daniel Ekeroth‘s book Swedish death metal (2008). There were things about it that I loved, and things that I hated. (Among the latter was the author’s irritating flattery towards Nicke Andersson.) One of the things that annoyed me – at the time I thought it was unacceptable – was that he did not provide an answer to this mystery. Even though I understand that it is not really a mystery, in the sense that probably nobody cares, I still think that revealing the identity of the riff would be a great anecdote which would also provide a richer, more accurate representation of the relationship between these two important bands and songwriters of the Swedish death metal scene.

Dismember appearing at the Rockwave festival in Attica, 2005 (left), and Mylos club in Thessaloniki, 2007 (right).

Twice I had the opportunity to find out the answer to this mystery but  missed it. I have seen Dismember live twice. The first time was in the 2005 Rockwave festival in Greece. There I actually met Fred, David, and Matti who were wandering around in the merchandising area, but it was very brief and I completely forgot to ask Fred about the Left had path reference. (During that brief encounter Fred recorded my Dismember tattoo on his camera, and the footage was later on included in their Under blood red skies DVD (2009)!) Next time I saw Dismember live was in Thessaloniki a couple of years later, and it was shortly after Fred’s departure from the band (Thomas was on drums by that point), so, once again, I missed the chance to inquire. What I never considered was that perhaps someone else from the band might know the answer to my question. As it turns out Matti did, and last week this minor mystery was solved while I was browsing Matti’s Facebook page.

I have referred to social media as “intertextual enablers” in the past (read this), and this is another instance where information produced and accessed through social media fills in gaps in my popular music knowledge. Later on in the same Facebook discussion, it is revealed that the riff mentioned above which Nicke gave in return was the brilliant intro riff of “Deranged from blood” from Carnage’s Dark recollections (1990). Of course, the “Milli Vannili-Fred” bit of the reference has not been explained. It obviously refers to the late-1980s Dance duo Milli Vanilli, which consisted of two models posing as singers (without actually singing or composing on the records). Perhaps in the context of Left hand path, the term is meant to refer jokingly to Fred as a ghost writer in Entombed. Now enjoy Fred’s riff starting at 1:32 in the video below.

An auto-biography of gig attendance #2: Cannibal Corpse, 1998

Each time someone poses the question “which one is your all time favourite gig?” my response is usually, “Cannibal Corpse”. I saw Cannibal Corpse in Woodstock Club, Peristeri (Greece) on the 25th of October 1998. The venue was small and claustrophobic, and would serve as the site for many other awesome gigs in the years to come. I was with two of my best friends (and one not that close friend), all of us big Cannibal Corpse fans. Cannibal Corpse shared the bill with Dark Funeral and Infernal Majesty. Although Gallery of suicide had just been released, we had already learned most of the lyrics by heart. My friends also liked Dark Funeral (one of them was obsessed with Vobiscum Satanas) but I didn’t. Infernal Majesty had just released Unholier than thou, a great album, and even though I wasn’t a big fan (I hadn’t even listened to None shall defy) I was somewhat excited to see them.

We arrived at the venue all pumped-up and with our tickets carefully bent near the bottom so that they could be smoothly ripped at the door, rather than being totally destroyed. It turned out that the people at the door did not tear up the tickets, hence the white line on the ticket on top of the date (see ticket above). I have absolutely no recollection of Dark Funeral playing. I remember seeing Masse Broberg in full leather and spikes, towering over me on his way to the stage. I also remember Chris Bailey, Infernal Majesty’s singer, in the crowd before they played, and I approached him, welcomed him and asked whether they would play “Roman song” off their latest album. I cannot remember his reply but I think they did play it after all. Again, although I remember enjoying Infernal Majesty, I don’t have any recollections as I was burning with anticipation for the headliner.

The year 1998 was a time when exposure to death metal videos in Greece was rare, so, speaking for myself, I didn’t know what to expect from a Cannibal Corpse gig. When the band started playing I could not believe my eyes. I was at the front of the stage, at arm’s length from Jack Owen, and I saw all the mind-blowing fret-work in all its splendour. I had never seen something similar in my life, and, suffice it to say, it changed my appreciation of death metal in terms of musicianship. Webster’s face was hidden behind his hair during the entire gig, and his stage presence was imposing. The band visited all the stops in its, already by that point, long and impressive career. At least one song was played by each one of their six albums. The awesome set-list included (not in order played): Skull full of maggots, Covered with sores, Meathook sodomy, I cum blood, Hammer smashed face, Starring through the eyes of the dead, Fucked with a knife, Striped, raped and strangled, Devoured by vermin, Perverse suffering, Puncture wound massacre, I will kill you, Disposal of the body, Gallery of suicide, Dismembered and molested, Headless (and I’m pretty sure they also played “Sentenced to burn”, although I haven’t written on the back of my ticket). The sound was perfect and the performance was immaculate. Every single moment was an amazing experience.

After the end of the concert we went outside to get some fresh air and catch our breaths. Soon after Corpsegrinder came out, and my friends and I surrounded him. He was in a good mood, and really nice to us. I mentioned his pierced tongue – which I had noticed during his performance – and he did some grimaces for us exhibiting his piercing. He signed our tickets. We then asked one of our friends who had a disposable camera to take a group picture of us with Corpsegrinder. We struck a pose and when he tried to take the picture he realised that he had used up all the film during the concert. So, we started swearing at him in Greek, and, of course, Corpsegrinder picked up the word “malaka” (wanker), and started repeating it in his funny, distinctive voice – a performance which brought about laughter from everyone in the vicinity. Owen also came out of the venue but he was quite withdrawn and walked around on his own. We approached him and asked for an autograph, which he gave, but he seemed almost sad. He quietly signed our tickets and walked away humming some kind of bluesy tune. After a while we got into a taxi-cab and headed home. The taxi-driver asked us if we were in a rock concert, and we said that we were. He was a middle-aged man, and had a macho-attitude typical for Greek taxi-drivers. After a brief period of silence, he addressed all of us with the question, “So…do you guys fuck a lot?”. We instantly burst out laughing, but I have no recollection of how we addressed his question. He then went off on a tangent telling us about his various “hot, young” girlfriends. He dropped us off, and we ended the night making fun of him in raspy voices, the result of our tormented vocal cords.

An auto-biography of gig attendance #1: Rock Of Gods, 1996

Some of my ticket-stubs.

Many years ago I wrote a post about how music gigs are the best form of entertainment. Having reconsidered, I decided that music gigs used to be an amazing form of entertainment when I was young, when I hadn’t seen many bands live, and when I had like-minded friends to go to gigs with. Attending concerts has lost its appeal for me in more recent years. A few weeks ago my mother sent me some old ticket-stubs and rekindled all those memories of gig attendance of my youth. A few days later I learned that Immolation are coming to Brighton, UK, as part of Mammothfest. Immolation is one of my all-time favourite death metal bands, and in terms of consistency, endurance, and creativity, the best death metal band of all times, in my opinion. In anticipation of this gig and in remembrance of the music gigs of my youth I decided to start a new series of posts where I will share with readers some of my favourite moments of gig-attendance throughout the years. I will start with the first heavy metal gig I ever attended: the Rock of Gods festival in Piraeus, Greece, on July 12 1996.

The news of the Rock of Gods festival hit during a summer English course that some of my friends and I were taking. The line-up included Slayer (a band that I worshiped and still do), Blind Guardian (another favourite among certain members of our group back then, myself included), Motorhead (not a favourite at the time, but, still, exciting), Rage (hadn’t listened to them at the time), Nightfall (Greek black metal band), and Fatal Morgana (Greek progressive metal band). At the time I was 15 years old. Although I wasn’t particularly young, my parents were negatively disposed to heavy metal music and the wider subculture. Yet, the congruence of several factors around Rock of Gods allowed me to convince my parents to permit me to go: it was a summer festival (so we didn’t have school-related responsibilities), it was taking place close to our home-town (Piraeus), and several of my friends would accompany me (among whom a friend my mother considered the “ideal student”). So, I bought a ticket.

Most of my memories are of peripheral things around the concert rather than the bands themselves. My friends and I (a group of five) met with some older kids from school in a public square, and together we took the bus to Piraeus. The fan credentials of those older kids were much better than ours; they had long hair, they wore cool old t-shirts, they knew all the bands, and they were doing drugs. Savvas, one of the older kids, grabbed me by my Iron Maiden t-shirt (Fear of the dark) and, half-jokingly, told me “when Rage come out on stage, I will kill you!”. I laughed, but I was also a bit worried. In any case I made a mental note not to be near him when Rage would come out.

The bus dropped us off and then we had to walk for a bit in order to get to dock 3 where the festival was taking place. Our group was walking alongside hordes of heavy metal fans with smiles in their faces. On the way to dock 3, I remember seeing the following slogan written in spray on walls: “Αγαπάς το Rock; 7χίλιαρο!” (“Do you love rock? Pay 7.000 drachmas!”). Although I remember getting the anti-commercial message of the slogan, I was also confused. I was not sure whether the slogan was directed to fans (that were seen as passive dupes of capitalism), music promoters (that were seen as exploiting the fans), bands (criticised for not playing for free), or the broader system including all those actors together (the culture industry). That was a festival that cost money to organise, with an international bill consisting of several awesome and successful bands, so I couldn’t see how the price would be an issue. Upon reflection, I guess it was meant as commentary on the culture industry; a system whereby heavy metal music is mass produced and marketed as a commodity. The slogan was trying to point out that “if you love rock music you are forced into market exchange relations”. The contradiction in this message is that rock music itself, as we know and love, is the product of the capitalist economy; an economy that is producing albums, and has allowed relatively affluent kids from around the world to own instruments and make bands like Slayer and Blind Guardian, that are eventually recruited by the music industry. I still think that rock music as a commodity should be critiqued, but that slogan did not offer any meaningful critique.

Inside the festival area the atmosphere was beautiful. I had never seen so many heavy metal fans at the same place. I remember feeling quite awkward and slightly scared, so I made sure I stayed close to my friends. Before any of the bands started playing, I spotted Thomen, Blind Guardian’s original drummer, in the crowd. The feeling of seeing one of my music heroes up-close was unique, so without much thought I went to get an autograph. Thomen was very friendly and happy to sign our ticket-stubs. I thought about my friend, Nick, who couldn’t attend the concert because he was away on holiday, so I found a piece of paper and asked Thomen to sign it for him. I gave it to Nick when he came back from holidays and the bastard couldn’t care less. Around that time, we heard the disappointing news that Motorhead were replaced by Saxon…

My memories of the actual bands are extremely blurry. I think I was over-stimulated, by the crowd, the bands, and the newness of the experience of a heavy metal festival, so being attentive of the actual music-listening experience was hard. One of the things I remember clearly is the asphyxiating atmosphere at the front of the stage. Especially when Slayer came out, kicking off with “South of heaven”, the heat combined with the the crowd crushing on me, made me feel faint. I was next to my friend Mark, and when the first notes of “South of heaven” came out of the amps we looked at each other with surprise and started screaming like the little fanboys that we were. Mark then asked me “which song is this!?”, to which I replied “Dead skin mask!”, a mistake that I eventually corrected a few seconds later. I have no other recollection of Slayer that night, apart from the fact that they played quite a few of the punk covers off Undisputed Attitude (1996), and, if I remember correctly, Jeff’s guitar with all the punk stickers. Similarly, I have almost no recollection of Blind Guardian, apart from “The bard’s song”. This is really peculiar, especially since I was dying to see them, and Imaginations from the other side (1995) was (and still is) one of my favourite albums of all time. Although I was not listening to Rage at the time (I fell in love with them after the concert) I vividly remember Peavy at the front of the stage singing “Alive but dead”. Under different technosocial circumstances, a recording of this concert would be widely available, and I would love to be able to experience it again. The only thing I could find online was the YouTube video below, of an audio track from Blind Guardian’s performance on that evening, 21 years ago.

An auto-ethnography of vinyl consumption

In the early 21st century vinyl has been making a comeback (Savage, 2017). After more than a decade, between the late 1980s and early 2000s, during which the music industry put its faith on CDs, and in the midst of the digital revolution, the few remaining record stores left are full of vinyl records once again. Overpriced vinyl issues of new releases, reissues of old albums, vinyl pressings of albums never released on vinyl before, vinyl pressings of bands’ obscure demo tapes, limited editions, limited editions that are more limited than the previous limited edition of the same album (but less limited than the one yet to come), and so on. Enough cultural commodities for vinyl junkies and trend-followers that would make king Solomon blush.

get-yours-todayBehind the resurgence of the vinyl market are many factors, including the music industry’s imperative to survive, opportunism, but also pure fan passion. The music industry sees in vinyl an opportunity to impose artificial scarcity (Hesmondhalgh, 2007); it is a medium for music dissemination that does not lend itself to expropriation by fans. The reason behind this is not some kind of “objective” quality linked to the medium; it is rather that “vinyl” has been situated in a discourse appropriated and actively reproduced by the music industry that fetishises (not in the Marxist sense) the physical object (i.e. manufactured paper and plastic) rather than the immaterial content (i.e. songs). In other words, the fan buys a vinyl record because they believe that there is inherent and exclusive value in the physical artefact itself. The value might be exactly that not everyone can own one, as opposed to mp3s, so it gives the fan a sense of distinctiveness. The value might be that the vinyl collector is a category that has been invested (partially by the music industry itself) with the meaning of the expert, or the “true fan”, or that listening to vinyl is seen as the “proper way” to consume music. This is a slightly different discourse to the one produced by the music industry in the 1990s whereby CDs derived their value from being on the cutting edge of technology, as well as the effectiveness (better sound) and efficiency (more space) associated with digitisation.

Of course, the activity of vinyl consumption cannot be reduced to the record industry’s imperative for profit and audience exploitation. Consuming vinyl means different things to each different person. Nobody can deny that music fans are at the mercy of the music industry. Almost every single aspect of our music consumption – from the existence of bands, the mass production of music so we can access it around the world, production values, to the existence of genres – is contingent on the existence of the music industry. Nevertheless, as Michel De Certeau (1984) or John Fiske (1989) would say, as consumers we make do and we make with those primary materials provided to us by the music industry. This post is about what I make with those cultural commodities.

I have talked in more detail about my history with vinyl consumption in a previous post. Here I will focus more on my rituals of vinyl consumption, using as an example the most recent album I bought, Deranged‘s Struck by a murderous siege (2016). This post is based on an article I have written and will be published in early 2018 in the Metal Music Studies journal (Zenerian, 2018).

I listened to Deranged’s new album a couple of months before I bought a physical copy of it. I first listened to a song that the record company (Agonia Records) released in the form of a YouTube lyric video to promote the album. After the album was officially released I downloaded it for free and listened to it on my computer and mp3 player. I then decided that I liked it enough to buy a physical copy of it. The purchase took place online. This is a process that involves very different thoughts and feelings to the pre-online shopping record purchasing experience. Entering a shop and searching the record stalls involves an element of excitement that cannot be replicated online. Buying a physical copy from a physical record store means that I own it from the moment I have paid for it. There is a sense of finality that in the case of online shopping is postponed until the moment the record is delivered, which can be several weeks after the purchase. Hence, buying online is always stressful for me.


When the album arrived, the first thing I did was to examine the jacket and vinyl to make sure they are not damaged. I was happy to find it in perfect condition. I spent some time investigating the cover art. Struck by a murderous siege has an awesome albeit cheesy cover. It is awesome because it is pretty detailed, so there is a lot to be discovered. I try to work out if the cover tells a story. The album title works as a caption, the linguistic message that offers guidance on how the image should be read (Barthes, 1984). In this case, the iconic message stands in a relation of complementarity to the linguistic message. The title of the album works as a relay. There is a murderer loose wreaking havoc in a big city. His threatening figure looming over the city connotes that the city is under siege. The police are after him, and they also look for his victims, which we can seen dumped in the sea by the city. I pay attention to all the details; the rotting corpses in the sea, the crow preying on one of the victims, I am looking for signs on the city buildings that could give me information of the identity of the city. I spend quite some time gazing at Deranged’s logo, and I think that it is one of the best logos ever designed.


I then remove the lyric sheet from the album. I am happy to see that all the lyrics are printed therein, there is information on writing credits, and photos of the band members. Sadly, there is no Thanx List. I look at the band members photos and then I go to the writing credits of each song to see who wrote what. I discover that all the music is composed by Thomas Ahlgren, who has been with the band for almost a decade. Rikard Wermen (the only original member) was involved in all the arrangements, keeping the trademark “Deranged sound” alive. Lyric credits are shared between Wermen and the bassist, Anders Johansson, and there are also lyrics based on letters by various serial killers such as the Son of Sam, the B.T.K killer, and the Toy-box killer. The band has also allocated vocal patterns credits (shared between Wermen and Johansson), in the style of Cannibal Corpse (see Gallery of suicide, 1998).

I then remove the vinyl from its sleeve. I smell the inside of the jacket, a habit I have had since high-school, searching for the distinct musty odor of cardboard that old records have to no avail. I look at the grooves and investigate the label. I then check to see if there are any interesting engravings around the label. There is none other than mundane pressing-related information. Back in the day I loved when I would discover messages such as “WATCH OUT FOR TERRORIZER” (Morbid Angel, Altars of madness, 1989), or “IS NICK HOLMES THE NEW ANDREW ELDRITCH?” (Paradise Lost, Gothic, 1991).


I put the album on the turntable, position the stylus and sit comfortably on my chair with the lyric-sheet in my hands. The opener “The frail illusion of osteology” is one of my favourite songs on the album. While I am listening to the second song, whose lyrics are based on the Son of Sam, I start thinking that no band will ever be able to write a better song than Benediction on this topic (“Jumping at shadows”, 1991). I then wonder whether the murdered figure on the album cover was inspired by the Son of Sam. I put the lyrics on the side and go on Wikipedia and read a bit about the Son of Sam, the B.T.K. killer, and the Toy-box killer. The lyric-sheet has pictures of all three of them. I then go back to the album cover and try to see if the figure resembles any of the murderers addressed in the songs. I notice no apparent resemblance.

I then go back to the lyrics and keep listening and reading. During the third song – one of the very best on the album – I begin to evaluate Johansson’s lyrics next to Wermen’s lyrics, and I think that Wermen’s are much weirder and chaotic, while Johansson’s are more structured and catchier. The first song on side B is another great song, about the B.T.K. killer. B.T.K. stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill”, which reminds me of the Suffocation song of the same title. The song inspired by the Toy-box killer (“Toy-box torture chamber”) has the most disturbing lyrics, matching the disturbing nature of the crimes. The song is sung in the first person which makes the depraved and misogynistic character of the lyrics even more disturbing to read (I won’t be reading the lyrics of this song again). I continue listening to the album, occasionally air-drumming and playing air-guitar, until it is over.

What I described is an experience of vinyl consumption that cannot be reduced to commodity fetishism, following music industry trends, or seeking to improve fan credentials. Listening to an album can be an auditory, visual, olfactic, and tactile experience, that brings people in connection with their personal biography (past experiences, old habits, childhood memories) and the broader culture (links with other bands, cultural events, the transformation of culture).


Barthes, R. (1984) Image, music, text. London: Fontana Press.

De Certeau, M. (1984) The practice of everyday life. Berkley: University of California Press.

Fiske, J. (1989) Understanding popular culture. London: Unwin Hyman.

Savage, M. (2017) “UK vinyl sales reach 25-year high”, (Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38487837)

Zenerian, E. (2018) “‘Doing-Listening with Deranged’s ‘Struck by a murderous siege’: An auto-ethnography of death metal vinyl consumption”, Metal Music Studies, 4:1 [Forthcoming]