November was not a kind month for metal. In fact, it was downright horrid. It’s as if the year was holding back an existential sinus of bad news, waiting to blast it all out in one big miserable sneeze before the season of end-of-year lists can take place.
It started on day one – on November 1st, Wayne Static died in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles. Static (born Wayne Richard Wells) was best known as the maniacally-haired frontman of Static-X, one of the bands that lurked around the industrial-tinged tail-end of nu-metal, sporadically resurfacing every few years with a new line-up, albeit always with Static as frontman.
While many – including Static’s contemporary, Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach – erroneously assumed this was due to a relapse into hard drug and a subsequent overdose, this was refuted by Static’s widow and family.
Static was sadly the start of an awful trend for the month. On November 9th, Black Tusk bassist Jonathan Athon died following injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. He was just 32 years old. Athon’s life support was switched off (as per wishes he had expressed prior to any accidents) when it was determined that the serious brain damage he had received was irreparable. Andrew Fidler and Jamie May, the surviving members of Black Tusk, have set up a fund to distribute donations made in his name to help friends of Athon who currently struggle with medical problems of their own.
The month ended with the passing of Alexis “Leki” Gotts from Wet Nuns (and more recently, Baba Naga), who took his own life after a reportedly long battle against depression. While Wet Nuns disbanded back in 2013, anyone who ever saw the two-piece perform live, or has given their splendid self-titled debut album a spin or two will know that Gotts’ presence behind the kit was an integral part of their ramshackle charm. He will be missed.
Not quite as tragic has been the rapid descent of AC/DC’s Phil Rudd. The drummer was charged by New Zealand police with plotting to arrange a murder, as well as drug possession with regards to cannabis and methamphetamine. The charges relating to the murder plot were eventually dropped. But Rudd has only gone and added to his woes, allegedly becoming involved in a high-speed car chase, threatening members of the public, and breaching his existing bail conditions. When his bandmate, Angus Young, says that he needs to “sort himself out”, he really isn’t kidding.
Then again, while not technically a criminal offence, the music video released by the rest of AC/DC to promote ‘Play Ball’, the first song they released from their latest album ‘Rock Or Bust’ (review), is clearly a crime against good taste…
On a less miserable note, Download Festival confirmed its first clutch of bands for 2015 – pretty much all of its heavy-hitters for next summer. Is this a sign that UK festivals are slowly renouncing the tedious practice of stretching out line-up announcements over months and months? (We hope so.) Alongside headliners Slipknot, Muse and Kiss, the other revealed bands are (deep breath): Judas Priest, Faith No More, Mötley Crüe, Five Finger Death Punch, A Day To Remember, Slash, Black Stone Cherry, Marilyn Manson and Enter Shikari. Aaaand relax.
On the new releases front, several absolute killer records snuck out this month. Two-piece sludge-grind nomads Jucifer unveiled ‘District Of Dystopia’, which continues the fine run of form the pair has had over the last few years. The sludgier elements of Jucifer’s caustic aural palette have taken a backseat to their vicious, grindier side, but after the discordant drone experimentalism of last year’s ‘за волгой для нас земли нет’, it’s a refreshing back-to-brutal-basics approach from the duo.
Irish black metallers Primordial are another outfit with an impressive discography, where each new release seems to better the last. ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’ is no exception. It’s a ferocious display from Alan Averill and company.
Voices may only just be releasing their second full-length, but they’re another band with a strong pedigree behind them – several members have history in the sadly much-missed Akercocke, one of the UK’s best-ever death metal outfits. ‘London’, their second album, provides a dark black metal analysis of the bleaker aspects of the English capital. It’s a unique and utterly urban interpretation of a genre more often than not tied up with Scandinavian woodlands than the oppression of urban living, and is a late but great entrant into 2014’s albums-of-the-year discussion.
Traditionally, rock and metal has a bit of a hibernation over Christmas, what with the release schedule drying up and tours petering off the closer we get to Christmas. Still, Thrash Hits are seeing through the most boring month in the metal year with an alternative Advent Calendar of Christmas rock. Yes, really.
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Words: Hugh Platt
Hugh is deputy editor at Thrash Hits – check out the site here.