You'd think a city sometimes referred to as "Guitar Town" would have a more visible heavy-music scene, but for years it's been one of the most marginalized scenes in the city. That all seems to be changing, however: Heavy music is bludgeoning its way to the forefront, with more national and international acts swinging through town and a crop of locals looking to push the boundaries of the genre straight off a cliff. Here's our quick guide to the city's most brutal bands.
Local farmer/guitarist T.G. Olson has been operating under the Across Tundras moniker for years, creating a massive body of work that's as varied as it is intriguing. Whether it's 2011's Sage LP — imagine Ennio Morricone scoring the apocalypse — or the new 45-minute improv-drone experiment "Sonata for the Outlander and Dark Sign Loner," Across Tundras' material is always epic and always on point.
This Murfreesboro blackened-doom outfit popped up on our radar last year with the massive, crushing LP Empiric, which took home our Best of Nashville honors for "Best Metal Album" thanks to its unrelenting attack and intensely aggro execution. Recently reissued on limited-edition vinyl by Germany's Alerta Antifascista Records, Empiric is daring and dynamic, veering between slow-and-scary sludge and light-speed black metal.
Black Tar Prophet
While the merits of stoner/doom metal can be debated — and frequently are debated with our metal photographer/sparring partner Diana "Porkchop" Zadlo once we've both worked up a good buzz — there's no debate as to whether BTP delivers the goods for fans of the genre. The instrumental duo makes sludge as thick and slow as an Antarctic ice sheet, delivering gut-wrenching low-end and pummeling beats with an experimental edge.
Recurring theme alert: Doom-leaning duos are a thing around here! But similar formats are not an indication of similar sounds. Brother Ares' take on two-piece destruction is rife with melody and noise, creating a psychedelic stew that spills like British outfit The Yage Letters in slow motion. Ares' 2012 album Devourer of Worlds was a finely wrought exercise in unremitting heaviness.
Choking on Ash
In the words of the eminently quotable Porkchop, COA is "dick-shit tough like a honey badger." Not that we really know what that means, but it seems like an apt way to describe this four-piece's super-brutal approach, which combines elements of doom metal, death metal and good old-fashioned hardcore punk. So we'll stick with it.
Forest of Tygers
Sure, Forest of Tygers have played only one show, and their entire recorded output consists of one YouTube video and a 10-minute static loop, but we're already hooked. The brainchild of Tijuana Goat Ride's Niki Carolan, former Serotonin member Jim Valosik and his wife Rachel — the rare drummer who has both swing and ferocious technical skills — FOT's gnarly, no-holds-barred approach to genre-bending metal is unstoppable. And yes, we're basing that on one YouTube video.
We know what you're thinking: All of this slow-and-heavy stuff is cool, but ain't there anything that thrashes at a breakneck pace around these parts? Yes there is, and its name is Haldol. Connecting metal and punk in a fashion reminiscent of the late-'80s Upper Midwest, Haldol's new album The Death Driver takes no prisoners in its quest to bludgeon your wigdome.
Clearly there is not a lot to do on the Cumberland Plateau besides eat acid, overdrive amps and listen to the oeuvre of Monsieur Lemmy Kilmister — at least, not if this Cookeville-based, Nashville-frequenting quartet is any indication. This hyper-productive heavy-psych outfit is probably the closest thing you can get to the sound of galaxies colliding.
Probably better known outside our city limits than within them, Loss records for Profound Lore — America's premier underground metal label — and makes doom metal that is best described as downright gorgeous. Their 2011 Despond LP has some of the most beautiful guitar playing in recent memory — in any genre — and some of the best sub-guttural howls, too.
Laser Flames on the Great Big News
Extra-double recurring theme alert! The locals love to put micro-genres through the meat grinder, and this Murfreesboro crew makes one-ah spicy-ah meat-ah-ball! On their 2012 EP Lambs to the Slaughter, traditional sounds get crushed and ground into black metal blasts that are boiled down to a sludgy ragu of tasty riffs, just like Grandma used to be terrified of.
This sleaze-rock trio isn't metal in the strictest sense, but their devil-may-care-except-we-slipped-him-a-mickey-and-Sharpied-his-face-haha-sucker attitude ranks pretty high on our metal-as-fuck scale. Their 2012 LP Violate the Night — recorded at the Bomb Shelter with hot-producer-of-the-moment Andrija Tokic before the hot moment actually happened — is a full-tilt party record and a perfect soundtrack to bad decisions.
Tijuana Goat Ride
One last recurring theme alert! Or maybe two, as Niki Carolan shows up again, and this band's existence is also documented only via YouTube. But the grapevine is saying that they've got an EP they're readying for release and there's a full-length on the schedule — which is awesome, because there's entirely too much heavy in these songs to be conveyed in mere streaming video.