Heavy Music Alter Egos
Being kvlt and trve is a tiring job. It can be demanding to live every hour of every day as a brooding, pensive basement-dweller outsider. Maintaining the self-loathing necessary to fuel the angst-ridden art consumed by the denizens of the void can be a demanding exertion far greater than most mere mortals can achieve. For that reason, many musicians within the heavy music spectrum have at some point in their careers displayed their true colors and allowed their false flags to fly under the guise of non-metal alter egos. Interestingly enough, for those of us who don’t quaff goats’ blood with each meal, some of these non-metal alternatives are intriguing and surprisingly enjoyable. Therefore, we here at the Toilet thought we could shed some light on some of these non-metal asides that our heroes indulge.
Mats/Morgan is the experimental/fusion/weirdo musical outlet of supreme drummer Morgan Ågren and peerless keyboardist Mats Öberg. The pair has been making sweet musical love together since they were both wee lads, earning high acclaim and grabbing the attention of more established musicians. So unique and daring has been their musical output that the duo once caught the eye of the mighty Frank Zappa, with whom they went on to perform and write in the 90s. “But W.,” you might be wondering, “I thought we were talking about side projects of metal musicians?” We are, loyal flusher. The name Morgan Ågren may have struck a chord for a few of you. For those of you unaware, Ågren is the drummer who laid down the ferocious rhythmic backbone of Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects’ schizophrenic album Sol Niger Within. In addition to collaborating with Meshuggah’s many-stringed maestro, Ågren has also lent his formidable talents to Devin Townsend on Casualties of Cool. So what does Mats/Morgan sound like? Saccharine-sweet progressive music sure to make your liver quiver. You can stream the first track from their most recent release [schack tati] on bandcamp and purchase the album in the same location if that is how your heart leads you. Also, you can find Mats/Morgan on the book of faces.
Ascension of the Watchers
AotW is the gothic/ambient/electronic/moody side project of Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell. Back in the early 2000s, Bell teamed up with John Bechdel of Ministry and released the Iconoclast EP to some acclaim. The duo would go on to add Edu Mussi as an additional guitarist to round out the unit’s sound. The first and only full-length, Numinosum, was released in 2008, and to be honest, I dig it. I remember sitting in my apartment one dreary weekend in Albuquerque and listening to AotW, and man, it just felt right. The gloomy lyrics and melodic song construction actually suit Bell’s oft-derided clean vocals, weaving a tale of revelation regarding the Nephilim from the apocryphal Book of Enoch. In my humble opinion, one of the standout tracks here is the cover of “The Sound of Silence.” Bell’s vocals fit the spacey, vacuous theme and lend the track a sort of transcendent quality. I dig. You can find the group on Facebook!
Ole Børud is the guitarist and backing vocalist of prog metal juggernauts Extol. These Norwegian mad scientists stand tall in the math/experiment/progressive scene, and their most recent self-titled effort that dropped last year was a testament to solid song-writing and earnest intent. If you’re a sadsack who missed it, you ought to at least jam “A Gift Beyond Human Reach.” When he’s not laying down throbbing riffs as Extol’s beating heart, Børud is apparently banging out funky pop jams on his own record label OBM Records. The Norwegian Michael Jackson dropped his own solo effort, Keep Movin, in 2011, and it combines hopping bass lines with sweet riffs and danceable grooves. If you enjoy the likes of Prince, I happen to think that you’ll dig Mr. Børud’s solo efforts. I’d tell you more about it, but most websites regarding the album are in Norwegian, and Stockhausen’s knowledge of the language really only covers beer and profanity. Toss Mr. Børud a like on Facebook and explore more of his music on his personal website.
Mariachi el Bronx
Hardcore has long been the domain of tuff guys like our editor in chief Papa Joe. Often more DIY than technical, there’s a genuineness to many of the bands from the NYC scene that shines through the salty exteriors. The Bronx are certainly no exception to that, but their inner softie is displayed in perhaps a far more tangible way than most other affiliates of the NYC scene. Since the late aughts, The Bronx have occasionally operated under the mysterious appellation of Mariachi el Bronx. Okay, so that name is about as much of a giveaway as El Barto, but it is an aptly suited moniker nonetheless. Under the Mariachi el Bronx banner, the hardcore crew trade in breakdowns and inspirational lyrics for thoughtful tunes of love and loss dripped over soulful mariachi music replete with scabrous horns and tasteful licks. This is great music for cracking open a cerveza and lamenting misspent youth and romances that might have been. Mariachi el Bronx have released three solid efforts, the most recent dropping earlier this year. Check out “Wildfires” below and get festive. You can give Mariachi el Bronx a like on Facebook and find their albums here.
Last up we’ve got AliKen, the solo endeavor of previous and current Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach. I’ve made my feelings on Killswitch fairly apparent in previous posts, but I should note that I dig this song. Blending ambient electronics with the dazed trip-hop of Massive Attack, lead song “In the Shadows” offers us a look into the mind of a tormented artist. According to Leach, he penned the song after awaking from a nightmare and attempted to capture the eternal battle between darkness and light that rages within the minds of all mere mortals. Interestingly, the song appears to be a deliberate effort to capture the sloppy, off-kilter mindset of an artist, and for that, I commend Mr. Leach. There are some other songs of a slightly different vibe up on his Soundcloud, so if you like what you hear, you should check them out.