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Hivelords: Making Metal Meant To Challenge.

February 21, 2014

Hivelords01Text and images by Chad Sims.

I can certainly understand when people don’t like metal. I get it. It is too loud, too screamy, too over the top.

The thing I find really odd is when people are still somehow scared of going to heavy metal shows. Not because they think that they are going to get hurt from people moshing (I suppose a legit concern if you get too close to the pit).

Instead, people act like those myths perpetuated on ’80s talk shows are fact. That the bands and fans of heavy metal are some kind of murderous, satanic cult (okay, maybe this is a little true in Norway). Of course the bands do little to dissuade this sort of myth making. The imagery is dark, evil, satanic, homicidal, magical and fantastic while the sound is often grating and loud – though not lacking in virtuosity.

How heavy metal sounds and the reality of the people who make heavy metal music has always been an interesting disconnect for me. With the exception of a small percentage of really popular heavy metal bands, fans have a huge amount of access to these performers. If you go to a show, the band members are often at the merch table or the bar. Most times these guys and gals are more than happy to strike up a conversation with a fan. Something I have found is that – barring a few exceptions – most of these people are usually fairly nice despite their often rough around the edges appearance.

One band that fits this disconnect is South Philadelphia’s Hivelords. I wrote about Hivelords about a year back while profiling their record label Anthropic. At that time, Hivelords had recently joined the label and were working on their first album as part of the stable. Now that the record has been out for some time, I wanted to catch up the guys and see how things had been going.

The band’s new album, Cavern Apothecary, is exactly what I am talking about. The best way to describe this album is the sound of a nightmare – but I am pretty sure that is what they were going for. This album is raw, discordant and filled with blood-curdling howls. But it is also awash with unique musical experimentation. What kind of people would make this sort of noise?

I met up with the guys in the Point Breeze house where the band – Kevin North on vocals, Tyler Butler 0n bass, Jason Jenigen on drums, guitarist Will Rollem and recent addition Even Void on guitar – practices and which a few of the members call home. As we waited for everybody to show up the guys joked around, talked and listened to records. They seemed pretty much like many young guys sharing a house in South Philly, hardly a den of evildoers.

Previously, North had told me that their music was a way to refocus negative feelings and thoughts, for it to act as a “catharsis.” So what sort of evil does a man capable of summoning these terrifying sounds encounter on daily basis? Well, none as he is a one-to-one special needs aid at a nearby school. I would guess that sort of job has a number of frustrations that we can’t fully understand. The rest of the band have similarly normal day jobs, but a couple times a week they commune to summon the evil cacophony.

So then how do people take this music? After a couple of tours of the country, they say that the general reaction is positive but what they truly like is the real reactions. They want to make people question what they just saw.

North recalls one particularly good show in North Carolina where a visibly shaken fan came up to him after the show and said, “I don’t think I am going to be able to sleep tonight.” The person then walked away, saying nothing more.

A father accompanying his underage son to the same show had a similar reaction. At the conclusion of the Hivelords set, the father motioned the son over in what North calls a “Leave It To Beaver-esque” manner, clearly needing to talk with his boy concerning his musical choices.

To hear these tales you would think that they must do something controversial and shocking to elicit these types of responses. But they don’t do anything that unusual for a metal band. They simply play their music. It is the power of the music that draws this sort of reaction. If people are going to be scared of heavy metal, this is why they should be scared – not because they are going to get swept up in some tabloid nonsense but because this sort of music is meant to challenge. This music isn’t for the listener to forget, but for the listener to confront.

If you want to see what I am on about, come check them out this Saturday the 22nd at JR’s bar on Passyunk or on the 28th at the Half Moon Café.

One Comment


  1. hivelords in JUMP! Philly | anthropic records

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