Drama Of The Year - Metal Storm Awards 2018


Heavy metal isn't just music; it's a way of life it's a soap opera. It's a scene filled with people, and we all know what assholes people are, even if they sometimes make good tunes. The Drama of the Year category lets us reflect on the funniest, most disturbing, most outlandish, and most controversial nonmusical events in the previous year's heavy metal canon, whether for edification or our own sick amusement or whatever the reason is that we do this. As great a year as 2018 was for music, it wasn't such a swingin', upscale stage for the people who play it; a lot of stuff went down in 2018, and some of it was real crazy and some of it was real disgusting, and there was so much of it that we had to blow up our category to ten entrants from the usual five. Read through, revisit old memories, and remember why you should distance yourself from this scene when in the public eye.



American blackened death duo Ævangelist closed out the year with a spiraling series of rape accusations that appears to have pulled in both members, instrumentalist Reuben "Matron Thorn" Jordan and vocalist Valerie "Ascaris" Dorr, as well as at least two fans. Infighting was sparked by claims of rape and manipulative behavior levied against Matron Thorn; after Ascaris responded in support of the woman who made the initial allegations, another party emerged to accuse Ascaris of the same crimes. Both members denied any wrongdoing, each seeming to throw each other under the bus in the process. All of this happened on Facebook, where Ascaris posted that the future of Ævangelist had been thrown into doubt by the mayhem and that the project would be "one or the other of us or neither" - and Matron Thorn made that decision by firing Ascaris in the comments. If you're wondering how that panned out, we still are, too, because the band now has two Facebook pages: @aevangelist.official, administrated by Ascaris, and @thetrueaevangelist, belonging to Matron Thorn, who has also recruited Stephane Gerbaud, formerly of Anorexia Nervosa, for an upcoming EP. No word yet on which will ultimately become Ævangelist A.D. and which will become Ævangelist Inc. Unlike some of our other entries here, this situation does not seem to have sparked any legal action as yet - at least, none that we know about - so we have even less information than usual about where all this will lead in the long run. The answer is probably "nowhere good."
Over the summer (notoriously the least black metal season of the year, so this just figures), prolific scene icon King Ov Hell (ex-Gorgoroth, ex-Sahg, ex-Audrey Horne, probably ex-some other stuff) announced his departure from Abbath's band. King "explained" his "reasoning" with a post that simply bears sharing rather than rephrasing: "King leaves Abbath. King will no longer be part of Abbath due to conflicting views on lyrical concepts of the upcoming album. The lyrics are inspired by Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung. King finds that Jung's connection to Christian mysticism is incompatible with the image of the band. I wish members of the actual band, label, and crew all the best for the upcoming shows and album. The music itself is nothing short of brilliant. However, I must maintain artistic integrity and respectfully step aside."

This is apparently supposed to make sense to the rest of us. It does raise some questions - questions like "How does one arrive at this conclusion?" "How does one explain this conclusion to one's bandmates?" "Does Abbath think this is a reasonable turn of events?" "Where was King's artistic integrity back when he was in Gorgoroth?" For all we know, this is a hasty rationalization for some undisclosed deeper troubles within the group. Abbath's solo project quickly gained a reputation for hemorrhaging members; initially announced drummer Baard Kolstad (Leprous, Borknagar) was soon replaced (if his position was ever even genuine) by Benighted drummer Kevin Foley, who also left the band mere weeks before the release of the debut; he was followed days later by live guitarist and Vredehammer member Per Valla. It could be something in the water; it could be that King truly believes that playing bass on a black metal album constitutes enough of an artistic contribution to make him liable for any accusations of hypocrisy that might stem from listeners realizing that Carl Jung is the antithesis of everything that black metal stands for. All we have to say about that is, "Whatever."
Arch Enemy's current and erstwhile frontwomen, Alissa White-Gluz and Angela Gossow, appeared at the center of an ugly dispute with a concert photographer regarding the use of one of his photographs, a debacle that illustrates both the subtleties of copyright observance on the internet and how not to engage with other human beings. The short version: the photo of White-Gluz, sporting merchandise designed by Thunderball Clothing, was posted to her personal Instagram; the company reposted the photo, which photographer J. Salmeron interpreted as an unauthorized commercial use of his image. Pursuing his right to compensation, Salmeron contacted Thunderball, which put him in contact with Arch Enemy's management (Gossow), and things pretty much went south from there, with the band's hostile responses leading to a breakdown in communications and Salmeron being barred from future Arch Enemy concerts (a tenuously enforceable measure that has already been roguishly disregarded). The original account, posted by the photographer himself, can be found on Metal Blast, while subsequent fallout and statements from Arch Enemy and Thunderball are preserved here and here in our own news archives.

Certainly some honest mistakes were involved - after all, the laws regarding the use of images are not well understood by most - but much of the drama could have been avoided. Among the many negative effects of this schismatic venture is that Thunderball Clothing has folded. Vindictive fans pelted the designer behind the company with floods of hateful messages, death threats, and even accusations of Nazism - because when you're being an asshole it's best just to complete the circuit all at once. Kinda seems like getting bullied out of a legitimate business is what the photographer himself was trying to avoid to begin with, but apparently it's really frigging difficult to act like a rational being on the internet.
Batushka, the Polish black metal outfit whose 2015 debut turned heads for its Eastern Orthodox aesthetic, has collapsed into a rather severe case of multiple members firing each other. News first reached the outside world in the form of an Instagram post on the band's official account by bandleader Krzysztof "Derph" Drabikowski, known as Кристофор, stating that he had fired vocalist Bartłomiej Krysiuk, alias Варфоломей, for "inappropriate behavior on his part." Krysiuk swung back on the band's Facebook, claiming that Drabikowski was the one who had been fired and was attempting to mutiny. As both parties fought to wrest control of the social media accounts, Drabikowski uploaded a video to YouTube explaining the situation in greater detail, while the Facebook post saw some comments cast aspersions on Krysiuk's credibility and predatory business practices (some of which were subsequently deleted). Drabikowski claims to have the legitimate rights to Batushka as the founder, songwriter, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, and creative director of the band since its inception. Krysiuk claims to be the real Batushka because "nya-nya-nya I filed the trademark first." Krysiuk's version of the band seems to have a new album and tour slated, while Drabikowski also has new material planned for a Batushka release. The details will have to be sorted out by the lawyers. Thank goodness for those guys.

At the moment, it remains unclear which faction will emerge as Batrueshka. Presumably one party will be forced to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien (pictured), a longtime member who has appeared on every album since 1998's Gallery Of Suicide, was arrested in December after a fascinatingly surreal series of incidents that likely prove how right your parents were about death metal. The exact nature of the events is still somewhat murky, but it seems that on the night of December 10 O'Brien broke into his neighbor's house, where, after noting that the Rapture was incoming and making statements indicative of other hallucinations, he shoved one of the occupants to the ground and fled to the backyard. Police arrived to find O'Brien wielding a knife and were forced to subdue him with a taser, at which point he was taken into custody. Meanwhile, back on the farm, an enormous fire had broken out in O'Brien's own home under yet-undisclosed circumstances, engulfing the place in flames; making things difficult for the responding fire crew was the presence of large amounts of ammunition, as well as two "military-grade" flamethrowers, which exploded during the blaze, thereby prolonging and intensifying it. At last call, O'Brien was free after posting bail, but he still faces charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and burglary of an occupied dwelling with assault or battery. The fact that we can't immediately think of Cannibal Corpse song titles to apply to this situation means that things could have been a whole lot worse, and according to a statement from the band O'Brien is currently "getting the help he needs", but these escapades certainly don't do a lot to further the image of death metal in the public eye.
Every now and then, we see a band lashing out at its fans after the pressure has just gotten to be too much. Quite often it's for something reasonable. Quit downloading our albums illegally. Don't throw stuff onto the stage. Stop putting our faces on your homemade dakimakuras. But not everyone can achieve the same shoot-self-in-foot status attained by German gothic metal sextet Crematory, who boiled over in the form of a withering social media screed posted by cofounder and drummer Markus Jüllich. The legendary rant, which was posted on Facebook in German and whose English translation is available here, points the finger at tight-fisted fans for contributing to the death of Crematory, heavy metal, and probably music as a cultural concept. Jüllich asserted that the prevalence of streaming has made listeners unwilling to purchase physical albums - not an unfounded hypothesis, admittedly - but went on to threaten fans with the cancellation of an upcoming tour if they did not "get off [their] lazy asses" to buy tickets, and even suggested that Crematory itself could be done for if not enough people forked over the cash to purchase Oblivion, the band's then-upcoming 14th album (preferably the double-vinyl edition, if you don't mind). The propagation of digital music has been controversial since day one, to be sure, but it's not often you see a band hold itself hostage to move units, especially for an album that (generously speaking) probably wasn't worth the trouble.

No word yet on how this affected sales.
2018 was quite a messy year, as you can see from all the other Drama entrants: we had two of one band, two of a different band, zero of another band... Well, kids, it's time to pack up your gear and let the pros take the stage; nobody knows how to be multiple bands at once quite like Rhapsody Of Fire. And this time, by "Rhapsody Of Fire," we don't mean Rhapsody Of Fire - nor do we mean Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. Nor is this Rhapsody of the Rhapsody 20th Anniversary Farewell Tour, which reunited former members of the concurrently existing Rhapsody Of Fire to revisit the days when the band was known as simply Rhapsody, despite the fact that this band itself was distinct from the actual Rhapsody that existed 20 years ago... No, this time we're talking about Turilli/Lione Rhapsody, a new project comprising Luca Turilli (guitars), Fabio Lione (vocals), Dominique Leurquin (guitars), Patrice Guers (bass), and Alex Holzwarth (drums)...which is actually the same as 20th Anniversary Special Edition Rhapsody, but it's not because they're called something else. Anyway, it sounds like we're getting a new album and a tour out of them, so good luck keeping track of that in your collections.

Here's the question, though: If Alex Staropoli slowly replaces the lineup of his band one member at a time and then all those former members get together to form the same band, are both bands the same band, or are they both new bands, or just one? Is it even possible to find the "true" Rhapsody at this point? If Staropoli's Rhapsody Of Fire can rerecord the old Rhapsody material, then did Fabio Lione ever really sing it? Why is Alessandro Conti still the vocalist of Luca Turilli's Rhapsody, and where does Lione/Conti fit into this? Should we just be listening to Masterplan instead?

Timo Tolkki was not available for comment.
In February, Taake learned that causing controversy can actually have unintended negative effects, in addition to making you look really edgy. It seems that back in 2007 frontman Hoest elected to perform in Germany with a swastika painted on his chest, a stunt he later claimed was meant to "incite a reaction." Well, it did. Somehow or another, early last year, a New York City chapter of Antifa got wind of the incident and pressured a local venue to cancel Taake's planned appearance; this snowballed into a cancellation of the band's entire North American tour as accusations of Nazism abounded. Hoest was quick to deny any racist or otherwise hateful ideology on the part of the band, disavowing the swastika incident, but, as MetalSucks points out, there is a broader pattern of behavior that makes some observers skeptical of Taake's inculpability. Taake maintained that they were the victims of foul play - baseless rumors and events blown out of proportion that do not represent the members of Taake as artists or as people. In any case, the damage was done, and Taake learned the hard way that "causing controversy" is not merely something to be done out of boredom; issuing a direct provocation will result in a negative reaction.

Just in case nobody learned anything from this debacle, it might be worth pointing out the obvious: doing something offensive without any articulated purpose is likely to incite hostility. Failure to predict that and refusal to accept responsibility for the fallout say more about the offending party than the offended one.

Threatin - The Mediocre Rock'n'Roll Swindle

Over what must have been a lengthy period of preparation and reckless spending, Los Angeles-based musician Jered Threatin achieved such astronomical levels of DIY that the entire folk punk genre resigned in disgrace after the news of his exploits broke. Threatin, the frontman of a "band" of the same name, manufactured an elaborate web of illusions to get himself a tour in the UK. Armed with fake websites for fake labels and booking agents, bought Facebook likes and YouTube views, mulitple identities, and apparently a dumpster full of disposable income, Threatin conned a series of venues into hosting him and other bands into opening for him, boasting impressive presale figures that didn't pan out when his shows attracted single-digit audiences. As more and more people became suspicious about the disparity between Threatin's reported hundreds-strong presales, backed up by a sizable social media presence, and the nonexistent turnout, Threatin's entire career was outed as a sham concocted as some kind of bizarre ego trip. UK alt rock band Kamino, one of the artists that had the dubious honor of sharing Threatin's stage, made a thoughtful post in the aftermath, reminding us that, while this bewildering adventure makes for an amusing news story, Jered Threatin's adventure came at the expense of a lot of people and businesses being cheated and manipulated. Threatin has since tried to play off the whole scam as some kind of purposeful statement about the music industry, also making the (confirmed false) claim that he had intended to expose the fraud himself from the start... but his older brother says he's pretty sure lil' Jered is just blowing smoke to cover his ass.

Various Metal Artists - Are Bad People

We kicked off 2018 with the news that Nick Catanese, Black Label Society's rhythm guitarist from 1998 to 2013, was arrested for sending sexually explicit photos to a minor whom he taught at the music school where he worked. The student reported inappropriate messages and requests from Catanese, who was then charged and sentenced to five years of probation and 25 years of registration as a sex offender; he was additionally ordered to avoid contact with minors and internet-capable computers, two restrictions that seem incredibly difficult to adhere to, but, hey, that's his problem now, not society's. Two months later, Inquisition's pleonastic frontman, Dagon (a.k.a. Jason Weirbach), lost himself a record label after Season of Mist summarily dropped the band, unimpressed by Dagon's purported attempts to outdo Catanese. Given the longstanding rumors of white nationalist ties and sympathies surrounding the band, there was speculation that this might have been the cause of action, but MetalSucks had dug up decade-old charges against Dagon related to child pornography. The metal community then had reason to suspect Dagon of being a Nazi pedophile, which is so very close to the worst possible thing a human can be that it's almost laughable. In subsequent statements, Dagon argued down the charges, claiming that the legal records had been misunderstood or misrepresented by reporters and that he was not a sex offender. If Dagon's accounts are to be believed, the extent of any wrongdoing becomes unclear, but we'll let you people carry on asking those questions. In any event, the controversy created by the whole situation was enough to get the band dropped from Season of Mist, kicked off a tour with Satyricon, and removed from the lineup of Maryland Death Fest.

That brings us to Manowar, whose farewell tour was interrupted by the arrest of guitarist Karl Logan for possession of child pornography. An update was later released with slightly more information, but the few details revealed are sickening enough that we won't bother reprinting them. The band has kept mum about the entire ordeal except to announce Logan's replacement on the upcoming tour. We are still waiting on the outcome of the charges against Logan, but suffice it to say he won't be welcome anywhere near the Hall from now on.