Drama Of The Year - Metal Storm Awards 2019

If there's one thing that can safely be said about all metal that isn't power metal, it's that not everything is sunshine and daisies. Even if you do play power metal, sometimes your sword rusts and your dragon gets scale rot. The world of heavy metal, like the world of anything else, is fraught with shenanigans worthy of ridicule and unsavory occurrences that make for sensational headlines, and our Drama of the Year category compiles the best of them so that you can rank other people's misfortunes based on how controversial they are. It is, after all, an entertaining diversion from the rest of our dreary lives. For last year's Metal Storm Awards, we doubled the number of drama entries from five to ten, and, wouldn't you know it, dumb stuff kept happening. Here we are again with another full category, and this is after we had to cut some great content, like Cattle Decapitation ripping off the rapper who ripped them off and Megadeth's new greatest hits compilation not featuring "Super Collider." You're always free to write in your own nomination, but we hope you'll enjoy revisiting the last year's worth of unnecessary, unfortunate, and just plain stupid news from your friends in heavy metal.

Normally, one takes a bath to get clean. But sometimes, it's Abbath who... takes... all right, there's no rescuing this intro, but hopefully there are better prospects for Abbath, who found himself once again in the clutches of substance abuse. Black metal legend Olve "Abbath" Eikemo has been in and out of rehab before, and there is some evidence that his battles with alcoholism and resulting personal issues contributed to the dramatic retirement, resurrection, and splintering of Immortal a few years back. His solo project seemed to be progressing well enough, but we now know that he was, unfortunately, still struggling behind the scenes. Back in November, the band put on a disastrous performance in Buenos Aires; the show was delayed by two hours, leaving only "a few minutes" for the two opening bands to play, and when Abbath finally took the stage, it was with only three of the band's four members - Abbath himself had apparently gotten into an argument with guitarist Ole André Farstad, who subsequently refused to play. Abbath appeared so intoxicated that he was unable to perform, and thus the entire set amounted to several abortive attempts to start and only two semi-completed songs before he threw either his guitar or himself into the crowd, depending on the source, and collapsed. In the aftermath, the rest of the band's South American tour had to be canceled, and numerous angry fans demanded refunds.

While this miserable show certainly seems to be a low point in Abbath's career, there is a more positive epilogue: he checked into rehab shortly thereafter and recently announced that he is two months sober. He has also gone back on tour, seemingly without issue. Let's all hope that this is the time Abbath kicks his habit for good.
Remember back in 2017 when there was only one Batushka? And then remember 2018 when there were only two Batwoshkas? Well, not anymore! The legal snafushka has been quite thoroughly docushkamented by now, and we're familiar with the schismushka between Bartłomiej Krysiuk, vocalist of ur-Batushka and current leader of what we'll call Bartushka, and Krzysztof Drabikowski, the everything else of ur-Batushka and current leader of what we'll call Drabushka because it illustrates the absurdity of the situation(ushka). That was our favorite soap opera for the last dregs of 2018, and it crescendoed into something magnificently stupid throughout 2019. In April, whichever Polish court it is that is hearing this case issued a statement that Krysiuk, for the duration of court proceedings, was barred from using the Batushka name, only to reverse that decision two months later - not that it had stopped him in the meantime, as Bartushka was publicizing its incipient new album, playing festivals, and doing business with a mysteriously reticent Metal Bladeushka. Meanwhile, Drabushka was working hard on its own release, and so in 2019 we were granted two Batushka releases - Panihida from Derph and Hospodi from Bart - neither of which was as good as Litourgiya.

But that's only the first half. While we eagerly await the ultimate judgment as to whoshka will emerge Batrueshka and whoshka will be remembered as Badoucheka, other badudeshkas are emerging from the shadowskas to stake their own claims to the name(s) Batushka. There's Batyushka, whose members claim to be genuine Orthodox priests from Russia with a bone to pick over the appropriation of Christian imagery. Then there's Catushka, which has nothing to do with cats because it's actually pronounced "Tsatushka" (thanks, Serbia), and claims in turn to have been formed by monks in 1421 and represent actual Orthodoxy instead of the "fake priests" from certain other bands. Then there's Scatushka, which... Anyway, then there's Papushka and VVATUSHKA and the best of all, BatUWUshka, and many others not herein named. As youshka can see, this is getting out of hand.

Pictured: Martin Luther listing the 95 Batushkas.
Back in November, fans of Finland's favorite non-Nightwish metal band received a startling announcement: Children Of Bodom would be bidding farewell to its then-current lineup with one final show on December 15th. Thus it happened: after a final bow at the Black Box at Helsinki Ice Hall, an evening formally entitled "A Chapter Called Children Of Bodom" (which strongly implies the future existence of a chapter called something else), longtime members Jaska Raatikainen (drums), Henkka Blacksmith (bass), and Janne Wirman (keyboards) took a "step back," leaving founding guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho and current live guitarist Daniel Freyberg to their own devices. Though Bodom has been through a few guitarists in its day, the lineup of Laiho, Raatikainen, Blacksmith, and Wirman had been stable since 1997, and all four members played on every Children Of Bodom release since the very first; the sudden divergence of paths came as a shock to fans, for many of whom Bodom was at last becoming listenable again (check out Hexed in our Melodeath/Extreme Power/Gothenburg category).

A subsequent statement by the three departing members complicated the otherwise simple disappointment with the information that Laiho sold his share of the legal ownership of the band. As of now, Raatikainen, Blacksmith, and Wirman own the Children Of Bodom brand, despite not being in the band anymore, while Laiho remains (theoretically). We haven't seen any signs of bad blood between members, which is to be appreciated, but the above statement suggests that insurmountable creative differences led to this splintering. At this stage, we have no idea what any of these musicians will be doing in the future (aside from Blacksmith's recent announcement of a new project), whether Children Of Bodom will continue to exist in any capacity, and what we can expect to happen in the near future. For our part, in case it turns out this would be good for a big, juicy, Blabbermouth-style tabloid, we're currently accumulating headlines to use for the next major development: Bodom After Big Fight, Contract Breach Terror, Red Tape In My Eyes, Triplicate Hammerblow, etc.
There they were - Manowar, the greatest heavy metal band in the world, hot on the heels of another epic release, newly free of members in possession of child pornography, just about to take the stage at Hellfest 2019. But then... something happened (dramatic cue). We don't know what that was, of course, because Hellfest says that Manowar walked and Manowar says that Hellfest gave them the boot. We suspect that the band was unable to locate an actual dragon for the performance and became discouraged. It's also possible that, after years of being the record-holders for loudest band in the world, their hearing isn't the greatest, and they misinterpreted "Okay, you can go play now" as "Get the hell out of this festival and never come back to France again." We simply don't know, and we won't until the legal proceedings come to a close and Blabbermouth tells us all about it (and obviously the courts are involved - what the hell do you expect from Drama of the Year?).

In Manowar's stead, the headlining performance was rescued by Sabaton, who had played Knotfest the night before (Knotfest having collaborated with Hellfest last year for a pre-festival festival). Despite the fact that vocalist Joakim Brodén had blown his voice out and had to sit onstage having a little feast while the show went on, guitarists Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson filled in for him and the replacement gig otherwise went off without a hitch. That day, we all learned a little lesson about what it means to be true warriors of the world.
Famed death metal ne'er-do-well Chris Barnes, lead pugilist of Six Feet Under, inserted himself sideways into the public eye with yet another darling contrivance last April. Chris, having gotten a whiff of Thy Art Is Murder's new album, Human Target, realized that this was an obvious and shameless rip-off of his own song of the same name and called out the Australian deathcore group for their thievery (specifically, he called them "hacks"). "Human Target" appeared on Six Feet Under's 1995 debut, Haunted, thus negating all future claims by anyone else in the world to this fairly generic phrase. It is worth noting that "Human Target" is also a DC comics character who debuted in 1953, a 1971 Umetsugu Inoue film, a 1974 made-for-TV Australian film, a 1982 5X album, and a 1992 Fox television series; the concept is also implied by The Most Dangerous Game, Deliverance, Hard Target, and kind of everything that has ever involved a human being target by some malevolent or oppositional force. Furthermore, please note that, in accordance with the Haunted doctrine, the titles "The Enemy Inside," "Silent Violence," "Lycanthropy," "Still Alive," "Beneath A Black Sky," "Remains Of You," "Suffering In Ecstasy," "Tomorrow's Victim," "Torn To The Bone," and "Haunted" are no longer available.

It is only natural for someone to take offense at their hard work being bitten off by some good-for-nothing Aussie grifters, but, when pressed, Chris revealed that his fit of rage was in fact a benevolent act to generate publicity for Thy Art Is Murder, who have enjoyed three consecutive nominations (and one win so far) for Best Hardcore/Metalcore/Deathcore Album in our Metal Storm Awards, in contrast to Six Feet Under's zero, and also have never punched anybody from Cattle Decapitation in the face. There's no pleasing some people in this world, however, so we'll just have to leave this one to Chris Barnes, who shares a name with a former child actor born two years before him and whose band is named after a popular colloquialism.
In March of last year, an ugly feud bubbled up between nu metal heavyweights Slipknot and long-serving trash-can-batterer Chris Fehn, a.k.a. #3, a.k.a. Dicknose. Fehn, a member of the masked nonet since 1998, made claims alleging shady business dealings on the part of the band, launching a lawsuit to reclaim compensation that he is allegedly owed and get someone to audit Slipknot's finances. In the ensuing days, former band member Donnie Steele lent some credence to Fehn's publicized suspicions, while Corey Taylor, the world's most vocal vocalist, claimed that Fehn's accusations were unjust. Fehn, insistent that Taylor, percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan, and manager Rob Shore were manipulating the band's business side dishonestly, also accused them of offering him a contract he considered unfair and insulting prior to the creation of the band's last album, We Are Not Your Kind. The response from the band's management, while perhaps legally correct, certainly has an air of implication that Fehn was merely an extra hand paid for his gig like any session musician. Fehn's contributions to the band seem to depend on whom you ask, and at the moment the legal process is ongoing, but needless to say (because it's already in the title), Fehn was dismissed from the band quite early into this hullabaloo. He was replaced by a tortilla.

We waded through all 37,000 pages of Slipknot-related news from the last year of Metal Injection posts to bring you these details, so please keep that in mind when considering which drama entrant to vote for.
Apparently it is true that, as we long suspected, black metal melts in the sun. American quartet Uada found themselves on the business end of the ol' ultraviolet rays back in December when they discovered that wearing oversized hoods and wrapping themselves head-to-toe in restrictive black clothing is possibly not the best strategy for an outdoor show in Mexico. Mexico, known for its sunny beaches, blistering deserts, tropical forests, and Salma Hayek, is hot. In the aftermath of Mexico Metal Fest, which took place at Explanada de los Sultanes in Monterrey on November 30, Uada posted a statement to their Facebook in acknowledgment of how really uncomfortably hot it was ("how hot WAS it?) and how "the philosophy behind [their] art" was compromised, a move that proved to be wildly unpopular. Naturally, the band's stubborn adherence to their dress code and refusal to break black metal kayfabe while also complaining about the heatstroke-inducing results earned them many rolled eyes from fans and naysayers alike, necessitating a follow-up defensive post that has since been deleted along with the original. You can read the original here and the follow-up here. Please note that the article in the former link mischaracterizes the events - Uada did not actually cancel their performance, so they at least earn points over Manowar - but to our knowledge they are the only band of the couple dozen billed (which includes several bands actually from Scandinavia) to lament their "battle against the elements."

To be perfectly fair, none of us here has ever played an entire nonstop set of black metal while baking onstage. Playing a show under normal circumstances is physically taxing, and having to exert yourself while under the unceasing glare of the sun is probably an undesirable experience, especially when, if the original statement is to be believed, Uada wasn't informed until the last minute that the festival would be outdoors. But that doesn't mean this isn't funny.

Varg Vikernes - A Lost Forgotten Sad Nazi

Over the summer, YouTube released a statement explaining certain new standards it would be implementing in regard to particularly controversial content and content considered hate speech. In addition to cracking down on videos supporting Holocaust denial and similar historical arguments that are just, well, incorrect, YouTube decided to start axing racist content, much in the way that Varg axed Euronymous, and our corn flakes-loving pal was one of the doubtlessly numerous people who checked all the boxes on that new string of regs. Varg's channel, Thulean Perspective, was his main creative outlet for years after his release from prison, which he went to for murder and arson and also escaping from prison, and to his 250,000 subscribers he dispensed his views and advice on a variety of topics that ranged from neutral matters like survivalist skills and music to such classic talking points as his own racial/cultural superiority, disdain for race-mixing, suspicion of Jews, the plague of Christianity, and the veneration of noble pagan forefathers to the exclusion of anyone and anything else - the sort of thing he was arrested for in France back in 2013 because it was classified as hate speech. It was not the actual presence of Varg's channel but YouTube's deletion of it that ignited controversy, much in the way that Varg ignited multiple churches, with some fans coming to Varg's defense and painting him as a victim of oppressive PC oversight or some other such thing. Our own news article on the event had to have its comments section nuked from high orbit (you'll see only a handful of comments there now, but there used to be well over a hundred, each as dignified, thoughtful, and respectful as the last). Any kind of restriction of expression in this manner naturally attracts controversy, no matter the governing body, the perpetrator, or the expression at issue, and that's a debate that many people feel strongly about, much in the way that Varg feels strongly about the inferiority of women and nonwhites. We're not about to answer the tough questions once and for all here. As always, all we have to agree on here is that it was controversial, and it certainly was. Much in the way that Varg certainly was a neo-Nazi before deciding that he transcends labels.
As you all know, heavy metal bands worship Satan. This is well documented, so we won't dwell on that detail too much, but sometimes this proves to be an obstacle in procuring entry to another country (or, in some extreme cases, the freedom to continue existing). Watain led the charge this year by earning themselves a ban from Singapore, apparently on the grounds of past behavior "denigrating religions [well, okay, maybe] and promoting violence [well, okay, maybe that one, too]." We at least have them on the "subliminal messages in their songs [about] death and suicide" - we're pretty sure there's nothing subliminal about how much Erik Danielsson thinks you suck and should kill yourself. So, whatever, at least there's a factual basis for the decision handed down by Singapore's Info-communications Media Development Authority, regardless of its conclusion. Sepultura, on the other hand, who are not particularly known for their sacrifices to the dark lord or exhortations to firebomb dissenters, received a big, ol' banhammer from Lebanese General Security on grounds that seem more than a little spurious. The Brazilian thrash legends were scheduled to play in Beirut on April 28th of last year until their visas were denied, resulting in the event's cancellation; General Security raised allegations that the band had shown public support for Israel, insulted Christianity, and engaged in devil worship, all of which were denied heartily by the organizers of the event. The end result is usually the same, of course, when you're merely a humble metal band at the mercy of a foreign government; Sepultura were similarly cheated out of a performance in Cairo back in 2016.

And while we're in the Middle East, let's address the biggest crock of all: Iranian metal band Confess has been in the news a few times over the last several years, having been jailed in 2015 for crimes involving lyrical and musical content considered unflattering to Islam and the Iranian government. Initially, members Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani faced the death penalty for their alleged blasphemous and insurgent behavior; they eventually escaped this particular punishment, but in 2019 the judgment of the Iranian court was finally announced. Khosravi was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison, with 74 lashes as a bonus, and Ilkhani was given a 6-year sentence with 4 years suspended. The two appealed the decision, though they have also been granted asylum in Norway, where it seems unlikely they will face any more harassment for being a metal band.
Things had been quiet in the Vektor camp for a while, since there was only one person left to make any noise - at the end of 2016, following the release of the band's third album, Terminal Redux, everyone except for founding guitarist/vocalist David DiSanto left in an exodus that remains largely unexplained. The period of reticence was interrupted last June when David's wife, Katy, made a series of posts on social media accusing him of domestic abuse. In her statement, Katy details numerous allegations of violent, manipulative, and self-destructive behavior that David engaged in over the years, including a history of alcoholism, rape, and abuse both physical and emotional. The lengthy text can still be found in various places, including our original news post, but videos posted to Instagram, which purported to contain footage of the abuse in action, have since been deleted. Soon afterwards, Katy released an update referring to police and judicial involvement, while David responded with as vague and noncommittal a statement as the one that supposedly explained Vektor's collapse. For his part, he has since been silent on the matter and disappeared from social media following one perfunctory tweet in July. At present, we can't say where things stand; all we can hope is that the legal system is dispensing due justice to each party and that fans can remain respectful in the face of these deeply personal and legally nuanced issues, which is something that metal fans are, of course, known for.