Guest Column: Three Bands You May Not Know But Should By Jonathan Higgs Of Monsterworks

Guest Column

We’ve reached out to our metal and hard rock brethren across the land, asking that they contribute prose to our recent series of guest columns. We ran a recent series on Five Albums That Will Change You, and the response was overwhelming.

The new topic is Three Bands You May Not Know About But Should, and we asked that each guest writer jot down a brief description of what makes each band worthy of our attention. Today, we continue this ongoing series with an entry from Jonathan Higgs of Monsterworks.
 
This “three bands few know about” column turned out to need a good search of the memory banks. Thanks to Gun Shy for giving me some brain exercise!

Back in the mid-1990s I probably got most of my new-bands-to-listen-to tips from my high school buddy and co-corrupting influence, Jared, who I subsequently formed Monsterworks with in New Zealand many moons ago. As me, he liked all forms of metal and had no particular boundaries, except perhaps an exclusion of “the gay shit” — hair bands and whatnot.

I digress. One of the many bands he discovered in a bargain bin somewhere was Gigandhi. A Danish, yet Indian-sub-continent-music-influenced, metal band that had an album called Chavaal (circa 1998). Back then was the dawn of the internet and I only found out years later they had an earlier record Rafflesia. Anyhow, I also found a bargain bin copy of Chavaal and played it to death because it was unlike anything else I was listening to at the time and, indeed, anything since. The band split in 2001.

Gigandhi is quite slow and plodding stuff but not in a doom metal way, more in the ballpark of Neurosis. Primal riffs and rumbling bass with tribal drums where the collective sometimes breaks down into these Indian/Eastern-type themes. Some might find an industrial influence but to me that suggests a mechanical sound whereas this was much more organic. The fastest track is a without-a-hint-of-irony cover of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” which was fairly current at the time. Clearly they didn’t care what anyone thought of them and didn’t follow trends. You would expect a joke metal band to cover Madonna, but not a band that sounded as serious as a brick in the face.

Speaking of joke bands, I have always had a weakness for these. On the metal side, I owe everything to Twisted Sister which is pretty borderline when it comes to taking seriously (the music videos anyway); and my formative years dedicated a lot of time to the thrashier Scatterbrain, which was famous for the single “Don’t Call Me Dude!” For this reason, possibly a lot of metalheads my age at least remember this band. Therefore, I will choose to discuss TISM (This Is Serious Mum), an Australian band that is fairly well known in that country but probably nowhere else.

TISM is not metal, but it is funny as fuck. Even the obscure Australian media references I am completely ignorant of still seem amusing. Back when Britney Spears was in the charts and preaching about chastity they had a song called “Thou Shalt Not Britney Spear” and when River Pheonix OD’ed they came out with “You’ll Never Be An Old Man River” (with the catchy chorus “I’m on the drug, I’m on the drug, I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix”). Classic.

It is probably just me, but I get really nostalgic for TISM. I believe they are even still active. Long before Slipknot these guys wore masks to hide their identity and NEVER unmasked. So they could be 100 years old and no one would know. There was even a rumour that TISM was The Wiggles (a famous group of Australian childrens’ entertainers). I guess no one will ever know.

Since it is probably bad form for me to promote my own band that no one ever heard of (but should) allow me to turn you onto a bunch of fellow kiwis that I admire as much for their determination as their music. That band is El Schlong and, yes, they are quite aware the band name is stupid. There is certainly a joke element to the music/lyrics (you cannot take a debut album like The Baddies Are Coming totally seriously) but it goes deeper than that.

El Schlong is a three piece playing some kind of hybrid lounge/death metal. They make good use of atmosphere and a variety of vocals from coo-ing soft passages to strangled roars. It is damned original and takes a while to acclimatize, but worth the effort.

I previously mentioned the “determination” of the band is what I admire most. The whole band moved to London a few years ago from New Zealand to try and make a dent in Europe and they have never given up the dream (they currently live in Berlin where presumably they found the German underground scene was bizarre enough to accommodate them). It is a tall order trying to sell their niche to the masses but El Schlong keep at it, with a cheeky grin permanently plastered on their collective face.

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About Chris Harris

Chris Harris is an internationally-published music journalist and writer whose work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone, IFC, Revolver, Alternative Press, and Radar. The former news editor for Noisecreep, Harris also served as co-host for the site’s weekly podcast, “Creep Show." Before that, he spent four years writing for MTV News.