In Search Of New Stuff?

Finding fresh, new Metal and Hard Rock to listen to can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack of mainstream mediocrity.  Wading through all the carbon-copy cut-and-paste Metalcore bands (and yes, they ARE Metal… just a lot of them aren’t really any good) to find the odd gem like Hiraes or Cage Fight can be a soul-draining battle against seemingly overwhelming odds.

Yet, for the dedicated lover of Heavy Music, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of stumbling upon a hidden gem that makes your ears bleed in all the right ways. Back in the old days, that meant combing the racks of dedicated record shops like Crash Records in Leeds or Badlands (RIP – now a hipster barber) in Huddersfield, but with the advent of the internet things have become paradoxically both easier and harder.

I typed a query into an AI to expand on my own experience of searching for new and interesting stuff to listen to (and play on The Wyrd Ways Rock Show) and here’s the list we came up with between us:

This is the one where the AI and myself are in complete agreement.  If you’re looking for new, underground stuff, Bandcamp is the go-to platform, especially since the collapse of MySpace and the shitshow that Faceache has turned into. Its tag system allows you to drill down into subgenres, from Blackened Thrash to Progressive Doom. The “Discover” feature can give you some surprising results, and if you’re of a mind to, you can filter by location to specifically support your local scene.

While r/metal is a solid starting point, the real treasures lie in the niche subreddits. r/doommetal, r/blackmetal, and r/TechnicalDeathMetal, for example are goldmines for genre enthusiasts. Don’t overlook the weekly recommendation threads – they’re hotbeds of obscure band suggestions.  The downside of looking on places like Reddit is the relative abundance of gatekeepers.  If you’re in the wrong subreddit you will end up knee-deep in elitist wankers and nobody wants that.
This is one I didn’t think of, since I don’t really use it.  I didn’t even realize it was still a thing, but this veteran platform’s “Similar Artists” feature remains unparalleled (at least that’s what the AI tells me). Start with a band you know and love then follow them down the rabbit hole of recommendations. The deeper you go, the more likely you are to strike gold.

Metal Blogs and Zines
Digital zines like Invisible Oranges, No Clean Singing, and Angry Metal Guy consistently champion underground acts. Their writers often catch rising stars before they break, giving you a chance to say “I knew them when…”

Once you’ve liked enough underground bands, YouTube’s algorithm becomes a powerful discovery tool if the adverts don’t drive you to despair. Channels like @JoWinters, The Heavy Metal Journal, Metal Monks and Black Metal Promotion regularly talk about music from up-and-coming acts.

Spotify’s Playlists (with a caveat)
While Spotify’s mainstream playlists won’t cut it, user-created playlists can be treasure troves. Search for niche subgenres and sort by “Playlists” to find collections curated by fellow metalheads.  Personally, I don’t touch Spotify because of the way they treat artists
This comprehensive database of metal bands allows you to search by incredibly specific criteria. Use the “Similar Artists” feature or explore bands from countries with burgeoning metal scenes for fresh sounds.

Independent Label Rosters
Labels like Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Season of Mist, Spinefarm and Metal Blade are longstanding known quantities, but don’t overlook smaller imprints. Explore the rosters of labels like Art Gates, Massacre Records, Transcending Obscurity, or Sumerian Records for truly underground fare.

Podcasts and Internet Radio
In an increasingly digital world, US college radio remains a bastion of musical exploration (at least according to the AI).  If you add in the podcasters like myself, On Wednesdays We Wear Black, Hell Bent For Metal or High Speed Hangover, that’s another rabbit hole you can crawl down in your search.  Many radio stations, such as Kerrang! stream online, allowing you to tap into scenes from around the globe.  Then there’s Primordial Radio, which is one I’ve supported since it started (click on that link for a free trial – it’s worth it).  With Rock and Metal being an international musical genre, even if you don’t understand the language the DJs are speaking in, the tunes will speak for themselves.

Music Festivals
While major festivals like Download, Wacken and Hellfest are great, smaller gatherings often feature tomorrow’s headliners. Research smaller festivals in your home country or further afield – they’re perfect for discovering new acts in a live setting.  If you’re going to Bloodstock, for example, the New Blood, SOPHIE and Jagermeister (although I think they’ve changed sponsors this year) Stages are excellent places to find new stuff to listen to.  If you’re more of a Classic Rock and Traditional Heavy Metal type, there’s the likes of Stonedead and the SOS Festival here in the UK.

Wherever you are in the world, there’s probably something similar.

Now… don’t laugh… hear me out… This does take a bit of doing to get the algorithm to behave itself and start feeding you what you want into your For You page and Suggestions.  But once you’ve got it trained, it’s a veritable goldmine.  Just over the past few days I’ve found three bands I’d never heard of that I’ll be putting in future shows, partly because of who I was already following and partly based on suggestions from TikTok itself.

Remember, the thrill of underground music lies not just in the discovery, but in the community that forms around it. Share your findings, support the artists directly, and keep the underground alive and thrashing.

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