A recent article from Noisey said that Philadelphia has one of the worlds best punk scenes right now. What the article didn’t touch on was the high quality of the regions death metal scene. Currently bombarded with a legion of top notch bands, the fans are loving it. Vince Neilstein, an editor at the massive metal blog and news site Metalsucks recently speculated “People may start talking about the mid-2010s Southeastern Pennsylvania death metal scene in the same vaunted tones they currently reserve for early ’90s Tampa.” In other words, Pennsylvania, especially Southeast Pennsylvania death metal is rapidly rising.
So where did metal start in the Keystone state? One of the first, and best known bands to come out of the region was the legendary Poison who came to LA from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Yet what about real metal? Things got brutal in 1989 when Incantation started in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. These crazed death metallers born from the Flood Town were among the first wave of death metal maniacs. Their debut demos have gone down in legend as proof of the raw potential and magic of the Pennsylvania death metal scene. Other stalwart bands that lasted over the years were Rumpelstiltskin Grinder and Leprosy. More recently, the neo thrash group Vektors has been blowing minds across the globe.
So where does that leave us today? What makes us love Pennsylvania death metal so much? Well simply look at the high quality of the bands. The most significant is probably Rivers of Nihil who are one of the few from the new generation who have a full length out. Another key group is Black Crown Initiate a group who are putting together some top notch progressive and technical death metal magic. Not a lot of bands have their skills, period. A final group I’d like to touch on is Coffin Dust who almost seem to me like a Morbid Angel for a new age with powerful atmospherics, incredible riffs, and the ability to start circle pits that spin straight to hell.
To better understand this scene I think its important to realize where how this scene kind of grew up. I had the good fortune of growing up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This area tends to be lower middle class. A lot of people have low level service jobs, and this is directly contrasted to the rows of mansions found in wealthier districts. There is a certain class disparity here that helps to set up a climate ripe for death metal. More than that, the distinctly middle class suburban areas are strongly conformist, furthermore, this is a strongly Christianized area of the country with lots of churches and a strong religious backbone. All of this makes for the perfect milieu for death metal to thrive. I remember being exposed to death metal groups from a pretty young age. I clearly recall listening to all sorts of heavy bands from Behemoth to Dying Fetus in middle school with my buddies. There is full on death metal indoctrination here. On a recent visit I walked into a cafe and was shocked to here Cynic going on in the background, progressive metal at its finest.
For now, Pennsylvania death metal seems to be rising rapidly. There are strong personalities and lots of interested labels (Two key ones right now are Unholy Anarchy Records and Contorted Records). People are starting to take a notice, this scene may indeed one day become greater than its origins. The influence of these bands is starting to reach out and touch groups in neighboring regions. Boys and girls let your heads start banging this is Pennsylvania Death Metal and now after years of practice and playing basements they are ready to rise out and take over the world!
Matt Bacon (Metaljesus Magazine)