If Monty Python and the Holy Grail had been a heavy metal band instead of a movie, it may have manifested itself as England's Middle Ages-obsessed, the Meads of Asphodel. Co-founded in 1998 by mysterious black knights, Metatron (vocals) and Jaldabaoth (guitars, keyboards, bass, drums), the project achieved the rare feat of evading easy categorization, thanks to an epic sound infused with everything from black and death metal to progressive experimentation and symphonic keyboards, to Arabian-flavored melodies, which the pair surely picked up during a Crusade to the Holy Land of their own imagining. Actually, the titles of early demos, such as 1998's The Bemoaning of Metatron and 1999's Metatron and the Gleaming Red Serpent, suggested that the entire thing might have started as something of a joke, but the duo's fast-developing musical vision (as illustrated by third demo, The Watchers of Catal Huyuk) soon yielded far more serious career ambitions and a fearless willingness to shock epitomized by 2001's The Excommunication of Christ debut album. Quite the first statement (um, duh!), the long-player not only pictured the bandmembers (now including second guitarist Zephon and drummer Urakbaramel) dressed in their finest medieval suits of armor on its sleeve, but also unveiled their notably improved songwriting and a few ringing endorsements from guest luminaries A.C. Wild, of cult Italian act Bulldozer, and Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton, who added guitar to the Meads' cover of Assault & Battery. Then, for their next trick, the group proceeded to step out of Templar character for the recording of 2002's Jihad -- a split album with Norwegian black metal demons Mayhem, of which only 666 copies were pressed. But, despite parting ways with Jaldabaoth and Zehphon at this time (he was replaced by guitarist James Tait, bassist Deorth and keyboardist Maximus) the group was back to its crusading ways for their next outing, 2003's Exhuming the Grave of Yeshua (featuring additional keyboard contributions from Sigh's Mirai Kawashima), as well as subsequent forays like 2004's demo compilation, The Mill Hill Sessions, 2005's Damascus Steel (boasting a cover of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World"!), and 2006's In the Name of God, Welcome to Planet Genocide EP. All of these were eagerly embraced by the heavy metal underground, but were shut out of more mainstream circles due to the band's consistently inaccessible black metal direction and controversial, deeply heretical lyrics. Curiously, 2007 saw the release of a very uncharacteristic EP, Life Is Shit, devoted to punk rock covers, but all indications are that the Meads of Asphodel will be donning their armor again for yet another Crusade of, as they like to call it, "English F**king Black Metal."
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