Hard Rocking in a Quiet City

Where to Find Head Banging in the Basement

By Cecilia Pellegrini

The typical nighttime quiet of a Prague street is broken by the sharp sounds of pounding drums and an angry guitar. As you approach the source of the sounds, they are compounded with people’s voices and the smell of cigarette smoke. Aside from the signs that proclaim their names, this is the only giveaway of the Heavy Metal clubs that are hidden under Prague’s ancient streets.

In the Czech Republic, the popularity of heavy metal was curbed by the communist regime, but Metal bands began appearing and becoming well-known in the Soviet Union  and eastern Europe after 1980. The earliest Czech metal band was Torr, which began in 1977. After the Velvet Revolution, Czech metal bands had free range which led to a plethora of Heavy Metal sub-genres. These include Death Metal, which features highly distorted sounds, aggressive drumming, and snarling vocals, to folk metal, which mixes the hard-core lyrics of metal music with the use of traditional folk instruments.

Metal band Root. Photo from Metal Archives

Well-known metal band, Root. Photo courtesy of Metal Archives

Root is one of the better-known contemporary local metal bands. They originated in Brno and are known for their occult-like music that culminates from the heaviness of mixing black metal sounds with gothic elements. Lyrically, their music focuses on Satanism and mysticism. Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, is another well-known Czech metal-folk band that hails from Hranice. The band won the Andel Award in 2000, which is an honor issued by the Czech Academy of Popular Music and is the equivalent of the American Grammy Award. Their music is more melancholic, rich with influences from traditional Moravian ballads and filled with longing. The band often accompanies classic metal instruments with violin and folk lyrics. Another band that’s active of the Czech Heavy Metal underground is Rawell, which hails from Prague and often performs in the city. They are however not as well-known, and their music is more removed from traditional heavy metal. They instead dabble more in the hard rock genre, mixing concepts of traditional metal with hard-rock beats.

Though Prague’s metal scene is small, what it does have to offer is still vibrant. From frequent “revival” shows to metal festivals, there are many ways to enjoy the genre in Prague. In many cases, heavy metal shares stages and bars with other genres of rock music. In bars such as Rock Club Kain, Vagon, Hard Rock Bar (not to be confused with the Hard Rock Cafe), or Modra Vopice, the music pounding through the speakers is a diverse selection of rock. There are also many “revival nights” in these bars, where tribute bands that resurrect the music of anything from Guns ‘n’ Roses, to Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osborne.

“Opening the door to the basement stage even a crack releases ear-shattering waves of pounding Heavy Metal and Rock.”

Rock Club Kain is a venue on Husitska, in Prague 3. Upon entering the club it might appear to be a normal pub. In this outer area, the only indicator that it’s a rock venue are the videos playing on the many television screens. It is only after venturing deeper into the pub, past the bar, that the entrance to the rock club reveals itself. Opening the door to the basement stage even a crack releases ear-shattering waves of pounding Heavy Metal and Rock. You might hear the Swedish band Enforcer’s abrasive speed metal sounds tinged with the beats of older metal. Rock Club Kain also has frequent concerts ranging over a wide variety of rock and metal genres, one being the much-anticipated Ozzy Osborne revival show on March 7th.

Photo from Rock Club KAIN

Dim lighting and underground bars provide the perfect venue for metal lovers. Photo courtesy of Rock Club KAIN

Klub Vagon on Národni is larger, but only by just a bit. The venue is a long room that functions as both a club and pub with a stage at one end. Tables line the walls, giving space to the crowds who dance in the gaze of towering murals of famous rock musicians. With a show almost every day, Vagon offers revivals ranging from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd Acoustic shows. The program has something for all tastes.

For a venue with a narrower focus on heavy metal, head to the AC/DC inspired Hells Bells Rockin’ Pub located on Na Belidle. Hidden below the ground in a cellar, the bands that play Hell’s Bells range in origin from Czech to Italian to English. With narrow corridors and looming archways that are covered in drawings, Hells Bells maintains the atmosphere of an old school metal basement pub while also adding its own twist. On most nights old rock videos and music is played in the bar, ensuring a night-long cacophony of great music. Though it only hosts few concerts a month and almost no revivals, Hells Bells typically houses European Metal Bands that are already more established. As bands go onstage, old videos of past shows are played to hype up the crowd. In t-shirts and jeans, the band members could have been mistaken for audience members except for their long hair. As the music picked up and the head banging started, the stage was almost as wild as the dance floor.

Photo of band Merlin from Rock Club KAIN

Beer, music and people. Need we say more? Photo courtesy of Rock Club KAIN

Attending live shows is not the only means of entry into the metal subculture of Prague.

There are smaller bars where metal music fans bring their own instruments, smoke and relax. Necropolis Bar, a small gothic/metal bar holed away on Velehradska, is one such place. Small and out-of-the-way, with a selection of classic metal and gothic music crackling over the speakers, the standard dark or light beer on tap, and a variety of people, Necropolis offers an alternative for those more inclined to enjoy exclusively the sounds of metal. With low tables and couches, or high tables and stools, good beer and great music, it is a fantastic place to meet people and unwind.

Rock Club Kain
Praha 3 – Žižkov, Husitská 1/106, 130 00
Tel: +420 222 541 772

Hells Bells Pub
Na Bělidle 27, 150 000 Praha 5
Tel: 722 302 559

Klub Vagon
Národní 25, Praha 1
Tel: 733 737 301

Necropolis
Velehradská 18, 13000 Praha 3

Cecilia Pellegrini is in the NYU College of Arts and Sciences Class of 2016. Her hometown is Ortonovo, Italy.

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Categories: Spring 2014 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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