“Given how much those guys have supplemented my life with joy and awe, that we could give anything back to them is a humbling thing,” Hunter Ginn, co-host of the Radical Research podcast, said on a June episode. To those unfamiliar with the show, it might come as a surprise that the object of his affectionate statement was actually a semi-obscure Midwestern hardcore band named Die Kreuzen. But that combination of unabashed passion and extremely niche tastes is what makes Radical Research — the co-creation of self-proclaimed “incorrigible, irredeemable nerds” Ginn, drummer for the high-tech Georgia prog-metal band Canvas Solaris, and author and veteran metal journalist Jeff Wagner — one of this writer’s favorite recent music-related discoveries.
There’s much to lament about the effect of the Internet on music: dwindling artist royalties, a disconnection from immersive old-school packaging and so on to infinity. But one bright spot is that however ultra-specific your tastes, there’s a space online where you can connect with like-minded listeners. For fans of what might broadly be termed “weird metal and related styles,” stumbling across Radical Research (subtitled Adventures in Exceptional Musick) is like walking into a friendly neighborhood bar where a couple of buddies who happen to share your impossibly out-there preferences are affably shooting the shit at length about the music they love. “Hello, freaks,” Wagner says at the outset of each episode, and from there, he and Ginn proceed with their signature blend of band history, perceptive discussion, fun tangents, on-the-spot hypothesizing and smartly integrated song clips.
The show’s greatest strength is its specificity. Ginn and Wagner aren’t really interested in giving listeners a broad overview of heavy metal. You’ll hear them mention popular touchstones such as Metallica and Slayer in passing, and the hosts’ mutual obsession with Quebec cult heroes Voivod seems to come up roughly 20 times per episode, but they reserve their deepest passion for acts of yesteryear who are profoundly bizarre, all but forgotten or, better yet, a combination of the two. (Die Kreuzen, a group that’s well-loved among connoisseurs of the Eighties underground, are actually one of the better-known bands that Ginn and Wagner have featured.)
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Among the 14 full-length episodes Ginn and Wagner have posted since Radical Research‘s March debut are authoritative deep dives into the works of Mind Over Four, an Eighties/Nineties Orange County band that played a singular hybrid of prog and proto–alt-rock; Disharmonic Orchestra, an Austrian outfit that combines death-metal primitivism with batshit technicality; and Carbonized, a genre-hopping Swedish group that created some of the most outlandish and perplexing sounds in metal history. Other fascinating episodes cover 34.788% … Complete, an experimental 1998 album by the doomy British band My Dying Bride that polarized their fan base, and the Rick Rubin effect: the way that the iconic producer has been able to help the bands he works with pare down their respective sounds to the bare essentials. In all of these cases, the shows make you want to set aside serious time to experience or re-immerse yourself in the music under discussion.
Both co-hosts come to the table with ample credentials. In the Nineties, Wagner was an editor at highly respected genre mag Metal Maniacs and he’s gone on to write definitive books on both progressive metal and the late Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele. Ginn is, well, an absolutely insane drummer, who also happens to sport a classic Southern drawl. But Radical Research isn’t about lecturing the listener or flaunting arcane knowledge. The show is really about “giving back”; two deeply devoted fans paying tribute to the idea that sometimes the most esoteric music can leave the deepest mark. Whether or not you share their hyper-specific enthusiasms, their shows are approachable, enticing illustrations of what it means to love music so much that you couldn’t keep quiet about it if you tried.