Pestilence, “Testimony of the Ancients” (1991)

pestilence_testimony of the ancients

I feel like the Andy Rooney of death metal at this point and if I start complaining about how today’s kids don’t respect their death metal elders, shoot me full of lethal cocktail and roll the corpse into the river.  Wait… is that too soon?  No disrespect meant to one of the great curmudgeons the world has ever known.

Continue reading Pestilence, “Testimony of the Ancients” (1991)

Righteous Pigs, “Stress Related” (1987)

Righteous Pigs: Stress Related

No fucking clue when this entered my life, it was that fuzzy time in the late 80’s early 90’s when Bush Da First was still in power and all seemed bleak and cold in the world.  But maybe that was just the roofies.  So this is Mitch Harris on guitar and vox, better known these days as a stalwart member of Napalm Death and Defecation and side projects galore. On Stress Related we’re also treated to Alan Strong on drums, Stephen Chatovich on bass and Joe Caper on vocals.  This would be the Pigs second album after Live and Learn. No one I ever knew heard of that one at the time; they still don’t, the bastards.

Continue reading Righteous Pigs, “Stress Related” (1987)

Morbid Angel, “Gateways to Annihilation” (2000)

Morbid Angel - "Gateways to Annihilation"
Morbid Angel – “Gateways to Annihilation”

I admit to completely overlooking Morbid Angel’s Gateways to Annihilation when it came out in 2000. I was probably too busy listening to In Flames’ Colony or something equally less-than-good. After Dave’s departure, MA rebounded in 1998 with the Steve Tucker-fronted Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. While Formulas… has certainly improved with age, at the time, it appeared to kick off a downward slide into awfulness. Gateways to Annihilation followed in 2000 with an equal thud and the unbelievably erratic and senseless “Heretic” seemed to seal their fate in 2003 (oh, little did we know what was coming next). While Morbid Angel has certainly wound up at the bottom (“Kill a cop”), neither Formulas… nor Gateways… nor even Heretic are what put them there.

I remember thinking at the time that Formulas… and Gateways to Annihilation lacked any kind of catchiness or groove and barely gave them a listen. I actually dug Heretic more than either of those simply because I could hear some songs going on between all the godawful keyboard nonsense. Long story short, I’ve been rectifying my error the past couple years and am slowly becoming more familiar with both Formulas… and Gateways…

My current feeling is that Formulas… is still very hard to sink into but Gateways… has opened up like a vast sucking void and seems to be revealing a lot of very interesting ideas within all that murk. Tucker’s wet-throated roar is more than just an adequate replacement for Vincent’s (who need I remind the court was sporting dyed black hair and vinyl shirts by this point) and the production somehow manages to be both raw and clear at the same time. The riffs aren’t catchy or anthemic at all and the whole thing strikes me as the swampiest, most atmospheric album in Morbid Angel’s catalog, but it’s nearly complete lack of hooks is exactly what gives it a rather ageless, emotionless, yet somehow still darkly spiritual feel. Little things like the loop of insect noise that runs the entire length of opening track, “Summoning Redemption” may be harbingers of the madness to come, but at this point, the voices in Trey’s head were still working for him.

Still not 100% sure how I feel about it, but it’s finally growing on me after 11 years. Maybe I’ll love it in another 4 just in time for the 15th anniversary.

Exhuming The Forgotten: Monstrosity – Imperial Doom

Monstrosity - Imperial Doom
Monstrosity - Imperial Doom
OK, let’s find out if I have gravely wronged Monstrosity by not listening to this album a ton more than I have in the past or was I justified in doing so. I hate to say this but I think it was the right call on my part.

First the positives as there are plenty of them here. The cover of this album is stunning. While it is certainly a nasty looking bit of body horror that I think David Cronenberg would approve of the use of color here really stands out. No sticking to black and red here, they use the whole palette to wonderful effect. The musicianship is quite solid and Corpsegrinder is a damned solid vocalist and far better than Chris Barnes ever was, though that isn’t saying much. However on this album he does have one problem. His cadence is always the same and this problem extends to the whole album. It is a solid record but it is very repetitive.

While this was recorded at Morrisound, Monstrosity handled the production themselves so it doesn’t sound like Arise or The Ten Commandments and that bit of individuality is nice. However the songs themselves sound like leftovers from Altars of Madness. The tempo runs on the faster side though they do like to get slow and heavy when it is called for. This is not a bad album but it’s one of those that you put on in the background when doing something else. It doesn’t really stand up to a good close listen as it is very redundant.

This is also going to sound bad because of when I’m saying this but this is a very short album and that is a good thing. While they would certainly improve later on I have to say this is a decent start but not a great one. You can hear the seeds of the later masterpiece that is In Dark Purity here but they had a long way to go to get there.

Verdict: A decent record but when I’m in the mood for this sort of thing I’m just putting on Altars of Madness for the billionth time.

Entombed: Crawl EP

Entombed: Crawl EP
Entombed: Crawl EP

Just three songs here, and the only three Entombed songs with Orvar Säfström (Nirvana 2002, an early death metal band on par with Nihilist) on vocals.  Lars Petrov wasn’t around, so Orvar stepped in to record a teaser for the upcoming Clandestine album, which listed Johnny Dordevic as the singer but in reality all the songs were sung by Nicke Anderson.  Confused yet?  Welcome to the revolving door of Entombed’s vocalists.

So yeah, a teaser with one song off the previous release Left Hand Path (“Bitter Loss”) one song from the upcoming album (“Crawl”), and one song (“Forsaken”) that was originally done for a compilation and had been the last thing L.G. Petrov sang with Entombed until his return on Wolverine Blues—but here obviously it’s with Orvar on vocals.  “Forsaken” is a real steam roller, and “Bitter Loss” does sound different than the Left Hand Path version, more underground, if that’s possible.

One of the cool things about this EP is that one time performance on vocals, though Orvar doesn’t sound that much different from L.G. or Nicke; these guys were all drinking the same death metal brew.  The new song “Crawl” is a step above the first album, more dynamic and therefore heavier.  The “Entombed” guitar tone is still gutsy, gritty and grinding, solos are relatively short and to the point.

Hard to believe it’s been twenty years since this was recorded.  These dudes (along with Dismember, Unleashed, etc.) lit a fire which has yet to burn out.  I wonder how many BROOTAL PIT BOYZ are aware of what Entombed was doing back in the late 1980’s, when Jesus turned the dinosaurs into oil to save America.  If I smack my head hard enough I can remember ripping the cellophane off this cassette and playing it in my car.  At that moment I thought there could be no heavier.  I was wrong, but “Crawl” is still a crushing blow.

Defiance: Beyond Recognition

Defiance: Beyond Recognition
Defiance: Beyond Recognition

Man I’m struggling to think of the last time I even LISTENED to this tape, because nothing on here sounds even vaguely familiar.  This isn’t Defiance the punk band, or the acoustic protest duo, or whatever—this is the thrash metal band.

No death metal here but some very fine technical thrash with a high level of musicianship, shifting time sigs, clean vocals, jazzy interludes, trussed up in a bunch of furious riffing.  Now these dudes are from that bastion of metal, the Bay Area of Kalifornia; which isn’t to say they sound like Testament or Forbidden, but they do.  Still, it’s all quality, and frequently sounds better than the aforementioned namechecks, which makes me wonder why Defiance never seemed to rise above the second-tier rating.  Guess they weren’t pretty enough or something.  They certainly had the hair for thrash, though.  “Beyond Recognition” is the third album, on RoadRacer.

The opening guitar shred of “The Killing Floor” sets the table and when the band kicks in you just know these guys practiced their fingers to quivering bits coming up with this crazy shit.  I guess this isn’t everyone’s bag o’ nuts, but this is the kind of metal I used to get really sweaty over.  I love how “The Killing Floor” dips and dives, time sigs lurching around like drunken, blood spewing unicorns.  But it’s “Perfect Nothing” that makes me think they worshipped at the altar of Testament a tad too often.  Still, I love the bass drum battery and the leads are ripping.  “Dead Silence” (which sounds suspiciously like Dead Toilets) has some more of those jazz leads that sound so good spread on a bed of hot delicious thrash.  And you even hear the bass every once in a blue weevil.

Now on vocals you’ve got Steev Esquivel, a guy you’ve probably heard of, because he went on to do Skinlab, who were wildly famous.  No?  Well, better known than Defiance, at any rate, at least among the young ‘uns.  But back in the day Steev was a good old thrash metal howler.  And he did reunite briefly with the reincarnation of Defiance a few years back.  Yeah, it’s the return of yet another thrash band from the golden age!  They’re still out there.  They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until we’re told old to hear them anymore.

Here’s a vid of them in the good old days doing the first song off the second side (!) of the tape, “Inside Looking Out”.  This featured Dave White (Heathen) on backing vocals, at least on the album.

Defiance \”Inside Looking Out\”

Obituary: The End Complete

Obituary: The End Complete
Obituary: The End Complete

According to someone who knows more about this shit than I do, this is the Obit’s biggest seller to date, having moved more than 100K copies since coming out in 1992.  There was a glut of good releases that year: Napalm Death (Utopia Banished), Cannibal Corpse (Tomb of the Mutilated), Nocturnus (Thresholds), etc.  Of course this was also when Whitney “Wack Crack” Houston tore up the charts, Varg burned a church, Hetfield walked into the fire, and Nirvana dropped some big turd that mercifully brought an end to Lite Metal (everything you liked about metal but so much less).

Enough with the history lesson!

I remember thinking John “Gorgeous Golden Locks of Hair” Tardy’s vocals were so sick and brutal; funny how they sound somewhat clear and comprehensible after all the subvocal grunting I’ve heard over the years.  There’s a bit of punk/thrash in his delivery and he’s damn nearly singing in spots.  I love it when they layer his voice, with the tortured bellows acting like a harmony track; that’s freaking classic.  Now the lyrics aren’t quite as interesting, but mostly I don’t care because Tardy just bludgeons me about the head with the words and it just doesn’t matter after a while.  I know there are lots of fanboys out there who memorize every single line of this trite shit and sing along in the front row like good little doobers.  At least someone’s doing it.

Can’t help but like those downtuned guitars and the Scott Burns/Morrisound aural signature, it’s like eating a favorite old shoe.  Frank Watkins tub-thumping is audible and not completely lost in the wash.  The drums on this bastard are pretty much tits up, Don Tardy hittin’ ‘em like he was trying to kill something.  I don’t think the production gets the most out of his playing, but it is what it is.  Those guitar riffs are like sweet, sweet asscandy to an asscandy addict.  Allen West’s leads make me feel all Slayer inside.  Trevor Peres’ rhythm tracks are brutal and gimp-suit tight.  Listen to the opener “I’m in Pain”, where they toss the whole fetid ball into your earhole.  “Back to One” has that same hardcore/punk feel but then they hit that half time thing and it’s a whole new war.  “Sickness” is fantastic.  Hell that whole first side is classic death metal.

That’s the thing with the Obit’s.  When they slow down and grind it for a few bars, then speed it back up, it creates this great tension and release thing. When you’re in the pit, it’s nice to have a part that allows you to catch your breath, check your teeth, and wind up for the next go.  I’ve run this tape by a few times (it’s a short album) this morning and my instinct is to run around and kick the crap out of everything.

I dug through a pile of dinosaur crap and unearthed this little gem:


I’m fairly sure this was for “The End Complete” tour.  I remember this night because I jumped on stage with Fear Factory, sang “Suffer… bastards!” into the mic and was promptly elbowed sideways by Burton C. Bell right off the stage.   My moment of tangential glory!  Even though this was (gasp!) eighteen years ago, I remember Obituary putting on a killer show and being very, very sore and tired at work the next day.

It was worth digging this out of the tape grave and violating it one more time, I’d give it two thumbs up… in the eye socket.

Demolition Hammer: Epidemic of Violence


Demolition Hammer: Epidemic of Violence
Demolition Hammer: Epidemic of Violence

In the spirit of the old school, I pulled out some tapes from a box labeled “Open only in case of musical emergency”.  Now I’ve got a stack of interesting nuggets to nosh upon.  I’m just grabbing at random with no plan of attack.

So first up is Demolition Hammer with Epidemic of Violence, their second release after Tortured Existence, which I thought was bad ass at the time.  I have that one in this pile as well.  I think I bought this in Houston, at the Cactus Records and Tapes on Alabama, next to the old Alabama theater, about the time it was released in 1992.  Loved the cover art, which I’d seen before on the cover of a H. P. Lovecraft compilation I read to pieces as a kid.  These dudes were from New York but hardly Suffocation clones; this was more like a weird crossover of thrash and death.

The thrash is the vocals and the arrangements.  But there is a hint of something darker in the instrumentation; not so much downtuned guitars and blast beats, but a death metal attitude.  The song titles read like a death metal album: “Skull Fracturing Nightmare”, “Carnivorous Obsession”, “Pyroclastic Annihilation”.  So do the lyrics, generally; it’s slightly more Carcass than Slayer.  And there are moments when they slow down a tad, hit a groove before a vicious breakdown (like in “Aborticide”) and I think, yeah, I know why two of these guys went and joined Solstice, a death metal band from Florida.

This is some pretty furious thrash.  Great guitar work from James Reilly and Derek Sykes, Steve Reynolds holds down the bass and singing, and Daze is a beast on the drums.  Daze died of globefish poisoning in 1996 while traveling in Africa, at least according to the dweeble dorks over at Wiki-wiki-pa-tang. (“Ni!”  “Ssshh!”)

I remember thinking this was all tits when I got it and listening to it a bunch while driving around Houston.  It was good Houston driving music; fast, relentless, brutal, but listenable.  Once you learned the lyrics to “Aborticide” it was a real sing-along joy fest.  At least for me!  Others in the car might not have been so high on good old Demolition Hammer.

So after this came out, they changed members and made Time Bomb, which I have a PR copy of somewhere.  It failed to deliver on the death and went in a nu-metal direction, and then they were done.  So Epidemic of Violence and Tortured Existence are the only record of a band that flirted with death but never quite made the jump.  Too bad.  I’d love to hear these songs with a good grunter hamming it up.





Exhuming the Forgotten: Malevolent Creation, “The Ten Commandments.”

Malevolent Creation, "The Ten Commandments"
Malevolent Creation, "The Ten Commandments"

OK I explained the idea behind the title in an earlier post so now let’s get down to business. Was I right or wrong for not working this album into the rotation much more than I have in the past? Let it not be said that I can’t admit I fucked up. This album is so much better than I remember it being back when I was first getting into death metal back around 1991. I think part of the reason I love it more now is the production. The drums aren’t an overprocessed nightmare that don’t even sound like actual drums. This makes the song Sacrificial Annihilation true joy to listen to because the kickdrums are out of control on this song. In fact I rather enjoy Scott Burns production although if you weren’t paying the requisite attention the guitars could lead you to believe that this was Deicide or Sepultura. This is not a complaint about the guitar sound by any stretch as it still sounds organic without sounding like garbage. There is a difference between sounding good and being sterile.

I also didn’t remember Brett Hoffman’s vocals being so distinct. Back when so many bands were trying to trying to create the most extreme vocals sounds they could think of Brett Hoffman went in another direction and tried to combine clarity with harshness as best he could. He succeeds beyond even his wildest dreams.

For something that has 20 years of age it’s amazing how unique it sounds. It isn’t technical to the point where you wonder if they know how to write a fucking song but not so straightforward as to be forgettable. This album has hooks. Granted some of those hooks came courtesy of Hell Awaits era-Slayer. Don’t try to convince me the song Malevolent Creation doesn’t owe Kill Again a royalty check. It is not a sin to be catchy nor is it impossible to kick major ass while doing so. If you don’t believe me put this on and then try to argue with me. I personally don’t love breakdowns but in the right hands they are a devastating weapon. These guys know how and when to use them for maximum effect. It also helps that most of the breakdowns are of the bay area thrash variety. Reminding me of bay area thrash is a cheap but effective way to get on my good side. They aren’t the fastest band or the heaviest, however they are smart enough to mix the two making for quite the heady audio elixir. I saw them last year and let’s just say there’s a damn good reason they still play Multiple Stab Wounds every time.

Verdict – I was wrong and I shall make restitution immediately.

P.S It’s good to be back with these fuckers. I have to commit a bit of heresy and put on a bit of Thin Lizzy to celebrate. I think you know which song.

Death… is a new beginning.

Back into the maelstrom, back into the fray, once more into the breach, to stare unflinching into Death’s gaping maw!  How could I return from the endless incarnadine seas to once again yakkety-yak about death metal? It didn’t take much. Muxlow dug my corpse out of the earthen grave (!), kicked it in the ass and I was ready as ever.

I was very interested when death metal began to appear on the scene, back in the late 1980’s. I was a slavering Slayer fanboy but the true underground had shifted to this wicked sounding metal that upped the ante in every conceivable way. Crazier vocals. Guitars tuned so low the strings were flapping like fat asses in a wind tunnel. Add a fascination with all things decayed, rotten and dead, and I was all in.

Clearly I’m not the only one worshiping at the altar of the old school, which makes me feel sticky all over.

Let the good times roll!