COMPILATION REPORT: Ultra Metal (Monitor, 1990)

Back in the 1980/90s – a time when underground metal wasn’t just a click away – buying compilation albums was a fun and affordable method for discovering new music. As introductions to specific styles or scenes – some of which otherwise remained restricted to the tape trading community – they’re the perfect option. Also, compilations occasionally featured alternate takes or tracks that couldn’t be found on the albums proper. Ultra Metal serve both functions; presenting the then current state of Czechoslovakian underground metal and offering exclusive versions of specific songs.

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Godkiller – The Warlord (Self-released, 1995)

When doing research for the recently published review of Godkiller’s The Rebirth of the Middle Ages I stumbled upon this earlier demo-proposal by the band. Released the year before the EP, The Warlord consists of a short introductory instrumental piece + two lengthier compositions spanning over ten minutes each. Of particular interest in this context is the second track, entitled “Path to the Unholy Frozen Empire”. Those who’ve previously acquainted themselves with The Rebirth of the Middle Ages will recognize the song by music, lyrics and title as the predecessor to the EP’s centerpiece number, although rawer in presentation. This observation is – by all means – anything but spectacular. More interesting is the fact that the demo features the song in elongated form.

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Godkiller – The Rebirth of the Middle Ages (Wounded Love, 1996)

Before morphing into some kind of industrial hybrid act, Monaco’s Godkiller released this charming yet flawed bagatelle of medievalist melodic black metal. Stylistically, it could be described as a loosely knit mélange of early Satyricon, Emperor and Summoning if channeled through the warm, emotive dialect of Mediterranean culture. That much of the material is voiced in a quirky, mannerist voice tells us that this can only be the work of a solitary artist.

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Adversary – We Must Be in Hell (Cursed Productions, 1999)

The mid-to-late 1990s wasn’t a particularly interesting period in US death metal history. Old bands were busy coping with their past triumphs and the newer arrivals on the scene did what they could to recapture the magic of preceding classics, but by doing so stalled the potentials of exploration presented to them. However, there did exist a few notable exceptions, many of whom chose to peek at their European counterparts for galvanization. Among them were the Indiana-based Adversary – a much overlooked act then and now who came up with distinctive and unique approach to death metal.

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Hazael – Thor (Loud Out, 1994)

Despite hosting a substantial early-1990s underground scene, Polish death metal never managed to break through on a wider scale. Beyond high-profile acts like Vader, Behemoth and Decapitated, most Polish acts continue to dwell in obscurity. However, the renewed interest in old school death metal have caused record labels to probe back catalogues in search of potential lost gems, or at least releases that can be marketed as such. One example of recent years is Thor, the 1994 debut full-length album by Polish death metal band Hazael.

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