A recent flyer for a record label of otherwise quality states:
On the one year anniversary of her critically-acclaimed, masterful debut full-length, M, Danish black metal artist MYRKUR unveils a captivating live recording from the historic Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, Norway. (more…)
As you may have read on this site, recently Jill Funerus (bassist/vocalist for FUNERUS) who is also the wife of John McEntee from Incantation ran into a spate of health problems. In addition to battling neuropathy and diabetes, she suffered a heart attack and related kidney dysfunction, but has pulled through.
We congratulate her on having survived such an intense health challenge. However, neither she nor her husband have health insurance and thus, they’re facing some intense bills for the surgery, medicine and several days she spent at the hospital.
The metal community is banding together to help them. Through the hands of Brian Pattison, one-half of the Glorious Times team, a benefit show has been established with 100% of the profits going to Jill Funerus’ medical bills.
Kentucky death metal band Abominant recently released its tenth studio album, Onward to Annihilation, in a style of death metal we don’t see much anymore: fast, melodic and yet riff-based and chaotic. This band is well-known in the underground, having released albums in the 1990s on feral label Wild Rags and toured across the country.
Onward to Annihilation shows Abominant nurturing the style that kept them going back in the 1990s, which uses fast riffs in complex patterns but always returns to a triumphant chorus which outlines the purpose of each song. The trademark Slayer-ish fast guitars and Dark Angel-styled drum breaks are also present.
You can hear Onward to Annihilation below in an exclusive live stream provided by Clawhammer PR and Abominant. It takes just a few seconds of your time to sample and explore this dark work of twisted death metal. (Your browser will show only the OGG files if Firefox, but both sets if Opera, Chrome or IE.)
In a time when the music industry is in upheaval, and most bands are changing styles and outlooks in order to chase the trends of the day, it’s gratifying to see some bands remain constant and constantly improving themselves. We were lucky to have a few moments with bassist Mike May, who was able to fill us in on all things Abominant, including the past and plans for the future.
Stream Abominant Onward to Annihilation here
1. We Are Coming
2. Conquerors of Dust
Left to Rot
Onward to Annihilation
Hold Your Ground
Beside the Dying Flame
Legions of Hell
For starters, I had to do a double-take when I saw that Abominant is on your 10th album. How have you managed to stick together as a band, face adversity and still enjoy what you’re doing after all these years?
We just don’t know how to do anything else? We are all just fans and friends that love to play metal and love to do it together. Some guys work on cars or hunt or play fantasy sports. We write death metal songs, simple as that.
I don’t think anyone in the band has any delusions of being famous or changing the world musically. We just like to drink beer, have fun and play death metal.
Pretty much by choice we never miss a practice and if any of us do, our week just seems less fulfilled. Whether anyone likes us or not, or if we ever put out another CD, I think we’ll still be getting together to do what we do.
Can you tell us how Abominant formed and what your influences were at the time? In other words, what inspired you to become Abominant and
how did you come together?
From say 1990 to 1993 Tim and I were in a band called Sarcoma. Mike and Jim had a band called Cataclysm. Also ex-members Buck and Craig had a band called Effigy, which were all the death metal realm.
All of those bands eventually fell apart and the six of us were pretty much the diehards that wanted to keep it going.
Worked out for the best in the long run. Weed out the weak and whatnot…. I was a big fan of the other guys’ bands prior to hooking up with them as well.
Overall I’d say alot of our main influences are shared in the 1986-1990 transition from thrash metal to death metal. Bands like Possessed, DarkAngel, Sacrifice, Bloodfeast, Kreator and so on really were happening at the time most of us were learning to play and we all still listen to that stuff pretty religiously.
I will say that as time rolls on we still get influenced even up to today, and no secret that black metal has come into the fold much more since we got Jim in 2005. We all listen to alot of different styles of metal, and its not like we love EVERYTHING, but it is very cool to be have extended conversations about which era of Darkthrone is our favorite and ten minutes later we’re talking about the new Candlemass while we listen to old Scanner cds. Variety is the spice of life.
Is there a “Midwestern sound” to death metal?
As a fan, I’d almost relate it to the “Chicago” sound. Bands like Master, Cianide, Macabre, Deathstrike and some outside Chicago like Repulsion and Impetigo is what I think of when you talk about “Midwest” sound.
It seems kinda true that most metal comes more from the burbs and bored teenagers rebelling against the middle class life than coming from inner city areas where punk and hip hop seem to have deeper roots, so i guess maybe thats a factor.Both Mike and Jim are natives but I was raised in Denver and Tim was born in Thailand, so i think our location has very little to do with our sound.
Do you consider yourselves a death metal band, or have another take on it?
Personally, Yeah… I would call us death metal, although by “scene police” standards, we would be called more “black death” which is also fine. Since we started, it seems that the death metal name has been leaning more toward ultra brutal bands, which i think usually end up being heavy on the DEATH but light on the METAL, which is sad. But I mean younger bands were introduced to Cannibal Corpse/Suffocation as their starting point in the same way I evolved from KISS to Sabbath to Slayer, so i cant really even blame them, its a different time, you know? We were kind of using the term “Goat Metal” for the longest time to blur what exactly we were doing, but in the end as long as it includes the word METAL, I think we’re fine with whatever.
Your songs show wide-ranging influences from within the metal genre. Is this a deliberate attempt to include the whole genre, or is this the product of your many influences? How have those influences changed over the years?
As I said, we all go all over the map as far as listening to metal goes, and I feel that every genre has its merits, but it also seems every genre is cluttered with mediocrity too.
As far as writing different styles, we just don’t want all of our songs to be the same and variety is also one of the things that keep us going. Not everything always works but at least we try stuff and dont want to limit exactly how an Abominant song is supposed to sound.
If you’re talking mainly about “Hold your Ground” from the new album, we had been playing “The Mob Rules” live for about a year after Dio died and ended up recording it for “Battlescarred”. After having so much fun with it and feeling so natural about it, I think we all wanted to take a shot at a straight up “Heavy Metal” song. I think it came out terrific and think if we set our sights on it, we could do a whole album in that style.
We have a new song that is kinda similar although a little more Mercyful Fate in style and I love playing that one.
I will say that we all really love blasting and fast Slayer headbang parts so I dont see us playing traditional heavy metal full time, but it is alot of fun, especially live.
How do you like working with Evan and the DeathGasm Records crew? (Did you have to explain what a “DeathGasm” is to any family members…?)
Working with Evan has been great. He stepped up right after Wild Rags and I had known him long time before that. He’s always supported what we do. I think our first album together Ungodly (2000) was pretty “next level” both for us and for him as a label, and what a way to start out!
Evan has booked us shows in Marietta and we’ve stayed at his house, so it really is very much a friendship. He knows what we’re going for and even what other bands we like so we just really couldnt be much happier. I also like alot of the stuff he puts out like Nominon, Manticore, Avenger so its its a good fit for Abominant overall. We havent had alot of backlash from the label name…personally, I think it sounds cool.
When you recorded “Onward to Annihilation,” what technique did you use to get your guitar sound? Have you changed much in how you produce albums since the last nine?
I know most of the guitar was a PRS going through a brand new Peavey head, but aside from that , you’d have to ask Tim.
He gets new stuff just about every six months it seems, so I would be surprised if ANY of our albums used the exact same equipment.
After hooking up with Scott at Velocity things really have just become more laid back and also more practical for us. Scott is a death metal guy, a hell of a drummer and inspires to be a great studio guy, which I think he is.. but I imagine 10 years from now he will be a fucking guru. Nothing negative to say about working with him at all, wish he was doing this in 1996!
Are you going to tour for this album?
Naw, as we get older and have families, touring just doesn’t work for us. Responsibility is our downfall :)
I wanna say 2008 we did like 24 shows, and that was our most ever, but we normally like to play out only around 8 -10 times a year.
We are all kinda reclusive, and I personally hate hanging out in bars, so I don’t guess we’ll ever get to be road warriors, but I like to think we are pretty solid when we do play live.
If you’re fans of the old underground, does it still exist? Who’s keeping the flag flying these days? Bands, zines, labels, etc.
I like alot of the more METAL death metal bands like Sathanas, Gravehill, Ares Kingdom, Cardiac Arrest, Mausoleum and so on (old guys I guess!) but even locally I think most of black/death bands here are putting out releases in 2013 or just did in 2012. So there still is stuff going on, but I dont know if theres much of a fan base for it.
Some of my favorite records are the newest releases from Immolation, Asphyx, VoiVod , Absu, Darkthrone, Autopsy and so on, so I dont go by the “only stuff in early 90s” like some people do.
Hells headbangers seems to be doing quite well and releasing cool stuff, and I like most of what Dark Descent puts out as well.
Where do you think Abominant will be when album 15 rolls out?
We average about two years for a record, so I’m guessing we’ll all be pushing 55 by our 15th album!
As it seems now, doing this for another ten years seems pretty viable and realistic, and barring any tragedy and/or line up shifts, I for one am looking forward to it! You can purchase the album for $6.89 here!
Back in the early days of death metal, it was fun to spin some contrast on the radio. Start out with the phrasal bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer, work up to something percussion like Deicide or Suffocation, then drop into the doom-death. Somewhere in there, Obituary, Asphyx, Incantation, and Morpheus Descends all got displayed.
The latter was a puzzler since it was grim, primitive and primal, yet thoughtful and very distant from the normal everyday lives most people aspired to. It was truly music to keep the listener outside the arc of society’s concerns, guilt and manipulations, and for many of us it was deliverance. It blended into the other death metal as if it belonged there, a distinct voice that yet upheld a shared spirit.
Morpheus Descends was thus for many of us a go-to band when we wanted the old school underground sound. Music from beyond this world, it chanted dark praises of outsider viewpoints on reality while crushing our heads with intensely grinding, explosive riffs. It is with great pleasure that after many years, I am finally able to interview Rob Yench/Xul of this massive underground cult…
Morpheus Descends appeared early in the death metal movement. What were you influences, and how did you conceive of the then-new musical style you were creating?
Before forming Morpheus, we were all in local area bands, Ken and I did a Voivod / DBC styled band called “Volitle Zylog”, Sam, Steve and Craig were all in a band called “Infectious Waste.” During the summer of 1990 we played an outdoor show together with a few other area bands. At the show we were talking to each other about the bands we were all interested in, as it turned out our tastes were very similar. When Ken and I heard “Infectious Waste” do a Pestilence cover we talked with the three of them right after the show and we decided to start a death metal band. A month later the five of us had all quit the bands we were in and formed “Morpheus.” Our first practice was on October 31st, 1990. Our style was based on what we listened to at the time, late 80s & early 90s bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Obituary, Napalm Death and our earlier influences like Black Sabbath, Voivod, Kreator and Celtic Frost. Once we became a band and played shows we started to meet other bands who shared the same goals, also playing many shows with our peers shaped the style known as New York Death Metal.
Were you among the creators of this genre? What do you think your contributions were?
All the previous mentions plus so many more helped create the genre but I will limit my scope to the bands that grew out of the scene that we were part of; Suffocation, Immolation, Mortician, Incantation, Ripping Corpse, Prime Evil, Human Remains, Nokturnel, Gorephobia, Deceased and Apparition (Sorrow). I don’t really measure what our contributions were to the genre except to say that I think the best reflection of what we have done as a band in Death Metal scene is all the people who still come up to us or still contact us online to tell us how much the band’s music means to them. We played a lot of shows in many states and even Mexico from 1990 – 1997, so I think we reached a lot of people in a time when Death Metal was “electric”.
I noticed that Suffocation seemed to have quite a bit of influence from Morpheus (Descends), with Terrance Hobbs wearing a Morpheus t-shirt on Effigy of the Forgotten and using one riff that seems similar to one of the riffs on Ritual of Infinity. Do you think you influenced Suffocation? Who else do you think you influenced?
Both bands were very good friends in the early 90s; we played our first show with them in Buffalo NY. After that it seemed like every weekend for a while, they either drove to our hometown to hangout or we drove to Long Island to hang with them. We would share ideas and jam with each other and show one another riffs and songs we had been working on. I think we are about as much an influence to Suffocation and much as Suffocation was and influence to us. The same things could be said for a lot of the other death metal bands from NY around that time too.
They’re talking about a “big five” of death metal bands doing a tour. Why do you think Morpheus Descends isn’t out there? What makes a death metal band popular more than others?
First and foremost I think the more popular DM bands of our era were signed to bigger labels (EARACHE, ROADRUNNER, NUCLEAR BLAST, METAL BLADE). We worked with a much smaller, less successful record label (JL AMERICA). With more promotion, bigger distribution and record company help; they also landed US and European tours. We did do some touring but not to the extent that a lot of those bands got to do. So they were much more accessible to fans in a time before the internet was so popular. We did EVERYTHING ourselves, touring, merchandise and even pressing. Outside of JL releasing the CD it was all 100% DYI.
Can you tell us the story behind your name change from Morpheus to Morpheus Descends? What happened to the other Morpheus?
JL had RED for distribution; they got a call that from RED that they wouldn’t be able to distribute the Morpheus CD because they already had a band of that name in their catalog. This band was some “gay” techno band, we did try to fight it but JL basically told us change the name or it will not be released. We had always planned to write a song called “Morpheus Descends”, so after some discussions we made the name change and never looked back.
You signed with JL America for your first album, which ended up being a rough path. What happened there? How would you do it differently if you had to “do it over”?
Well since NO other labels had any serious interest in us, it was a good choice. We got our music out to a lot of people that we would have never reached doing it ourselves. It may not have been exactly the record deal we were looking for but at least people saw the CD at stores and bought it. This is part of the reason for our notoriety today; you could buy the CD in most big record store chains at the time. Also it was distributed overseas as well. As far as doing it differently, it would have taken a better record label to have stepped and worked with us, which didn’t happen so there is no regrets when it comes to our history.
One of the things that stuck with me from Ritual of Infinity was the formal language you used for the titles. “Proclaimed Creator,” “Enthralled to Serve,” and “Ritual of Infinity” set a standard which other bands especially in New York aspired to. Where did you get the idea to write song titles this way?
Many of the songs you mention, we came up with the song title first; then we would talk about the concept of the lyrics; then Sam would write the lyrics around those ideas. I think that is why the titles sound so “formal”, we wanted the names of the songs to provoke interest in wanting to hear the songs. We stayed away from the simple titles of blood and gore and concentrated on making the titles and lyrics more interesting to the listener.
Is “Accelerated Decrepitude” a reference to Blade Runner? Were there other non-musical works that influenced you greatly? What about non-metal bands?
No, Blade Runner was not really an influence for this song. Progeria, the rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children was really the thought when we wrote the song as well as the artwork we used for the demo of the same name. Our take on it was that at birth the infant was already a century old, ancient and decrepit. I do not really think any non-metal bands are an influence to us, but we did listen to a lot of Wesley Willis when we traveled.
After Ritual of Infinity, Morpheus Descends came out with two very powerful EPs, Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones and The Horror of the Truth. Each of those had its own character. How do you see the band as changing during that time?
Yes, each MCD has a distinct sound and each time it was a reflection of the lineup at the moment and direction we would move in. We wanted to distance ourselves from a lot of the saturation of death metal bands of the mid 90’s, many were all using the same template as successful bands but really lacking their own identities. Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones was the first time we had time in the studio and did not have to rush ourselves; we developed a lot of ideas and had a real good time creating the music. It was also a transition time in the band; Sam and I became the main song writers and that is why you hear such a difference in the music. This music became much darker and doom laden than our previous endeavors.
When it came time to record Horror of the Truth more changes occurred; we had parted ways with Jeff our vocalist as well as our second guitar player Brian. Tom Stevens had recently joined the band as the replacement to Brian Johnson and then filled the vocal spot as well. So now the band had a different configuration and we went to Cleveland to record with our longtime friend Brian Seklua. The songs on that MCD were much faster and contain furious guitar solos; this was in contrast to the style of Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones. This would be the last recording we would do together as a band and I think the release didn’t get the exposure that it deserved. This was all shortly before the band disbanded, I would have liked to have seen where we could have gone with that lineup and sound.
Do you have any current plans for resurrection, touring, recording, etc? I see you’re set up for Martyrdoom Fest. Who’s in the lineup, and what expectations/hopes do you have?
We are taking things slow, things feel real good in rehearsals and it is sounding like Morpheus Descends should sound. This is very important to us to deliver what the band should sound like and to do justice to the legacy the band has become to Death Metal fans around the world. The lineup is the 4 of the original members from the MORPEHUS 1990 inception lineup. Sam Inzera, Rob Yench, Craig Campbell and Ken Faggio, Steve Hanson was not able to be a part of the reunion. Steve lives in Florida and when we started talking about making this happen we called him to see if he would like to be a part of this “return.” As much as he would have liked to do this, the distance is the real hurdle to work around; Steve did give this his “unholy blessing” and wished us the best!
After Martyrdoom, we are planning to work on some new songs for possible 2014 EP release. We have already exchange riff ideas and it sounds very Morpheus Descends!! Also there is a possibility in 2014 for more shows too but nothing confirmed as of yet.
What do you think of the state of death metal now? Is it fair to divide death metal into “old school death metal” and “modern death metal,” which is the term people use for the new style which has hardcore breakdowns, prog-math-metal riffs, and lots of sweeps?
There is a distinct difference between the two types of Death Metal you speak of; I myself am not really a fan of the “modern” death metal sound. I prefer what I grew up with and what feels comfortable to me. This is not meant to be a “dis” on this style but it is just not for me.
In your view, what are the bands who really shaped death metal into what it was, and what does death metal stand for? Does it have something to communicate, or is it just slightly weird music?
Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Carcass and Obituary would be some of the best known pioneers of the genre. As far as any deep meaning the music, I think each person has their own interpretation of what this means to each of them. For me it has been a way of life, family, work and Metal !!
Do you have any plans to re-release your older material?
There are plans in the works for some really cool stuff, but I will bite my tongue for now until things are more solid than at the moment. We want everything we do to be of quality and something that would be fitting in any MD fans collection!!
Members of Morpheus Descends have gone on to form a number of projects, including Mausoleum. How do these differ from Morpheus Descends, and do they reflect things you learned from the Morpheus Descends experience?
I play in four bands; Morpheus Descends, Mausoleum, Engorge and Typhus, Sam has Morpheus Descends, Mortician and Funerus. Ken does Morpheus Descends, Rooms of Ruin and Cabal 34. We have also done session work and played in a few other bands too but you see we are very immersed in Metal!! The bands we do are all different than Morpheus Descends, but what has been learned by me is to work with people and let each person express themselves and have input in all aspects of the process. Morpheus Descends was the “boot camp” for knowing how things work and what doesn’t.
How were the songs on Ritual of Infinity composed? They’re like mazes of riffs. Did you start with a riff, or an idea, or a story, or an image? How did you compose these mind-twisting tunes?
This was a time in the band when everyone was throwing riffs out there, we just kept sewing the riffs together and making things work and it ended developing into a style where we rarely returned to a riff once it was played in the song. When I listen back sometimes, I hear some riffs and I think “wow we could have done more with this riff!!” All in all though this is what helped made us unique.
What do you listen to currently?
OK here is what is in my playlist as I am doing this interview Repuked, Anatomia, Scaremaker, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead, Manowar, new Mausoleum songs, Deceased, Sadistic Intent, Slayer, Nekrofilth and Midnight !!
Thanks, Rob, and good luck in the future with all of your bands!
New York Death Metal band Incantation embark on a US tour in support of last year’s Vanquish in Vengeance starting in July.
Released last year on Listenable Records, Vanquish in Vengeance features over 50 minutes of the band’s trademark dark and occult death metal. Recorded at the infamous Mars Recording Compound with Engineer Bill Korecky and mixed and mastered by the legendary Dan Swano at Unisound studios, the album explores the genocidal nature of religious conflict.
July 18 – TBA
July 19 @ The Ottobar – Baltimore, MD w/ Acheron, Deceased Visceral Disgorge
July 20 @ Fete – Providence, RI w/ Acheron, Bog of the Infidel, ChurchBurn
July 25 @ Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
July 26 @ Brauerhouse – Lombard, IL w/ Cardiac Arrest
The band commented, “July marks a number of shows for us throughout the States. We’re poised to devour your souls on our ‘Will of Vengeance’ tour. Label mates and brothers in battle Acheron will join us for the first wave of carnage. You’ve been warned!” This release and more band merch can be found at the band’s newly relaunched webstore at www.incantation.com.
All historical events at some stage pertain to a barrier, or a Rubicon that when crossed marks a watershed in the life cycle of an organism in which an achievement cannot be matched in terms of it’s overall qualities. In particular instances, these successes are such that what succeeds can only be a steady decline, or an outcome that pales in comparison to the glory that prevailed at a particular stage of time. This feature aims to give insight into some known examples of the ‘Pyrrhic Victory’ in the metal genre and give light to releases that represent strengths of once great acts, and at the same time foreshadowed artistic saturation.
A common thread that seems to run through these turning points in the careers of metal bands is the apparent contradiction between a musician’s personal evolution and the progress of the musical style into more authentic and expressive forms in service of the concept. We all understand that a maturing musician is not going to be satisfied with the same apparently simple techniques he mastered upon his first year of guitar practice for ages. He probably has musical heroes he is looking up to and he always wanted to learn that Eddie Van Halen or Ritchie Blackmore solo.
Vital musical forms rely on creativity, spontaneity and message over matter. It is the curse of the artist that often the best of their work is at the behest of youthful lunacy and drunken madness, the early recordings where they grasp at the straws of vision without quite having formulated the techniques for achieving them – so they improvise and as Nietzsche would say, “give birth to a dancing star“. ‘Human‘, ‘Tales from the Thousand Lakes‘ and ‘Heartwork‘ are all perfect examples of a band with the full arsenal of accumulated weapons, evolved to near its maximum potential in knowing exactly how to compose all the contemporary forms of metal, from death metal and grindcore to pop progressive, even soft rock.
But here comes the paradox. Instead of sounding updated, the recording sounds more dated every passing year, because what has happened is that the band has incorporated a plethora of archaisms to a sound that used to be cutting edge. The bludgeoning dark tremolos of ‘Leprosy‘ that used to climax in nearly atonal solos become melodious post-modernist “cut up” riff salads; the doomy Wagnerian grandeur and slow movements reminiscent of historical battles in ‘The Karelian Isthmus‘ is stealthily exchanged with stoner rock and circular meditations that happen after a couple too many smoked joints; the to-the-point socio-anatomical parody of the hilariously grotesque and twisted ‘Symphonies of Sickness‘ gets discursive and bloated with instrumental worship, as if the band suddenly turned from anarchists into voters. The core question would be: did the band think these are more sensible ways of composition and a better illustration of the topic at hand – or did they forget the composition and the topic altogether in the name of randomly generating “music” with cold technique?
Sepultura – Arise
Coming off the back of the raging, deathly, speed metal of ‘Beneath The Remains‘, Sepultura stay true to the compact musical execution that began making itself clear on the ‘Schizophrenia‘ album onwards. There is more variation in pace, with the lower tempo compositions often resemblant of the riotous and anthemic cycles of of ‘Beneath The Remains’ played out in suspended animation. The introduction of the now ‘tribal’ meme that first makes itself present in Sepultura’s music introduces itself through in various songs, and whilst here it is applied in a more than tasteful enough manner it sometimes gives the idea that whilst this indicates an ‘open-mindedness’ to the average listener, on deeper insight it gives light to the possibility that the band by this time may have been starting to run short of creative ideas. Whilst this is a very good record by Sepultura, prevailing characteristics get the upper hand, and in a year where speed metal had long had it’s glory days, and death metal attaining new peaks of aggression in a period of artistic blossom, it’s no surprise looking back that the dumbed down and singularly ‘angry’ mosh-fodder that was ‘Chaos A.D.’ would suceed this work. –Pearson
Metallica – Master Of Puppets
A controversial pick, Metallica’s excellent third album fulfills the incorporation of progressive themes but seems to crystallize them to such an extent that no more creative spark would emanate from their later works. Cliff Burton’s presence in the unit, and his bridging of neo-classicist influences into their progressive speed metal was a defining feature of what many hessians and metallers saw to be the main component of their excellence. Having let this seep in on ‘Kill Em All‘ and fully realise itself on ‘Ride The Lightning‘, ‘Master Of Puppets’ steps further towards punchier and anthemic songs, with a steeping emphasis on percussive, palm-muted rhythm riffs which are the dominant motif in the album’s musical execution. This is structurally still in the exact same mould as ‘Ride The Lightining’, in that despite a different order of where songs are, we get aggression in ‘Damage Inc.’ and ‘Battery’ where there was once ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and ‘Trapped Under Ice’. Songs such as ‘Sanitarium’ continue a rock music inclined sense of songwriting that continues what started with ‘Fade To Black’ and inevitably foreshadows the growing commercialism of Metallica on later releases. The excellence of ‘Orion’ also signals a continuity shift that began with ‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’ and fulfilled itself with the ‘Call Of Ktulu’ instrumental. This is a great album that solidifies the importance of Metallica in the genre’s history, though the death of Cliff Burton and the lack of creative steam that ensued signalled the artistic decline that came in 1988 with ‘And Justice For All…’. –Pearson
Coroner – Mental Vortex
While the speed and thrash metal boom was crumbling all around in the wake of Seattle and LA-based clothing styles storming the nation, a few European stalwarts lingered on the fringes and while some of them didn’t dare to take up the arms for intricate, narrative death metal, they were influenced by its vicious aggression and psychedelic subject matter. Coroner from Zürich, around Tom G. Warrior‘s circle of the tyrants, never became a vastly recognized or influential name in extreme metal but superceded most of its peers in technicality and consistency, releasing a discography of five albums ranging from the raging “R.I.P.” to the eclectic “Grin“, where the fourth one “Mental Vortex” is where the playing abilities peak but the ultimate purpose of the band is starting to wane. When the idealism of youth fades and with it the spontaneous power of iconographic assault, the only avenue left for speed metal to challenge the moral preconceptions of hypocritical generations was to turn to psychology and explore lies and paranoia in the internal spheres, cutting up joy and sadness into fusion-esque rhythm riff salads (with the timing of an atomic clock) cut up from brilliant small pieces akin to Burroughs’ or Gysin’s style of literature. Such a hectic style provides an engaging rhythmic tension for this album, arguably one of the last triumphs of the entire genre, but it’s also cold and calculated like a scientific experiment. The vastly more popular but not much better Carcass realized essentially the same things many years later on their hit album “Heartwork” and ended up on the pages of guitar magazines, while Coroner was already entombed to the mausoleums of Noise Records’ speed metal roster. –Devamitra
Morbid Angel – Covenant
Among the most ancient, recognisable and influential cults in Death Metal’s history, Morbid Angel’s tale of decline is a prolonged one, and raised continuous questions about the band’s creative state, as though their instruments were being channelled purely at the whim of the Outer Gods. The Floridan giants finally resisted the unearthly impulses that once guided them to create powerful statements of occult awareness bound up with a Nietzschean sense of overcoming and will-to-power, such that with the releases of ‘Gateways of Annihilation’ and ‘Heretic’, the band fell victim to triviality. Incremental lapses in quality can be traced back to much earlier albums however, with the departure of guitarist Richard Brunelle being the first to impact the legendary line-up responsible for two of the finest Metal albums ever recorded, meaning that ‘Covenant’ would initiate the band’s slow decay. In addition, Morbid Angel’s growing populist tendencies were perhaps never more commercially viable than at this time, with the production left in the hands of Fleming Rasmussen, and not one but two music videos filmed to promote the album. Brunelle’s exit would mean that Trey Azagthoth would be fully responsible for filling the suffocating mix with his trademarked guitarwork, to the surprising detriment of ‘Covenant’s sound wherever the album’s conceptual direction becomes overwhelmed by a one-dimensional bluntness. Characterised by unfocused and uniform phrasing and only held in place by Pete Sandoval’s tightly militaristic drumming, the latter half of the album demonstrates little of the dynamism that could be heard on every one of their preceeding songs. The spiritual inversion of Morbid Angel, a transvaluation of religious language to re-vitalise and Paganise the path of transcendence and condemn the submissive and world-denying, corrupt parasites turns into an unaltering, blind rage that’s summarised by the lyric of ‘God of Emptiness‘, “So, what makes you supreme?”, setting a blueprint for the band to follow on ‘Domination‘ and the hordes of imitators that were given an undeserved license to record by virtue of Death Metal’s growing popularity. ‘Covenant’ in this sense is not dissimilar to Deicide’s Pyrrhic fall from the adept demonology of ‘Legion‘ to the dumbed-down ‘Once Upon the Cross‘, though Azagthoth’s wizardry would earn Morbid Angel some redemption with the primordial dance of cosmic energies to be heard on ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh‘ before finally digging their own grave without cursing their own reputation quite as badly as the truly shattered idols from the golden age of Death Metal. –ObscuraHessian