Orcrypt – Dice and Damnation (Self-released demo, 2019)

In wait of their sophomore full-length album, premiere Pure Goblin Black Metal (PGBM) band Orcrypt released this demo recording some time ago. Dice and Damnation retains the sound and vibe displayed on the previous effort Mercenaries of Mordor; a fearless blend of cavernous black- and heavy metal that somehow dodges the obvious trappings of such a composite. But rather than settling into a comfortable template, the band choose to approach the material from a slightly different angle.

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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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Flames of Hell – Fire and Steel (Draconian, 1987)

As much as we want to think otherwise, our reception, enjoyment and evaluation of music is not strictly dependent on the pure act of listening. A truism perhaps, but still something that is worth reflecting on from time to time. Especially for collectors of cult metal vinyl – the modern-day personification of the emperor’s new clothes syndrome (or should we say old clothes?). If you invest a disproportionate amount of time, effort and money in reading about and eventually acquiring a record – as collectors of obscure metal tend to do – your judgement is likely to get clouded to the point where it’s hard to assess the quality of the work in question. And this includes both positive and negative judgements. Case in point: the hype surrounding the Icelandic proto-black metal band Flames of Hell and their sole full-length album Fire and Steel (1987).

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ASSESOR – Invaze (Globus International, 1990)

Donning their debut album with a medieval-styled, black-and-white cover that looks more like a qualified sketch than a finished statement, Assesor went into music history as the first underground metal band in Czechoslovakia to score a record deal. Spearhead-status notwithstanding, Invaze stays firmly rooted in 1980 death/thrash extremity rather than tapping into the burgeoning death- and black metal movements. What ultimately makes Invaze a rewarding listen is not so much a question of stylistic preferences, but how the band expand upon an established form in order to transform it qualitatively from within.

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