Dutch death/doom metal legends Asphyx are playing a special thirtieth anniversary show in Essen, Germany that promises former members, exclusive merchandise, and an extra long set. Opening are Pentacle and Soulburn. Tickets are available here.
Bathory‘s Under the Sign of the Black Mark turned turned thirty years old last month. The album marked the start of Quorthon adding in the epic atmosphere of Manowar and Iron Maiden which would come to fruition on Blood Fire Death. Under the Sign of the Black Mark also happened to be one of the first black metal CDs I ever purchased, which I preceded to play non-stop for about a week until getting bored of it and going back to listening to Altars of Madness.
Emperor are currently preparing to tour in celebration of the twentieth anniversary their second album, the third rate Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. While Emperor kept on wearing armor, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk saw Emperor simplify their trademark complex, almost symphonic Norwegian black metal sound down to two to three note speed metal influenced riffs with neo-classical wank leads in conventional verse-chorus-verse heavy metal songs to appeal to a wider, Wacken-going audience.
Incantation‘s debut and best work, Onward to Golgotha, remains the deepest death metal album I have ever experienced a quarter century after its release as of today. With material (“Unholy Massacre” and “Profanation”) dating back to the initial founding of Incantation by guitarist John McEntee and drummer Paul Ledney, Onward to Golgotha was a record influenced as much by Bathory and Beherit as it was Morbid Angel and Autopsy.
Sepultura‘s Morbid Visions is my favorite thirty year old album. Released in Brazil on November 10th, 1986, Morbid Visions saw Sepultura slither past the primitive Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Sodom worship of their initial Bestial Devastation extended play (included as a bonus on almost all CD versions of Morbid Visions) and into ultraviolent, progressive but still primitive, death and black metal.
Death metal had been well established for years by the early 90s. The genre was rapidly becoming an arms race of technicality with many bands attempting to use studio trickery to make records far beyond their musical ability in attempt to compete with their best contemporaries, e.g. Morbid Angel. Many brought in hired shredder studio musicians like James Murphy with drum tracks copy and pasted together onto tape from drum samples and “played” live with triggers activating those same pre-recorded samples at the slightest touch. At the same time, good grindcore bands were turning into second-rate death metal ones or worse, lame “melodic hardcore” which turned hardcore punk aesthetics into slit your wrists whine pop.
Lee Dorrian, vocalist of Napalm Death on the b-side of Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration, was disgusted by Napalm Death writing material incorporating the worst, bouncy hit people aspects of death metal in an attempt to reach a wider audience and quit the band in 1989. He soon formed Cathedral with Gaz Jennings and Mark Griffiths over a shared love of older heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Witchfinder General. Demos and an album on Dorrian’s old label Earache quickly followed.
Darkthrone‘s second album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, turns twenty-five today. For much of the mid 90s, Darkthrone constantly referred to A Blaze in the Northern Sky as their first album as it was the first commercially released record to adopt the quick and dirty “necro” production style and to have been part of the Norwegian black metal second wave initiated by Mayhem. However most of the individual musical inspirations were audible on their prior Soulside Journey album recorded at Sunlight Studio; the compositions on A Blaze in the Northern Sky were just much more sparse and droning due to different overall compositional goals reflecting the shift from progressive death metal riff mazes to minimalistic Hellhammerism.
Gorgut‘s debut Considered Dead turned twenty five this year. Gorguts shockingly were once an excellent death metal band. Considered Dead combined a rhythm riffing style reminiscent of Death but arranged those riffs into almost neoclassical compositions which unfolded over the course of each track, surprising with sudden shifts of utmost aggression into cathartic sonic violence.
After Slayer‘s foray into narrative composition on Hell Awaits, Slayer could have taken any number of directions in the then fertile metal landscape: gone in for the throat of aggression, matured their pubescent approach to long-form content, or paired down on riff quality for focused but circular songs. Reign in Blood was something of a compromise bred to appease more Floridian tastes which crave motion before coherence or purpose. The album is brief but bookended by two of the better songs in their discography which daftly elevate the questionable content residing in between. The remaining material siphons off of the paired down and quintessential “Angel of Death” by meandering in whatever assortment of good but disconnected riffs the Hanneman/King dichotomy happened upon in between Heinekens; held together in tacit alliances by a sweltering pace which exhausts itself right as the title track closes the record. The foresight required to write an album such as this is commendable but Reign in Blood is not Slayer’s watershed moment if for nothing more than the sheer amount of disposable songs – not riffs – which constitute the majority of the runtime. This uncomfortable fact goes unrecognized due to the sheer brevity of this work. Yet as I wrote this brief paragraph I must have recited the full album in my head at least a few times and I have not listened to the album is many years. May the resolve of Reign in Blood’s memetic warfare continue to withstand assailants from the ever flowing genre compost bin and grant listeners to the strength to withstand the torrents of nature herself.
Nirvana’s Nevermind turned twenty five yesterday but since we at the Death Metal Underground condemn pop-punk Boston worship, we will celebrate a different anniversary today. Morbid Angel‘s Blessed Are the Sick was released twenty-five summers ago. Blessed Are the Sick was the last Morbid Angel record focused on inwardly improving the music rather than compromising it for commercial appeal to a mainstream market. The band had been obsessed with refining and expanding upon their compositions since Trey Azagthoth shelved the release of 1986’s Abominations of Desolation and fired then drummer/vocalist Mike Browning.