Norway’s Wordless Abyss

Studies have shown that listening to instrumental music while writing, studying, doing accounting, or any other productive task can increase stimulation without the distraction that the words of vocals provide.  But for Hessian, Templar, Heathen and other true metalheads instrumental works can be difficult to come by as extreme metal has not dabbled much into the realms of instrumental savagery.  But thanks to the necrophiliac obsession that many have had with Norwegian black metal and its culture, there are a few enjoyable demos and early rehearsals from Norway’s finest that can provide a motivational grim instrumental experience without demanding too much from the attention of the listener.

Join me if you will for a vocal-less adventure through some of Norway’s best kept foreboding hidden secrets.

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Demos and a Forsaken Future

“Dude, their demos were so much better” is one of the most obnoxious cliches of underground metal.  Usually a sign of virtue signaling used to mask one’s insecurities about their knowledge or taste, many lost souls of a nostalgia-obsessed age will use this one as a pale attempt to one up their brethren.  However in many cases within metal’s sonic sphere, bands that were truly fantastic on their early demos left much to be desired and ultimately left listeners unfulfilled.  Whether it be a record company’s influence, a change in heart or band members, or a touch of genius quickly fumbled away, may bands throughout the history of metal have never quite been able to match the quality of their demo recordings.

With death metal built on an entire sub culture of tape trading, demos were more than a proverbial foot-in-the-door to a potential record deal.  For musicians of the genre’s early days, the demo was the equivalent to having your record in the store- it was being shipped all around the world to fans desperate for something they couldn’t find in shops and to musicians hungry for new ideas.  Furthermore, a band’s demo was untainted by the direction and input of record labels who, in those days, quite often suppressed what was deemed “too weird” or “too extreme” as death metal was often determined by the suits of those days.  Tape trading death metal demos was an underground of its own, and your band’s demo tape wasn’t just a pathway to commercialization or musical success- but a often the start of new friendships in a rapidly globalizing world.  Given all of these unique factors, it’s no surprise death metal was full of bands who could never quite capture the magic of their demos.

To offer a complete list would be a dishonor and disservice to the legions of quality works that fall under this umbrella.  Therefore in today’s editorial, I will briefly offer a handful of my personal favorite death metal demos from bands that could never quite capture the magic.  Though I pay little mind to what happens in our comment sections, this will mark a special occurrence where I’d be delighted to know what DMU’s readers would have on this list.

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Reactor – The Tribunal Above (1991)


Review by Jon Browning.

Reactor came from the caveman, skull-crushing school of death / speed metal hybrids. After the way too long intro, the first track “Deformed Personality” is a riff maze of Slayer and Hoffman brothers style riffing that’s a little repetitive and too verse chorus verse but makes you wish kicking prostrate prisoners’ heads off with a running football kickoff was a widely used execution method. They rip off a Sarcofago riff there so you know that would be some sick ancient Mayans playing basketball with human heads sporting execution stuff.

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Arghoslent – Arsenal of Glory (1996)

Arghoslent hailing from Virginia, USA are another one of those so-called “melodic death metal” bands with hardly anything in common with death metal at all. Rather Arghoslent play plain old heavy metal. Unlike their lame contemporaries from Gothenburg, Sweden, Arghoslent were once an effective heavy metal band who initially continued the work of their idols that past European power metal bands had merely emasculated. Arghoslent themselves would eventually stumble into these same stadium rock sins but not on Arsenal of Glory.

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Psycho Survivors – Alive From the Grave (2017)

Many have noted the rise of the music in the intersection between martial industrial, synthwave, dark ambient and dungeon synth which has produced a number of offshoot genres. Coming to us from China, Psycho Survivors (失常幸存者) attempt to meld death metal and synthwave music into a new form that has the techniques of industrial with the compositional sensibilities of death metal.

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Angel Witch Releases Seventies Tapes For Free

Angel Witch has release the 1970s demos that they still hold the rights and tapes to for pay as you go digital download on Bandcamp. The renowned New Wave of British Heavy Metal band did this to benefit the survivors of the recent tenement apartment tower fire in London. All of these tracks were on the now out of print Sinister History CD along with contemporary live recordings. Death Metal Underground strongly advises all fans and downloaders to not pay anything or contribute anything to this funding attempt at social justice warring and undermining western nations.

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