Tape-Trading: The Secret Of The Underground


What made the old underground so powerful? An interview with former Death bassist Erik Meade reveals part of the picture:

I thought they were just a band with a few home made cassette tapes out, which in punk circles meant you were just locally known. Death were from Florida so I figured nobody in the bay area had heard of them/us. I didn’t realize that within the metal scene tape trading homemade cassettes was a big deal, and true fans took it seriously.

Among the other revelations here: Death was a group project. Scott Carlson of Repulsion was on bass and Erich Brecht of DRI on drums during its early years, shaping its sound, in addition to (by rumor) Autopsy member Chris Reifert on guitar. But more importantly, the above reveals the power of tape-trading.

In punk, having a tape out meant being a local band — in metal, it meant being an international one. This spread the music far and wide, and allowed fans to exercise quality control in ways that labels never would. This created a positive evolutionary pressure on metal bands to be noticed as being good for repeat listening, which was the opposite direction from punk and rock.

Few fans have the energy to sift through 400 demos, but a compilation of new finds from a friend across the ocean could well be convincing. This enabled underground metal to establish a hierarchy of bands quickly, and insist upon that level of quality by ranking bands relative to the new classics, forcing bands to produce more intense material.

40 thoughts on “Tape-Trading: The Secret Of The Underground”

  1. Ludvig B.B (vOddy) says:

    What you say makes sense, but it doesn’t explain why bad metal is popular. I think a lot of people just have bad taste, and we can’t do anything about that.
    The demand for bad music will result in bad music.

    But what we can do, is create a network of like minded people. When one person finds a gem, he can share it with the rest of the network, thus increasing the search radius from one person to however many are in the network.

    This website is kind of doing that, but I think it can be better. I’d love to do my part and contribute whenever I find something glorious, but I like some music that I don’t think anyone here would like.

    1. Olly says:

      It’s pretty telling that you’re scared to post some music because you think the hive mind won’t approve. Remember when BM’s mantra was individualism and no compromise? Yeah, this website and its occupants embody the absolute antithesis of this; a group self appointed ‘taste makers’, constantly worrying and obsessing about their status. In reality, this is one of the most regressive shit holes on the Internet. Quite an achievement.

  2. John D. says:

    Main part of such a sifting and quality control is direct involvement of band members themselves. The discourse changes when one is talking about an ep or an album or demo with the band members themselves there to respond, and to defend themselves, or at least share what they intended to do. One then would be less quick to all-out trash, and more inclined toward respectful agreement or disagreement, and offering of constructive criticism. Then it becomes more of a collaborative effort between band and those interested in the same music.

    Without this, however, times having changed, I more and more see how you have arrived at your particular position, Brett. A minimizing of shared personal feeling and taste and preferences, because of all the immature assholes who would waste one’s time and energy and drag one down into involvement in their own personal issues, and practicing detachment and intensive and consistently applied logic in almost all circumstances. That strains out the shit too.

  3. John D. says:

    Greetings, Ludvig. I too like music not only limited to metal. There’s so much fascinating and challenging music and literature and arts in the world. I think it’s sad that one can’t just let it all out here and be free in self-expression, openly pursuing connections and associations wherever they may go; one must pick and choose when and what to share, and to keep it “brutal”, etc. There’s a codified behavior which creeps in among passionate die-hards and enthusiasts and is enforced by those who have anointed themselves the “voice” of a movement. That’s the toeing of the party-line. So much for radical independence and open-mindedness and standing for the concrete manifestation of individuality in all of its wild complexity.

    It’s a weird thing with this site that often I don’t know who I’m talking too or addressing. Of course there are individual voices, and some very good and intelligent ones like your own. This is just a general impression I have being new to speaking my own mind in the atmosphere of this site and feeling the kind of resistance and hostility and aggression rolling in waves in my direction. It’s not like, “Hey, John, you have an original voice, clearly your own. You obviously do your own thinking. You’re welcome here.” It’s more like, “Who the fuck are you. How dare you speak that way.” It’s like some pot-belled, scraggly dude in baggy overalls with food stains down the front, shuffling out to the front porch with his rifle pointed at me: “Hey Yoou. Git off my lawn.” In some sense there’s an interchangeability of voices, not wholly distinct from each other, and pseudonyms or false fronts and masks worn in circulation like a shell game and one loses track of the ball. For all I know it’s all the Brett Stephens show; it’s all him adopting various guises. (That would be truly something.) Maybe I’m Brett Stephens. Maybe we’re all Brett Stephens. I think of that scene in Being John Malkovich where everywhere he turns Malkovich encounters nothing but clones of himself.

    I believe with bad music that it’s better just to leave it to itself, and it will eventually fizzle out on its own. Certainly it may gain a following and go “viral” for a while, getting on one’s nerves, but fads and fashions come and go. I don’t understand the burning of so much energy on it. Feed it and it gains negative publicity, the narcissism in it engorged like a mosquito. For me, in that instance, what becomes more interesting than the bad music is the psychology of those who generate in themselves so much hatred that instead of using their time and energy on something constructive or creative and beneficial and profitable to themselves and others, they sacrifice and destroy themselves, bursting into flames and plummeting through space like a kamikaze. The tragic part of that is in the longterm people really won’t care and remember it. There are so many bad things in this world it’s not humanly possibly keep up with it all. It’s like Whack-A-Mole. Whack one head down, and another pops up. For everything bad we destroy, something just as bad or worse takes its place. My own personal philosophy is rooted in pessimism about the human condition.

    So many sicknesses and mental disorders in contemporary society, I almost regard them now where they grow and flourish out of the decomposing matter as if I was a collector of mushrooms. I suppose that’s what they do at the Sadistic Metal Reviews. Perhaps now I’m only beginning to understand…


    1. John D., dude you need to make up with your boyfriend. You have too much free time on your hands.
      You know what’d be great to have on your hands?
      my cock.


      Axl Rosenberg

      1. John D. says:

        Fantastic contribution, “Mr. Rosenberg” (this I address to you behind the pseudonym). Glad I could provide fodder for your fantasy life. Maybe it’s a start in resolving what’s at the source of your need to flip around your own desire and project it onto others. I am the mirror and you are only now getting a true glimpse of yourself. I do not recommend as a starting place Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, nor even Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. Maybe that would make your head explode, flames shooting out of your neck. I’m not sure your deep-seated racial issue is related to your sexual one, or if they’re tied up in a knot. Maybe the best place to start is a cold bath. Shalom.

        1. C.M. says:

          Autism levels that shouldn’t even be possible, etc.

        2. Dear John.

          Speaking of mirrors, nothing beats the sight of a confused gaze of a first timer getting pounded from behind.

          I humbly offer you to feel my rod deep inside your sweet mushy ass.


          – Axl

          1. John D. says:

            Hey “Rosenberg”: my mind is crystal clear and my vision is razor sharp. I comment at other places on the internet. My newness is to the individuals at this site. I’m in a processing state. Any new commenter will find him or herself in the same position. (Come to think of it, there is a woeful dearth of women at this site, if any. I think that says something.) Any new area one dives into, it’s inevitable that one appear a bit awkward at first. I even understand the need for tests, to see if one is the real deal.

            Behind the racial and sexual issues, I detect Mommy and Daddy issues in you too. You’re like the little kid in the room crying for attention, jumping up and down, yelling “Look at me! Look at me!”. When the adults pay you no attention you pull down your pants. It’s okay, I understand where you’re coming from. I can tolerate it. I like kids. You’ve succeeded in getting me to smile.

            Now there are only two ways for you to go: throw a temper tantrum, or use your limited imagination to paint an even more perverse picture. Like me as the priest and you as the kid being molested or something of that sort. You are totally predictable. Can I say Checkmate yet?

            If not, such is my generosity, I give you the mate then as a gift in good faith – as in, Good day, mate.

            1. Dear John.

              You are truly generous. I would like to reciprocate by locating my stiff sweaty member in your mouth as as sign of good will and gratitude. Thank you mate.


              – Axl

              1. John D. says:

                Well, at any rate, you’re not my kid. You can keep it going if you like, following me around like a horsefly. Nothing more than a petty nuisance. Others witnessing might be amused at my attempts to shake you. Hell, I’m even amused. Which show would you prefer to be on, Dr. Phil or Jerry Springer? Those were the days when G.G. Allin appeared on Donahue and Geraldo. Hail to the Murder City Junkies and hail to El Duce of the Mentors. Maybe you can form a band in that spirit and call it the Synagogue Brigade.

                1. Alternaboys of Madness says:

                  “Hail to the Murder City Junkies …”

                  Certain you mean “the Murder Junkies,” G.G. Allinz backing band.
                  The Murder City DEVILS were an early ’00s post-hardcore/psychobilly band, from Seattle.
                  You fucking IDIOT. lol jk

                  1. John D. says:

                    This one nearly got by me. I knew I made this error the moment I posted it, not having listened to Allin and his stuff in years and my memory failing me, but I thought, Eh, it doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. I’ll just move on. It’s not like I want to follow a turd swirling around the bowl. One turd, two turds, it’s all the same to me. I know where it’s going. Glad to know you’re paying attention, scumfuc.

            2. C.M. says:

              You’re either one of the more elaborate trolls or you’re too sincere for your own good. Consider typing less, reading more, and taking things less seriously. You’ll have a better time.

              With love and sodomy,

              Corey M.


              1. John D. says:

                Thanks for your advice, C.M. I’m not a troll. I’m used to more elaborate conversations elsewhere, but I’m certainly learning here. I shall try to cut back my words. Brevity is the soul of wit. Have a good weekend.

                1. C.M. says:

                  You’re a good dude. Just lighten up a bit. It’s not a dick measuring contest. Everyone here knows they can’t compete with mine.

                2. Alternaboys of Madness says:

                  …and levity is the whole of shit.
                  This thread is bullshit — I think you’ve done gone and laid that threadbare.

    2. I believe with bad music that it’s better just to leave it to itself, and it will eventually fizzle out on its own.

      This was my thought, circa 1992: laissez faire.

      As of the turn of the millennium, however, my thinking began to radically change.

      I screwed up hugely by not fighting back with words/ideas against the rising tide of stupidity in metal (and elsewhere).

      As Plato says, “good to the good, and bad to the bad,” which is a different morality than “be good to everyone,” which neither Christ nor Krishna ever said.

      1. OnlyInDeath says:

        “Be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice”
        -Dalton in Roadhouse

        1. “Sodomize the weak!”
          – BLOOD

      2. John D. says:

        I don’t disagree with the gist of your reply, Brett. The question however is how one does the destroying. The point I was making is that it can become in itself an all-consuming passion, and in that the Bad may lose many battles but ultimately wins the war, because it turns one into a street-cleaner or shit-shoveler, a garbage man. Of course one can get others to do one’s dirty work. Pay them a wage or set up a system of reward and advancement.

        There are also considerations of how one is perceived in the world, certain ways of handling things which compel natural respect and make one desire to join in and to contribute, and other ways which back one off and turn one way, just humanly repulsive, yet hold a dark allure for the deranged and psychotic and bring people in like lambs led to slaughter, using them unawares and under a kind of spell or brainwashing to do the dirty work. Terrorists see themselves as great eliminators of Bad too, cleansers of filth and pavers of the way for their so-called Righteousness. So the question comes to: what kind of individuals do you wish to attract? Is this a terrorist organization or how would you define what you’ve started here?

        By oneself, if more isolated, choosing to be part of no group or organization, there’s simply not enough time to eliminate so much Bad in the world. One must pick and choose what to destroy, to clear a path and create a personal space in which one can then freely exercise one’s mind and apply one’s creative energies.

        P.S. Pardon me for misspelling your last name in my longer comment.

      3. Nigel says:

        You really flatter yourself, given that not only are you completely irrelevant to any barometer of ‘good’ music, but your writing is incredibly weak and unintelligent. Your ‘contributions’ back then would have been even more laughable and embarrassing, so in that sense we did miss out on some decent entertainment.

        1. And I thought I hid my combined retardation and psychosis so well, but you saw right through me! Must be magic.

  4. Ludvig B.B (vOddy) says:

    If anyone wants to start a trading network, email me at Gransamfundet@outlook.com

    It will mostly be about metal, but other music which has one or more parts of the metal spirit will also be traded.

    Examples of metal that I consider good, to give you an idea:

    Burzum, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Immortal, Mayhem,
    Dismember, Entombed, Deicide,
    Iron Maiden, Judas Priest

    We will trade in lossless quality sound files, or 320 mp3 files at worst.

    The problem with trying to find music alone is that there’s too much mediocre music to search through, even if one just explores Youtube. This network will make it easier to search, since one can instead search among music that has passed through a filter.

    Every member of the network will have the email of every other member, and we’ll have an IRC channel.

    1. We have a forum…

      1. AAAAARGH! Bloody 2-Handed Chainaxe Blow says:

        It’s not easily accessible from the front page though…

        1. Ludvig B.B (vOddy) says:

          Barely any one checks the forum. I’ve been on it.

    2. Hahahaha MP3s for your iPhones! This is pointless as almost everything is available in better quality (rips and scans) than you can hope to provide if you care to look.

      1. fenrir says:

        Audiophiles can go fuck themselves, despite their valuable contributions :p

        I can appreciate good music even at 192kbps. No biggie.

        1. Lossy codecs and streaming are only useful for telling if something is complete shit musically or not. Distortion and space are too compromised for actually listening to or analyzing the recording. The way these codecs were developed was a giant fuck you to consumers as Steinberg assumed the average consumer ghetto blaster and portable ear buds couldn’t replicate the sense of space recorded by microphones and created on mixing consoles. It’s much worse than watching a movie on a television set; it’s the same as blurring everything to remove all sense of camera focus and hoping idiots can’t tell the difference. Steinberg essentially proved music is background noise for most people who use thin, compressed transducers and amplifiers for listening to self-empowering, rhythmic spoken word pap. Broadband, FLAC, and increases in disk capacity make MP3 outdated for everyone not using it to listen to six-second, commercial jingles on a phone.

          1. C.M. says:

            This, a thousand times.

            Listening to 192kbps mp3s is like eating lunchmeat that’s been sitting in the sun for four days. Yeah it’s still meat and you can tell it’s meat but you’re a loser for settling for that when you can get off your ass and make yourself some porkchops. Even 320kbps is annoying and yes, the difference is obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to invest in some decent headphones or at least a modest stereo system. Anything less than FLAC quality is downright disrespectful.

      2. Ludvig B.B (vOddy) says:

        My entire library is in FLAC, but 320 kb/s mp3s are also acceptable.

  5. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Fits roughly in here: As of today, I’m a (possibly proud) owner of Blood Red Throne: »Union of Flesh and Machine«. I didn’t really listen to it it. Someone willing the share an opinion about the band and/or the album?

    1. Lame chugalong brutal death metal.

    2. C.M. says:

      Borderline deathcore. I’d sell it ASAP and getcha cracka ass a copy of Pierced From Within, beeyotch.

    3. Rainer Weikusat says:


      Some impressions so far: The lead player likes a ‘1970s gimmicks’ sound but makes something of it. Some death/ doom riffs, always nice to meet. The overall style is rhythm-centric, comparisons to recent (‘Blood Mantra’) Decapitated suggest themselves, but without the annoying habit of the latter to go off into lengthy “in search for the lost, astral wisdom” indie rock instrumental parts. There’s Judas Priest cover but thankfully, nothing melodic except that (melodies are for melons). It’s rather solid than great but very cool with a hung-over :-}.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        Some more on this: The band is evidently competent but they really only shine on the Judas Priest cover as that’s a much better song than anything else on this album (the opener and the 2nd track are also ok). Guitar solos are interesting but more to a student than to a connoisseur as they remain firmly in “unexciting sonority” territory. The predominant stylistic device is staccato playing which unfortunately reduces most of the music to bits which are in themselves to short to be noteworty and makes for a constant and rather simple surface rhythm (the drumming only ever supports) — “Festival ‘get that pit going'” stuff designed for clumsily-moving people. This gives an overall impression of listening to hammering, whetting and welding factory robots (presumably intentional): Getting too close to this may lead to deafness, at a distance, one falls asleep.

        I’m not entirely unhappy with this and will probably dig it out now and then again but it doesn’t make for interesting listening.

    4. OliveFox says:

      Shrug metal.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        Metals shrug off Chinese data, by stronger oil bu0yoed price. Base metals were steady in Monday morning LME trading, with much of the sub-par data from China over the weekend having been priced in. Chinese industrial production at 6.0 percent was below the forecast 6.5 percent while fixed asset growth at 10.5 percent also undershot the predicted 10.7 percent. Retail sales at 10.1 percent missed the expected 10.6.

        China will spend $720 billion on infrastructure during 2016-2018, it has said, which would be supportive for metals prices.


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