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Various - Projections of a Stained Mind
Review: During the days before the existence of death metal was a certainty, and the internet was not yet present to distribute music, brave people in the underground compiled tracks from demo bands and created compilations. This way, for example, Swedish people could mail a single CD to the United States or South America containing the vital output of their local scene. They were tremendously influential in spreading the bands that eventually became classics of the genre, and invited great controversy as metalheads crouched around stereos debating the merit of various demo bands.
"Projections of a Stained Mind" came as the wave that was Swedish death metal curled on the eve of breaking, and captured raw form of many acts that today are hard to imagine having ever been cassette-demo unknowns. The MP3/internet phenomenon has diminished the importance of CD compilations but when we see a concentration of both great music and its contrast such as this comp, sometimes we think it is a pity and long for the simpler, more focused days of CD compilations. What makes this most fun is watching bands that later became foundations grow into that stature.
1. Entombed - Forsaken captures the elegance of their second album without the excess of swing in its rhythm, being compositionally more of the second but in spirit and playing of their legendary "Left Hand Path."
2. Mayhem - Carnage in a bold version of this song uses both the considerable vocal talents of Dead and a bassier, grittier sound than the album version exhibits. More organic production and playing of the drums gives this a more Darkthrone feel. While there is no end of praise for Dead's vocals, they are less expressive than the later work of Attila.
3. Grotesque - Spawn of Azathoth changes virtually nothing from the album release. Grotesque used the melodic sense and speed-metal-influenced rhythmic attack of Merciless, producing songs that like classic heavy metal rotate around an infectious, hookish chorus.
4. Therion - Future Consciousness appeared later on "Beyond Sanctorum" in a much more studio version and this demo-level recording (very similar or identical to the one on the rerelease of their second album) is more aggressive in its first half and thus gives the second part a sense of lightening, capturing a primitive mysticism that shows why this band was so important to black metal musicians despite being a somewhat orthodox death metal interpretation.
5. House of Usher - Battle of Spectrum provides a definitive "Swedish death metal" track that resembles an Unleashed/Dismember hybrid; fast tremolo riffs run into a melodic slow breakdown that ambles like a newly created river. While every aspect of this is well-executed, it never finds a voice for any expression of experience.
6. Merciless - Nuclear Attack is what, had they continued to develop, a band like Metallica might have been: violent riffs, a catchy chorus, and enough musical deviation in the latter half to give musicians room for not only well-designed solos but use of drums and bass to higher potential.
7. Unleashed - The Dark One differs little if at all from the album version. Speed thrills coalesce into doomy rhythmic hooks, but the paradox of this band remains: despite its simplicity, it achieves dissymetrical continuity to its two-part composition where most bands would play it straight and make less interesting music.
8. Nirvana 2002 - Mourning sounds extremely similar to Dismember, from the slow melodic opening to the faster pickup riffs colliding into similar progressions played slower with the impact of dramatic theatre, sliding into choruses that are both vocal hook and flavorfully compact and resolute progressions. Did this later appear on "Like an Ever-Flowing Stream" as "Soon to be Dead"? Members of Entombed shared with Dismember helped produce it. Hmm.
9. Chronic Decay - 1st of September like a hybrid between Merciless and Sarcofago has abrupt rhythmic translations that are breathtaking, yet uses the same "singer balanced on a skateboard" vocal delivery of Von, surging forward and then pulling back as if to right equilibrium. Like Sarcofago the song comprises variations on two basic riffs, with introductions, and so would probably make poor repeated listening.
10. Dismember - Sickening Art is a slightly more weatherbeaten version of the album track but basically identical. This band surges ahead of Entombed in many estimations because where Entombed wanted to be a rock band, Dismember wanted to be a metal band -- and a metal band capable of expressing both aggression and melodic beauty inflected in complex structures holding simple riffs in place like a jello salad.
11. Mayhem - The Freezing Moon gives us more of the pre-dead-Dead lineup of Mayhem and is correspondingly powerful although sometimes depressingly too much like the standard black metal to follow. It reminds us of Mayhem itself, which put out mediocre albums and then roped in an all-star cast including Snorre Ruch of Thorns and Kristian Vikernes of Burzum to write "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas," then killed off its most famous members so they could be martyred and went back to producing (better-produced, more musically-trained) mediocre music.
12. Merciless - The Book of Lies shows us another version of what this band produced, which often sounds juvenile in its exuberance but improved over the next two albums, although never quite captured the vigor of their early work. Sometimes this band sounds uncannily like middle period Sepultura, who attempted the same fusion of speed metal and death metal in a melodic style, but had fewer obvious affinities for the black metal to follow.
13. Macrodex - Cremation reminds the experienced listener of Finland's Belial: plodding verse riffs and fast choruses with an underlying implication of melody stated in four notes, followed by pure rhythm riffing of a punkish simple nature to offset its impact. This song builds through basic riffs and pocket drumming toward a melodic takedown that is effective but not as repetitively as used here.
14. Traumatic - A Putrid Reek of Mangled Remains opens with a chromatic suspension riff like the one that opens Deicide's "Oblivious to Evil," and then drops into a running downstrum riff that is fantastically catchy but has to set it up against rock-style seizure pauses that play on our desire for forward rhythm with sudden stops; the rest is simple death metal that could be stuck in Florida or Stockholm with no effect on either. Band photo shows two blonde Swedes and a guy with an Italian last name who resembles Mille Petroza of Kreator.
15. Tiamat - Ancient Anxiety reminiscent of Varathron's "His Majesty at the Swamp," shows us a melodic traditional heavy metal side of Swedish death metal that unlike the Varathron establishes an atmosphere and is content to sit in it like fat businessmen in a hot tub. Lead rhythm riffing trills through a pleasant little melody and cuts it off short in a bittersweet conclusion, but keeps the song going with slaphappy drums. This band has always been this tedious.
16. Skull - On a Mission in Blood must have been put on here to make everyone else look better. This is a bouncy speed metal song like those of Exodus, complete with bouncy riffs and squeals, that drops into a NWOBHM style ballad with punkish riot vocals except as an answerback on the chorus. The saccharine-vinegar vocal lines would be annoying to hear repeatedly and the rest is done better elsewhere.