Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by Jason Netherton


Jason Netherton (Dying Fetus, Misery Index) created his history of death metal called Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by letting members of the community tell their stories. This book compiles interviews with death metal bands, artists, writers and label owners. It organizes these into five topic areas which makes it easier to find specifics in the book, and by grouping like stories together breaks up the repetition that massed interviews normally have. The result provides a good background in the history and experience of the rise of the death metal genre.

Netherton’s use of topic areas allows band statements to be taken as a whole on the theme and to expand upon it without becoming repetition of similar questions and answers that un-edited interviews tend toward. Some may be put off by the lack of narrative tying these together, but the upside of that situation is that there is little extraneous text outside of what the actors in this scene said themselves. The only weak spot may be that since the highlight is clearly the old school bands, the inclusion of newer bands becomes extraneous when compared with the old.

The following and others contributed to the content of hte book: Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), King Fowley (Deceased), Stephan Gebidi (Thanatos, Hail of Bullets), Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity), Doug Cerrito (Suffocation), John McEntee (Incantation, Funerus), Marc Grewe (Morgoth), Ola Lindgren (Grave), Kam Lee (ex-Massacre, ex-Death), Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Lock Up), Robert Vigna and Ross Dolan (Immolation), Esa Linden (Demigod), Dan Seagrave (Artist), Rick Rozz (ex-Death, Massacre), Steve Asheim (Deicide), Jim Morris (Morrisound Studios), Terry Butler (Obituary, Massacre, ex-Death), Mitch Harris (Napalm Death, Righteous Pigs), Robin Mazen (Derketa, Demonomacy), Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), Andres Padilla (Underground Never Dies! book), Donald Tardy (Obituary), Paul Speckmann (Master, Abomination), Phil Fasciana (Malevolent Creation), Tony Laureno (ex-Nile, ex-Angelcorpse), Alan Averill (Primordial, Twilight of the Gods), Alex Okendo (Masacre), and Lee Harrison (Monstrosity).

The topic division of the book begin with the origins of death metal and then branch out to its diversification, and then areas of experience such as recording and touring. The final section addresses the future of metal. The material of most interest to me personally was at the front of the book where the old school bands talked about what inspired them and how the scene came together. It was like witnessing a revolution secondhand. In these sections, the most compelling accounts come from the people who are longest in the game as they are explaining the literal genesis of the process. Within each section, individual speakers identified by band write lengthy revelations to which the editors have added helpful captions. The result makes it easy to read or skim for information. Many of this book’s most ardent readers will find themselves doing a lot of skimming because the information here works as an excellent concordance to many of the other books on death metal or metal history and can reinforce or amplify what you find there.

We were all very much into underground music. Early on we were into Venom, Angel Witch and Motorhead, and later it evolved into bands like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Slayer. We wanted to play like them, and that is pretty much why we picked up the instruments in the first place.

With Massacre we were calling the music death metal pretty much from the beginning. We liked a lot of thrash, but to us a lot of it was just a bit too happy and the rhythms were a bit “too dancey.” Of course there were darker thrash albums like Bonded by Blood from Exodus, but even by the first demos we were calling it death metal. I mean, it’s not death metal as you know it today, but those demos were certainly founding releases in the death metal genre in terms of style. Of course, there are no blast beats or anything, but it was a combination of dark rhythms, the dark lyrics, and rough vocals that separated it from thrash. The term death metal had started getting kicked around with Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. We also knew of the Possessed demos, and it was in that tradition that we were referring to ourselves as death metal.

Some of the statements by later bands or bands that are not really death metal seemed like revisionist history but that is to be expected, since every band has to self-promote and include itself in whatever it can. This book utterly shines in the lengthy statements by founders of the genre that explain how it came to be, the thought process at the time and some of the experiences bands underwent. Be ready for blood, vomit and death in the touring section, and prepare yourself for some gnarly old school history in the other parts. By the rules of information itself, it is impossible to craft a metal history that pleases everyone. Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground takes the approach that Glorious Times did and amplifies it by getting longer statements and not relying on pictures, and it adds its unique and vital voice to the canon of books on the history of death metal.

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9 thoughts on “Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by Jason Netherton”

  1. Lord Mosher says:

    The artwork is fucking cool!
    I’m still wondering if the character depicted on the illustration would be a metalhead or a hessian?
    The cans of beer and the horns up probably gives him away…
    He worships Slayer, but he’s also got Schizo and Messiah posters
    so I dunno.
    Are most metalheads hoarders? And when you become a Hessian, are you supposed to trim the fat from your collection?
    Why do I see myself as the character on the illustration (except I’ve never drunk a whole beer in my life)?

    1. Nito says:

      Yes, trim the fat from your collection! If you need to skip tracks or whatever just listen to it on youtube or something. Only the worthy albums stay!

    2. EDS says:

      I would think Hessians trim the fat over time while metalheads hoard for social status.

    3. veien says:

      Autopsy, Demigod, Deseased, Cenotaph, Cancer, Master, Possessed and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME! Yeah he seems kinda like me too! I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Lord Mosher says:

    Back in the 80s many bands were good enough, just below the legends, and the truly lame bands were openly recognized as such. The good enough bands were yes, partly following the greats, but it all felt like even those bands were part of a creative boom.

  3. amber the hammer says:

    Hessians love natural selection.

  4. EDS says:

    Also some who peruse this site, may enjoy Jason Netherton’s old school metal ‘zine vault.


    Some extremely interesting ‘zines and articles over there. Highly recommended site.

  5. Or You Will Be Exploded says:

    I bought this book from the author with a cassette soundtrack comp at the last Maryland Death Fest, he was all frowns and extremely unenthusiastic about someone buying his book and wanting it signed. Which is fine, honestly. One problem with this book I have is I am guessing older bands and musicians that experienced the first wave of success stopped paying attention to the underground so every conversation is steered towards what so and so thinks about over produced slick tech death bands. For fucks sake, maybe that question was relevant 11 years ago, the raw, oldschool miked production has been “in” for so damn long, how can you be so damn out of it as to not even know that?

    That gripe aside, this is a fantastic book, probably the best ruminations on the early scene you’re going to get. Reading this actually got me inspired to create on guitar, where as opposed to most of the metal shit I read, especially on the internet just inspires hopelessness and apathy.

    1. Nito says:

      For some reason this Jason Netherton fellow seems like a really bitter individual. He always steers conversations into left wing politics – during an interview with a kid he turned the answer of the question “where do babies come from” into some whacky shit. I’m sure he’s a real hit at parties.

      If it makes you feel any better, he’s in Misery Index. I don’t think anybody cares about that band. He probably sneered and thought “Oh great, another consumer. Fascist!” while you purchased the book.

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