We all know that Metal = Beer (John McEntee’s quote, not mine*), but have you ever thought how similar these two worlds actually are?
Most good beers give their best when fresh and unoxidized, and more importantly, give their best when just bottled and should be drunk within a few weeks. Like all those bands that lose their polish and energy after a demo, or a few albums. When beer has reached proper fermentation it is bottled, when a group has reached compositional maturity it starts writing its own pieces. The majority of the most interesting groups peaked within 5 years of their formation, just as most beers peaked within the first few weeks. Some, very rare ones, such as certain Belgian beers, withstand the passage of time even improving, but eventually they all come to a meager end. Some groups, even rarer, need a moment of refinement and after an album or two discover their true identity, somewhat like certain beers that need to mature a few years to reach the roundness of their flavors and fragrances. Like the beers, most groups could just follow the production specification with barley malt (or other grains) before getting into some bullshit with honey, flavorings, and herbs that in most cases don’t work. As with bands, most beers that try too hard suck dick. Making a beer with modern, experimental methods often serves only as an exercise in style especially if you don’t know their past just like groups that experiment the fuck out without having a solid identity yet. As one for beer that no one feels like criticizing, the concept also applies to top groups that are very clever and very trendy but underneath prove once again that the king is naked. As with beers, some groups that manage to find their own identity then overdo it, get caught up in an omnipotence complex and screw it up. Then there are the sours, which rediscover flavors forgotten for decades, but you have to be very good to make them critically and have a lot of taste as well as technique, but which then when the chemistry is right discover a niche of true admirers. Just like some groups. Just as with beers there are the periods when one or the other is in fashion, and they all try to do the same thing but few manage to make something that works without too much pretension, just as with musical genres, perhaps fishing randomly from the past.
Ultimately though, as with beers, everyone will appreciate whatever the fuck they like at home because a beer, like a record, is a moment of relaxation and evasion.
Gutted was one of the first record labels that released a bunch of 7″s of the first wave of Death Metal from its headquarters in Illinois back in the early 1990’s. In Italy, probably due to Contempo and Nosferatu, we saw most of these in stock in basically every catalog that circulated in those years, and don’t get me started on how many Internal Bleeding flyers we got in every envelope when tapetrading. A couple of catalog numbers were reused used when the label changed its name to Metal Merchants, although I never understood what happened to GR006 (if you know, please write me at email@example.com). I originally intended to take a photo of the records but my 7″s are not currently in the best condition in terms of sorting and cataloging. Maybe I’ll catch up later. Maybe.
The first 7″ that was released on Gutted let’s face it, was not that great. An unripe band that in its earlier form was trying to find out its identity and decided to do so with a couple of demos and this 7″ of Death Metal all chunks and bites, as they used to do in the early 90s where giving two chugs that today we would call “slam” was tantamount to being hard and heavy. Not so, this proto-slam borrowed from Hard Core Punk works 1% of the times, the rest being boring shit that in some years would lead to aberrations like Machine Head and co.
To say that I was surprised when I saw that Symphony of Grief was still around in 2022 would not be true, the band was excellent and I remember well at the time this 7″ came out that they were determined to continue, pursuing a contract with a label, on their musical path (they wrote me too even if I didn’t have a label at the time). I’m going from memory but it seems to me that Frank from Voices from the Darkside managed this band along with Immolation in the early ’90s, which should be enough to recognize that they were a band with the right numbers. But to find out that they have made ELEVEN albums, well that just left me dumbfounded. I haven’t felt like listening to the latest stuff because I have long since dropped that early curiosity for the more mellifluous Death Metal-related genres (imagine the enthusiasm I have for the post-O’Malley crap) although I think I’ll provide out of curiosity in the next few days.
Leaving behind Laceration/Symphony of Grief in Illinois, with Eternal Torment our own Gutted Records resumes a path begun with Laceration (badly) in the city where Suffocation, Pyrexia, Internal Bleeding really perfected that kind of Death Metal all elbow and spade strokes: New York. It’s not like it takes much to figure out where this band is coming from, because every stone-scraping instant calls out to NYDM, with that dirty “Human Waste”-type pitch. I grew bored of the evolution of this genre somewhere during the turn of the millennium, but I still like to listen to these bands sometimes. For the lovers of this more angular and squared breed of Death Metal, this is a band to rediscover.
I’m not going to lie I’m not a fan of Acheron, they have the kind of ideas and stylistic solutions that for some reason a great many people like but to me seem bafflingly banal, not to mention a singing style that goes nowhere. For being 1992 in Florida, though, this 7″ has a point. I think their best efforts came out much later in their career though and their latest album on Listenable was one of the best works they have done. Still, we are talking about that moment in history when Black Metal was changing its skin becoming a genre in its own right proproposed in those years, from a purely scholastic point of view these are recordings that should at least be known. These guys hated Christianity with quite some passion.
This 7″ was released on Metal Merchant but having still a code number starting with “GR” I thought I would include it here. In the beginning Funeral Nation was a Venom/Sodom-inspired band that somehow transitioned into the Professor K machine along with Rigor Mortis, a strange version of a particularly raw Thrash Metal that over the years has unfortunately lost some of that more primitive and barbaric vein typical of that genre, just like Sodom, to say. Yet here the band was at the top of its game, and the 7″ is particularly beautiful to have, ivory-white and with nursery-level illustrations. Probably one of my favorite recordings by Funeral Nation.
I talked about NYDM earlier when I mentioned Eternal Torment and here we are, talking about the masters of a genre that may not be my favorite but that until the arrival of Deeds of Flesh, which changed the game cards forever, stood in stark contrast to the bands going queer and the whole melodic goth strand that was slowly eating all extreme genres from within, from Black Metal to even the whole HC/Punk world with their internalist “emo” variants (no, not “that” emo, but distantly related in spirit). So here is a handful of songs that you could basically hear in different releases on different labels, chugging shit with their bossy NY accent. And their flyers were killer, I wish I could find some in my boxes one day to scan.
Another Metal Merchant release, filthy raw and cheesy like all the very early Meat Shits. Here we hear them in their less noisy version with shitty riffs and great vocals bringing it all together. Worth noting is the cover art by Rob Smits who had already done the 7″ Broken Hope, Excavation, etc. We were all collecting all Meat Shits releases back then, don’t be fooled by anyone who tells otherwise. They went a bit over the top with sensitive 2000-something sensibilities AH AH AH AH. But yeah, I think these vocals are so SICK for the genre. Great stuff as usual for all earlier Meat Shits releases.
I decided once more to hurt myself by continuing the all-personal all-unbiased analyses of the discographies of the giants of death/black/grind/noise and related genres. There will be moments of great discouragement in the future, maybe a few names that some people don’t remember at all, and certainly many releases that I had managed to avoid for years without knowing how low a historical band can dig but had to discover the hard way. Let’s start here, with a band that donated the world a timeless classic and a forgettable comeback. And had to stop right there.
But remember, god can, when you ironize about the metalheads who complain “it was only good on the first album and the demos” because that’s exactly what happens here and so many other times. Though the situation here might not be as tragic as in other cases, going from being fathers of a genre to releasing average grind records that play in the background while eating Churby’s falafel at Obscene Extreme is a completely different situation.
World Downfall, 1989
I really can’t add anything about this album that hasn’t already been said, it is an absolute milestone in the grindcore genre, able to distill those particles of primal rage recessed in Death Metal to refine the most violent breed of punk and noise into something never seen or heard before. THe FLOW here is beyond description. The bass lines have such a fleshripping force that just a handful of thrash metal classics like Illusions or Pleasure to Kill could compare. Terrorizer here created a familiar yet new generation of violent groove, a compact and breathless album that once reached the limit goes one step further with Oscar Garcia’s perfect vocals reinforced by a Vincent at his peak. And then he, the drummer par excellence. What can be said, really, about the greatest grindcore record to come out of the USA?
Darker Days Ahead, 2006
I recently closed by shop when I heard of a new Terrorizer album and given the state of extreme music at the time, the premises were quite bleak. Here, as predictable, Terrorizer loses everything despite the nerve of Jesse Pintado, who on a guitar level could honestly hold the fort with an even darker sound compared to the 1989 classic, a grim sound typical of some early British industrial-breed grindcore. What does not work, or rather is completely eclipsed by the debut, is everything else. The drum sound is criminal, the vocals too static and with those fucking machocore choruses this is a shadow of something vaguely reminiscent of “World Downfall” but lost between hopefully forgettable releases like Nailbomb and Asesinos, which to me personally represent the lowest moment of this music during the ”90s.
Hordes of Zombies, 2012
Six years ahead and another stab comes with this album that should not be. The cover art as well as the layout are those of a third grade band on some obscure east european label, no. If the cover is ugly, the logo miserably modified with subtle yet unnecessary photoshop maneuvering, and let’s not talk about the chouce ot font for the title, on the turntable the record is even worse. This sad Karina can’t hold the reins of Pintado and any grind element despite Sandoval cranking, is gone. Rezhawk as always is grounded on a single note, plus the terrible modulations on the riffs are just hammering nails on the casket of the debut.
Caustic Attack, 2018
The sadness of the previous album’s boiled Vincent and the lack of Pintado left no glimmer of hope open for this umpteenth and final stab in the back of World Downfall’s green Christ, not least because this Molina guy doesn’t sound much better than Rezhawk. Fortunately, the riffs have awakened a tiny bit and Sandoval really goes for the throat here. It’s still average fast Death Metal far from the grindcore of the first great record, but it is not indecent stuff like Hordes of Zombies. I would buy it? no. Would I listen to it again? No. I mean guys, you could have ended it with 1989, eh.
Screening inside my mental schemes with honesty this one, as well as the second album, would not be ratable as 5s, except that there is the shadow of a perfect album looming over everything. Could they do anything that could stand the test of their classic debut? I don’t think so. Nostalgia is not always a good thing.
Norway may NOT be my favorite location for Black Metal but there are illustrious exceptions like these GOATKRAFT who came out with a full-length for Iron Bonehead three years ago. Bestial Invasion has just released a collection of unreleased tracks and a few covers in CD format. The tracks were already available since last year digitally but here they are, packaged in a collector’s box of paper and plastic.
In case you didn’t know the band here’s a quick listen to their full-length album.
I still haven’t got the chance to see the Seraphic Decay book that was recently released despite it’s supposed to hold an interview w/me on the SCAM-033 Absurter Cryst EP that I (re)released last year, so what you read here might be redundant or plain wrong but I thought it might have been interesting to read what kind of thinking I did when looking for a code for this EP.
The Absurter Cryst EP has been just a metropolitan tale for several years, but my guess is it could fill the blank in the numbering for SCAM-033. How did it get to SCAM-033? Well, 31 was missing so it could have been any between Nunslaughter, Rotting Christ, or Grave (edit – a friend told me these were supposed to be early releases). We have the SCAM-32 code for Suppuration so the choice was between 31 and 33. Being 33 is also the age of Christ… It was an easy choice. Plus, SCAM-031 was released as a bootleg 2CD compilation from Mexico which took the idea from an interview with O’Bannon, it was quite obvious that 33 was the perfect fit.
Left to right: ltd. Nuclear Abominations, regular Nuclear Abominations, unreleased Seraphic Decay. The ultra-limited edition is a tribute to the Mortician single with a different cover you can see below.
Yosuke is a fucking lucky guy and I am so incredibly envious of this stash he got, I could not sleep for a week boiling with envy when I saw this picture on his Instagram. Unluckily, any attempt to get some extra data on these test pressings has failed, we all crave additional information, in particular if they contain some unreleased EPs?
So where did Nunslaughter, Grave and Rotting Christ end up in the catalog numbering? Unsurprisingly, Nunslaughter ended up as a Hell’s Headbangers single (of course, this information I found in an interview with Don). And my guess is Grave was probably the Tremendous Pain EP. As for Rotting Christ things are more indistinct. Maybe the split with Monumentum? I’d go with “Dawn of the Iconoclast”. My three likely candidates below.
GRAVE “Tremendous Pain” Century Media, 1991
NUN SLAUGHTER “Ritual Of Darkness” Hell’s Headbangers, 2004
Here it’s worth noting that Hell’s Headbangers was anticipated by The Black Vomit which apparently already bootlegged the demo in 1993, WAY before the label was an idea. The cover below looks MUCH better than the HHR version in my opinion.
Another thing that should be noted is that in 2004 Hell’s Headbangers also reissued “The Rotting Christ” and “Impale the Soul” demos on 7″. They would not have been the first time O’Bannon reissued demos on vinyl. However, the year falls within the range so who knows.
ROTTING CHRIST “Dawn of the Iconoclas” Decapitated, 1992
Even though we are a couple of years ahead I get the impression that for Rotting Christ this could have been the idea for an EP on Seraphic Decay. The year before came out a split with Monumentum so maybe they just unpacked The tracks on various items. I have no idea.
Whatever the reality is I will get back on the issue after I finally get my copies of the book which I PREORDERED too when the first press was made but was never contacted. Hmph. Let me have a read and I’ll be back with a follow-up.
I wonder what on earth is happening to the package delivery system in the last few years. I’ve been shipping records for a good 30 years now, and never have I had so many problems with deliveries arriving in pieces, kicked and crushed violently. Until the early 2000s even, I used to ship LPs in pizza boxes and even with just a ribbon of bubble wrap the records always arrived in decent condition. In recent years, despite using professional mailers with open cardboard flaps that are supposed to protect the corners, the latest shipments outside Europe have arrived in unthinkable conditions. And the longer the route, the worse the condition of the disks. Currently, I have had to double the mailers, sandwich them with some padding, and tape the edges with cardboard shims to protect the corners. A bit of the problem, maybe, could be directed to the insane collecting pathologies of the Mint fanatics, after all nowadays music is no longer listened to on physical media, we labels sell merchandise or luxury items as they can be called. There is no question, though, that there has been an intensification of courier delivery issues because it is not possible to see such an amount of split, damp, and torn packages. Not that I want to create a community, but have you also experienced this continued deterioration of postal and courier service in recent years?