I am not the greatest expert on things Death Metal in the world as my interest in music waxed and waned over the years but I was certainly very much into it in 1990 when this music was at its creative apex. Shortly after that however, but massively just from 1993-1994 onward, basically all of the greatest bands decided to move on and sound different: sometimes with disastrous results nobody could redeem, other times with results I found myself devastatingly terrible but somehow met general acceptance, yet other times they just changed style to play something substantially different but basically almost as good as the older material. Some of these fall in the “only the first album was good” stereotype so many mongos take fun at which is however tragically true, get over it, sometimes creativity is one-shot.
Here are a mix of albums that I consider stylistic turns, plain no-nos or just more or less acceptable breaks.
Dismember – Massive Killing Capacity
A completely shitty album with overload of Maidenesque melodies and riffs. I don’t like Maiden so you can imagine how much I could appreciate this one. I tried to get over it over and over but I just could not force myself into liking it. A plain 4 here to an album which luckily was the worst spot in their career. Their following album and EPs despite the production I am not entirely satisfied with, are excellent albums so let’s consider this one just a mid career fumble.
Deicide – Once upon the Cross
I already talked about this one, after “Legion” I could see the armies of Hell invading the Earth dimension, and instead we got this tarantella meets Death Metal bag of shit. Static, banal, powerless. 3/10.
Grave – Hating Life
Huge “What the Fuck” when this album was released. I don’t think I have ever found anybody into it and rightly so. “Soulless” was an album I took some time to appreciate and even that one I can’t really compare to “Into the Grave”. Yes, the first album was best, PERIOD. But hey, “Hating Life” is soooo bad ahahah. 2/10.
Morgoth – Feel Sorry for the Fanatics
Sometimes if it looks like shit and sounds like shit, it’s just shit. This album is one of the greatest failures in the genre. Grewe’s vocals are among the best in Death Metal, just have a listen at “The Eternal Fall” to get a sample of what demonic suffering sounds like and yet here they sound like some hippie is singing a grunge radio hit. Everything is bad here, from riffs to artwork. 1/10 is a generous vote.
Afflicted – Dawn of Glory
I read some Power Metal webzine recently re-evaluated this album which was a fist in my guts when I listened to it for the first time. From the sick Afflicted Convulsions demo to this album stands a whole galaxy. I can concede the fact that is not even a Death Metal album anymore. Clean vocals, pompous riffing and all the stuff that made epic power metal a genre on its own is here. Not my cup of tea at all. 4/10.
Disharmonic Orchestra – Pleasuredome
DH is a wild beast to tame and identify. They have one of the greatest grindcore albums of all times in their discography and yet even that one was a strange mix of dissonance and post-pop melodies. While their second album was weird, Pleasuredome completely leaves the punk/grind elements behind and shows up an unadulterated Rock version of the band. I will be a bit blasphemous here but I don’t dislike Pleasuredome, as I don’t dislike any of the albums they released post 2002, starting with “Ahead”. Just consider this is not a Death or Grind album at all.
Xysma – Deluxe
Some kind of parasite infested a lot of the earlier Finnish bands turning their sound into something different with loads of classic 70’s RnR in it. Xysma’s First and Magical was the transition album but still had some elements I could save from the garbage grinder. Deluxe with the best of my intentions has none.
Gorefest – Erase
At first I thought it was a joke. Gorefest sick, grimy sound changed a bit on “False” but that one is still a solid album in my world. “Erase” somehow has a distinct barking going on that someone told me is the singer that changed style. If I want to hear vocals like these my neighborhood has a lot of dogs of different sizes I can ask for a sample, thank you.
Entombed – Woverine Blues
If this one isn’t the greatest musical disappointment of my life it certainly stands in the top 3 podium. I sold it a couple of HOURS after buying it. My friends liked it and I still wonder what they could save in this shitty album. Again, try to convince me the first album was not the best. Every aspect of this album sucks, but the vocals are definitely the absolute worst. It’s like LG is recording his wailing after kicking the corner of a wardrobe with a naked foot. The band never recovered, apparently.
Pestilence – Spheres
So bad, so bad. Death Metal trying to be something it’s not and it’s not supposed to be. I am not a fan of the latest Death but at least those guys definitely knew how to play under the screening of a broader audience. “Spheres” is just pretentious and plainly sounds like shit. I tried to “get it” over and over util I recognized there was nothing to get. Thankfully the band disbanded soon thereafter. I haven’t heard anything of their reunion stuff with proper attention but form what I remember it sounds better than this.
Massacre – Promise
This album just doesn’t work. The problem is structural. Bad riffs put together by the will to make something that sounds modern. Utter failure, not much to add, have a listen to a song on YouTube to save yourself the pain of spending money on the Cd.
Cannibal Corpse – The Bleeding
Thanks Satan Barnes left the band because his vocal style on this album was already borderline. In general this is not a bad album but it has several flaws. First, it comes after “Tomb of the Mutilated” which is the band’s masterpiece. Second, Barnes vocals here are trying to sound clear and that’s a first step in what became Six Feet Under which might be one of the worst Death Metal band that ever existed. I own this album and I’ll keep it but I consider it a black sheep in the cannibals discography. If you want to read more I wrote an article on all the albums not too long ago.
Benediction – The Dreams You Dread
Never been a fan of the band but “Transcend the Rubicon” was a good one as well as all the previous ones. Following a rather insipid Ep this album just crushed all hopes I had. This is Gorefest barking taken to another level. Bau bau bau sings Ingram here for a whole hour. Avoid.
Bathory – Octagon
Bathory is a religion and nobody is supposed to criticize anything Quorthon recorded but come on Octagon is just plain horrible. I can understand completists but keep this album on the shelf. There is some reminiscence of industrial metal chugging here which still baffles me. The guy was a genius and certainly did whatever he wanted but this one was a false step.
Sepultura – Chaos AD
I know I am banal when I say I like the first incarnation of Sepultura, the evil south American reverb monster Sepultura, but I also liked their turn into US Thrash Metal and their swansong that is “Arise” which is a mix of everything they did before. Chaos AD however symbolizes a moment of my life when everybody suddenly begun to listen to Metal, people that basically were into radio music all in a sudden were into Pantera, grunge music and this shitty album. The album is catchy and simple enough that anybody can get into it, as the larger masses of brainless teens did. It’s however not just a matter of turning commercial, it’s the whole album that just doesn’t click. It lacks rage and speed and replaced all that with MTV family friendly alternative appeal. This is one of the albums that gave us NU Metal and Deathcore, remember.
Obituary – World Demise
Not a terrible album, but certainly uninspired. Gone are the skulls and cobwebs and lyrics about blood and Death to be replaced with factories and polluted waters. Meh. I am not sure if it was me that was beginning to get bored but this album sounds terribly watered down. Haven’t heard their reunion stuff yet, except for the ludicrous cartoon. Again it’s not a bad album, you can even buy it but in the 2nd hand bin, but when undecided put “Cause of Death” instead on the player.
Celtic Frost – Cold Lake
There is no point in writing much here. Everybody has heard this one and all mentally sane persons I know still wonder what the fuck happened.
Brutal Truth – Need to Control
Need to Control is a good album I still spin sometimes. I even bought the deluxe version with multiple small vinyl records and the Pink Floyd cover. And yet I had to list it here because it sounds nowhere close to “Extreme Conditions”, which is one of the greatest albums of all times. All of their subsequent releases are in line with “Need to Control” so “Extreme Conditions” remains a single black jewel in their discography, much like “Legion” for Deicide. To be honest, it was impossible to do something as brutal and heavy as their debut so this album is probably the best we could hope for anyway.
Morbid Angel – Domination and Illud Divinum Insanus
Illud Divinum Insanus is probably the worst Death Metal album of 2011 so much so one can barely call it Death Metal even among the countless mediocre recordings we’re surrounded by lately. I won’t even spend words talking about it. But if Illud didn’t exist I would say the weakest link in Morbid Angel discography was “Domination”, I have listened to that album for years trying to get any of the magic of their previous 3 (4?) works and still can’t find any. It’s cold and plain and worse of all there is too much of David Vincent bullshit in the lyrics. Some songs like “Eyes to See” have vocals so bad I could barely recognize the band. I was glad when Vincent was kicked out to be replaced by Tucker as the following album was a good one. Me, I have sold Domination long ago and don’t miss it, it’s the only Morbid Angel album I don’t own (except for the latest but that is not even MA).
Carcass – Heartwork
I am losing friends here but I never completely got into the “new” Carcass even if I recognize a common line in every album except for “Swansong”. It has probably a lot to do more with age records matters than real music criticism but my youth was heavily branded by Carcass and their splatter-gore sound and imagery. I was quite cold when I listened to “Necroticism” but the first solo on “Heartwork” had the sound of betrayal. I am not throwing the Cd out of the window if someone wants to listen to it but Carcass to me is and forever will be shitty sound, gore lyrics and hideous collages made of pathological close ups.
Amorphis – Elegy
Their second album was mellow and bombastic like few others but still Death Metal in some heavily adulterated way. From this point onward I wonder how much pussy and money they have made with their shitty music.
Hypocrisy – Abducted
I think the band was good even if not exceptional, up and to the “Inferior Devoties” Ep. “Fourth Dimension” sounded like Tagtren’s attempt at getting some fat gothic chicks but I think the end result was not too bad. Everything he recorded thereafter is. How mediocre can a Death Metal band sound? Get anything from Elegy onward and you’ll get an answer.
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
I can see the reflection of a huge wooden cross burning just out there in my yard as I write this because people just go nuts when one talks about Death. And yet I have to say I was never impressed by the “new” Death sound that the band developed after “Human”. “Human” is in my opinion the perfect balance of taste, skill, music writing all the while keeping the sound ultra tight and heavy, it’s the ultimate swansong of a band which should have stopped there. The following three albums are just too thin, too scholastic, too perfect and basically just plain. You love them? Fine, but I’ll just stick to the first four (and honestly speaking I am not entirely sold to “Spiritual Healing” either).
There are certainly other bands like Samael, Rotting Chirst, Therion, Terrorizer whose early albums I worshipped that also turned slowly to shit but these are just a couple of ideas to start a new flame ahahah.
Have a happy new year.