overground scene

Once unwanted albums

I started buying metal albums in the mid-1990s, and, at first, the shops that I would turn to were local record stores in my home town in Piraeus, Greece. Then I started exploring the centre of Athens, and the first major stations there were the two Rock City stores (one at Sokratous street, one at Akademias road), Metal Era (at Emanuel Benaki street), the two Metropolis stores (both at Panepistimiou road), and Happening (Charilaou Trikoupi street). In all of those stores, but especially in Metropolis, we used to find rows of unwanted albums on sale that today are highly sought after. These albums were not second-hand, they were all new. I bought many of those albums back then, at a time when the cultural value of vinyl records was in decline. However, given the limited disposable income that I had back then (consisting in a meager weekly allowance by my parents), I also missed out on many great albums. This is a post about some of those vinyl records, each available in large quantities and unwanted. Now, in a different era where the discourse about the cultural value of vinyl has changed, they are exchanged in the global vinyl marketplace for considerable amounts of money.

1. MercilessThe treasures within (1992)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £89. The treasures within was released by Active Records, and Metropolis was literally (not really) giving away copies. Two of the albums in this list are actually from the same record label; for some reason in the mid- to late-nineties these records were sold for next to nothing. It is worth noting that the label went defunct in 1993, so maybe they had huge surpluses which they tried to get rid of. This album cost something between £2-4. I distinctly remember seeing a row of maybe 20 copies of the album every time I would go there, yet I never bought it. I had it on cassette tape back then and I did not particularly like it. Of course, I have regretted not buying it. It is still my least favourite Merciless album, but songs like “Lifeflame“, “The treasures within”, and “Branded by sunlight” are lush.

2. AtheistUnquestionable presence (1991)

Another release of Active Records. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £50. For months on end Metropolis was trying to get rid of this album in the late 1990s. There was a long row of albums at the basement of the shop, and if I remember correctly they were being sold at 2,000 drachmas (around £4). I already owned it by that time, I remember buying it second hand from Monastiraki for around 3,000 drachmas. My impression is that Atheist was kinda forgotten by that point in time, at least in Greece; I don’t remember any mentions in magazines, and even in my network of friends nobody knew them. I was the one who introduced them to our group when, in 1996, I stumbled upon Piece of time at a local record store and bought it because of the sticker which said “Death metal from Florida with a difference. You better believe it”.

3. DeathSymbolic (1995)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £176. This was released by Roadrunner Records, and, around 1997, it was sold for 2,000 drachmas (around £4) in 7+7, one of the most historic record stores in the Monastiraki area of Athens. I bought my copy of Symbolic on vinyl then and there. There must have been more than 10 copies of that album for a long time. It is worth noting that the review of Symbolic on the Greek Metal Hammer was far from dithyrambic. I think it got 8/10, and although I don’t remember the specifics I remember thinking, based on the review, that it must be a mediocre album. 7+7 was the first record store I went to the first time I visited Athens, and the first thing I bought from there was Seasons in the abyss, by Slayer, on CD. Later on I bought one of my first vinyl albums, Xentrix’s Shattered existence. This shop is still around today, but it has transformed over the years. In the mid-nineties it used to have this tiny space way in the back where all the vinyl records used to be. To get there you had to go through a short corridor where the floorboards felt as if they were about to collapse. Back then it felt really mystical and hidden, a place of initiation and discovery.

4. TankardTwo faced (1994)

I fell in love with Tankard back in high school. The first album I got from them was Chemical invasion (1987) during a school trip in Athens, and on the same day I got Benediction’s Subconscious terror (1990). Nowadays, I mainly listen to their homonymous album from 1995, which shares with Two faced the thematic emphasis on anti-authoritarianism and progressive social critique. I thought Two faced, released by Noise International, had some very impressive moments (for example, the awesome anti-nationalist tune “Nation over nation“), but by the time I found it on vinyl my tastes had shifted to death metal, so I never bought it. In hindsight, I wish I had bought it; now I like it more than back then, and the cover art is simply brilliant. Metropolis had many copies of these, not as cheap as the rest of the albums on this list, but not that expensive either. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £44.

5. MessiahPsychomorphia (1991)

I never got into Messiah, although a friend of mine repeatedly tried to initiate me to them by blasting Choir of horrors (1991) when we were young. The only album I ended up buying by them was the Psychomorphia EP, another one in this list released by Noise International, and that was because it was sold for next to nothing at Metropolis. I cannot remember the exact price but, just like all the albums on this list, there was a big batch of this on vinyl and Metropolis would sell it for around a couple of quid. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £17.67. Listening to the title track now makes me think that maybe I should check them out again.

On reviewing albums #2: caught between the dunderhead and the elitist prick

This is the second installment (read the first installment here) in the series of posts that I write to let off steam and make fun of Encyclopaedia Metallum reviewers. I like to think that all different kinds of music have the potential to give pleasure to people, and that whether one enjoys a certain band/artist or not depends on their personal tastes and their desire and capacity to invest time understanding said band/artist. In this blog, I avoid talking about bands I haven’t invested time listening to or trying to understand, or bands that I haven’t found something nice to say about. Even when I acknowledge that a band or an album disappointed me, I make it very clear that it is a subjective opinion rather than a “fact”. One of the things I hate is when album reviewers talk about albums as if they express an “objective fact” or feel that their opinions are representative of audiences’ opinions.

Before I continue, I would like to explain that the reason why I choose to ridicule reviews written by “common fans”, as opposed to more “professional” critics that write for publications such as Metal Hammer, Metal Sucks, All Music, and so on, is not because I think that the latter do not deserve ridicule. If anything all those publications have set the standard in terrible reviewing. And most certainly I do not want to insinuate that because someone’s review has the seal of approval of an official publication it automatically has value. The reason I focus on the reviews of Encyclopaedia Metallum users is simply because I no longer read, and for a long time have not been reading, the reviews of any of the aforementioned publications.

In this post, as opposed to my previous post on reviewing albums, I will not talk about albums that have an overall terrible rating, but rather infuriatingly ridiculous reviews I accidentally came across about albums I consider brilliant. As I demonstrate in the three reviews that follow, through my brief “research” on Encyclopaedia Metallum‘s reviews section, I identify two types of annoying reviewers: the dunderhead, and the elitist prick. Of course, one could always assume that some reviewers are simply trolls, in which case they do their job pretty well!

1. Kataklysm – Temple of knowledge (72% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

This album is a masterpiece, and my favourite death metal album to have ever come out of Canada. Listening to it makes my skin crawl. Although strictly in a musical sense this album is by no means revolutionary, the execution, lyrical themes, and vocals make it an extraordinary death metal artifact. The intensity and absurdity of the pace of the music and vocal performance elevates this album to a league of its own. The music, although overall simplistic, is quite impressive, most musical sentences are extremely inventive (e.g. beginning of “Fathers from the suns”), and the way the band keeps pushing itself to new extremes is unprecedented. Now, on Encyclopaedia Metallum one person gave it a 10% and another 42%. These two reviews are very much representative of the kinds of people who tend to give bad reviews: one, the complete dunderhead with surprising self-confidence, and, two, the elitist prick who makes us feel thankful (or, at least, hopeful) that his/her influence is limited to Encyclopaedia Metallum and not in more significant social fields (education, government, mass media). In this case the dunderhead gave it a 10%, but commenting on that would be taking a cheap shot. So, I move on to the elitist prick who gave it a 42%. His review is laden with the usual elitist tantrums about pseudo-individualisation that would make Theodor Adorno blush, and “profound” insights on the thought processes of audiences (who apparently listen to music in the exact same way as he does). It is indeed ironic how this person, who clearly holds himself and his tastes in extremely high regard, at the same time without a shadow of a doubt proves himself completely ignorant by assuming that everyone engages with culture in a uniform way. He should do the world a favour and hurl himself off the top of the temple of knowledge on which he thinks he is sitting. My rating: 97%

2. At The Gates – Slaughter of the soul (71% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

In the case of ATG’s most popular album we can see the usual suspects spewing diarrhea in written form. Six out of 25 reviews give the album a bad rating. I will not dwell on all of them, instead I will focus on the one reviewer who gave it a 0% and clearly has never experienced joy in his life. I pity the fool. I would go out on a limb and argue that this person is either an arts student or cultural studies student who has done a very basic and uncritical reading of the Frankfurt School’s critiques of mass culture, or some poor soul who has made the phrase “you are what you consume” his modus operandi, and thinks that by consuming culture that is socially legitimated as high he will automatically occupy a much-desired high position in society. Once again we have a review of utter elitist drivel about what is high and what is low art, full of token aphorisms of mass-produced culture, McDonaldisation, and so forth. Maybe by the end of his degree he changed his mind, although if this review is representative of his student work then there’s not much promise for the future. His comment on LaRocque’s astonishing solo on “Cold” is pure blasphemy. If he listened to SOTS, an album that is the result of unbelievable effort and talent, the embodiment of years of experience, and which has had an enduring impact on popular music, and the only thing he had to say is that it is worth nothing, then the only thing I have to say about him is the above. My rating: 100%

3. Atheist – Jupiter (72% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

Atheist’s Jupiter was my favourite album of 2010, alongside Imperial State Electric’s, Desultory’s and Blind Guardian’s albums of that year. Again here I will focus on the prodigy who gave this album a 0%. The person who wrote the review in question informs his readers from the outset that Atheist is “one of [his] first death metal bands”, in a pathetic attempt to invest his opinion with credibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started listening to death metal a month before he typed this review, and, truthful to his claim, at the beginning of that month he listened to Atheist. He goes on and on about how terrible the production is and how this is the major flaw of this album; jeeesus faux-king christ, some albums happen to be badly produced, or one might dislike the production; it happens all the time, get over it and listen to the faux-king album. What about Piece of time (1989) where the kick-drum almost completely drowns out the snare drum in all the fast songs?! After that he gets obsessed with the technicality of the album. I don’t believe I have read “tech” so many times in my life in one piece of writing. Of course, every single word he writes is completely subjective. He simply does not like the album, end of story. Along the way he references a bunch of contemporary bands (The faceless, Suicide silence, Mudvayne) which he implies are shit, but at the same time possesses suspicious reserves of knowledge about them as he compares specific bits of Jupiter to those bands. It’s almost as if he listens to those shitty bands. Almost as if he likes them. Interesting… Anyway, through his review he also plugs a website he is writing for, although this review is hardly an advertisement. This album is brilliant and from the day it came out ’till this very day I worship it (as much as I worship the first and second Atheist albums). If I have one problem with this album is that it is so brilliant that when it ends I’m sad. My rating: 96%

My 10 favourite death metal albums from the United States revisited

A few years ago (2014) I revisited a post I had written in 2008 about my favourite Swedish death metal albums. The time has come to revisit another list I wrote back in 2011, of my favourite death metal albums from the USA. Since 2011 when I wrote that list I have re-evaluated some of the albums I’ve been listening to since the days of my youth. Looking back at this list there are albums that I still consider unique and unprecedentedly fantastic and I still agree that they rightfully belong to my personal “best off” list of US death metal, and some others about which I changed my mind. The ones from that list that I wouldn’t change are the following:

1. Massacre – From beyond (1991)

It could be argued that Massacre’s debut album was a latecomer in the US death metal scene. By 1991 many of the cornerstones of US death metal had already been released, including three albums by Death, two albums by Obituary, and the debut albums by Morbid Angel, Nocturnus, and Atheist. However, Massacre’s debut was not welcomed as a newcomer. Instead, the name Massacre and its members already enjoyed a somewhat cult status by virtue of being associated with Death, Mantas and the first wave of US death metal. In terms of substance, rather than status, the songwriting in this album is astounding and, in my ears, timeless. The logic that underlies these songs is really a lost art; you rarely listen to death metal today that has memorable riffs, vocal patterns and choruses. Kam Lee is, of course, the ultimate death metal vocalist. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Dawn of eternity”, “Chamber of ages“, “From beyond”, “Symbolic immortality“.

2. Death – Symbolic (1995)

I set my own rule to only include one album per band in these “best of” lists. If I didn’t then I would end up with at least three albums by Death. This band reveals in a way what is wrong with lists such as this one. Death is a band that is so diverse, and wonderful in all its different incarnations, that by focusing on one period one neglects masterpieces from another. But I continue to support my choice of Symbolic, not simply because it is the album that opened my mind to unique forms of composition and musical aesthetics, but because it continues to enchant me every time I listen to it, despite listening to it for 22 years. Every single thing on this album, music-wise, lyric-wise, performance-wise, production-wise, is perfect. I still cannot get over Hoglan’s majestic performance, and Chuck, in my opinion, reached his pinnacle arrangement-wise. What can one say about the genius change of pace during the first minute of “Symbolic”, the brilliant layering on the chorus of “Sacred serenity”, the interlude on “Without judgement”, and so on? If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Symbolic”, “1000 eyes“, “Crystal mountain”, “Zero tolerance“.

3. Broken Hope – Grotesque blessings (1999)

I can imagine many, if not most, death metal fans criticising my decision to include this album in a top 10 death metal albums list. I imagine that most people would not consider Broken Hope a band of the highest order, and even if they did I can imagine that they would value other albums more than Grotesque blessings. The latter has indeed been criticised as an unsuccessful departure from their traditional sound. I disagree, as I can trace the origins of the more groovy and technical aspects present in Grotesque back to songs like “Felching vampires” off The bowels of repugnance (1993). Grotesque is simply the next step in the band’s evolution after Loathing (1997) and the steady, gradual increase of Griffin’s influence on the band’s style. From the very first time I listened to it I was enchanted. I remember really looking forward to the release of this album, since Loathing had demolished me (and I consider that one too as an absolute masterpiece, almost as perfect as Grotesque). Buying it upon its release I became obsessed with it, and I still cannot believe how perfect it is. The juxtaposition of Griffin’s surgically precise complex/technical riffing with Wagner’s more rowdy compositions, all coldly and inhumanly executed, has always astounded me. Add in the mix the brilliant and inventive lyrics, and Ptacek’s awe-inspiring voice and you have a masterpiece. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Wolf among sheep“, “Necro-fellatio”, “Christ consumed“, “Earth burner”.

4. Cannibal Corpse – The bleeding (1994)

The bleeding also retains its position as one of USA’s favourite death metal albums of all time. A timeless masterpiece, and the zenith of Cannibal Corpse’s career and whoever disagrees they don’t know what they are talking about. The departure of Bob Russay meant that CC lost its unrefined brutality and unique identity. That was further reinforced by the influences introduced by Rob Barrett and the more technical path the band went down during this period. The result is a much more diverse and accessible Cannibal Corpse, with extremely memorable riffs, clever song structures, and catchy vocal patterns; and of course Scott Burns’s astounding production. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Fucked with a knife“, “Pulverized”, “Staring through the eyes of the dead”, “The pick-axe murders“.

5. Suffocation – Effigy of the forgotten (1991)

In 1991 Suffocation was without a shadow of a doubt the most brutal death metal band. Their unique style of death metal eventually captured the imaginations of many musicians in the years to come, and Frank’s vocals, Mike’s drumming, and Doug’s and Terrance’s guitar playing developed into the blueprint of brutal death metal. In my opinion, all their albums up until the homonymous one from 2006 are fantastic, but the first one is still the best. Every single song is a masterpiece, a non stop riff-fest, with monumental breakdowns and furious grind, and one of the best sounds ever put down on tape. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Liege of inveracity“, “Infecting the crypts”, “Reincremation“, “Mass obliteration”.

6. Deicide – Legion (1992)

Deicide’s sophomore masterpiece is still one of my favourite albums of all time. Deicide in this album is like a freight train about to go off the rails. The intensity with which everyone performs is unprecedented. Benton’s aggression is unequaled, and his lyrics are some of the best he’s written, mostly reflecting the usual anti-christian element, but also alluding to Lovecraft’s terrifying universe. The Hoffmans offer some of their best performances as well – some of the most memorable riffs and solos ever, and Asheim’s drumming is intense and inspired (check out the genius beat of “Holy deception“). If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Satan spawn, the caco-daemon”, “Repent to die“, “Revocate the agitator”, “Behead the prophet“.

The exclusion of the Immolation and Morbid Angel albums from the original list does not mean that I don’t love those albums anymore. It simply means that in the case of those two bands I decided that I prefer other albums from their discography, and I’d rather have on this “best of” list. So, I would like to replace those two albums with the following two:

1. Morbid Angel – Blessed are the sick (1991)

When I wrote the original list I was unsure about including this or Covenant, but I decided upon the latter probably due to the superior production. I’ve always felt uncomfortable about this choice though. Blessed are the sick has superior songs, and took the genre to new unreachable heights. Blessed… is almost an otherworldly experience, and in terms of intensity, I don’t think that any other Morbid Angel ever came close (maybe Altars of madness). If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Fall from grace“, “Brainstorm”, “Day of suffering“, “Unholy blasphemies”; one of a kind songs of pure inspiration, attitude and creative vision that will never be captured again.

2. Immolation – Unholy cult (2002)

The same thing that happened with Morbid Angel in the original list happened with Immolation. Over the years I have kept changing my mind about which Immolation album is my favourite. All of their albums are awesome, but in my opinion they reached perfection during the Failures for gods (1999) and Shadows in the light (2007) period. Unholy cult was, hands down, my favourite album of the year when it came out. It is an album where the band went for a cleaner production, but without losing the power and terrifying atmosphere of the previous albums. I think that this album has the best drum sound they ever had. Each song is a small miracle, unique, inventive and extremely memorable. I simply love how the different layers gradually come together to form one of the most awesome riffs on “Unholy cult” (the one after the chorus), and “Reluctant messiah” might be my all-time favourite Immolation song. An absolute masterpiece. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Reluctant messiah“, “Unholy cult”, “A kingdom divided“, “Sinful nature”.

In the case of Autopsy, although I still love them and especially Mental funeral, right now I feel that I’d rather have any of the albums below.  The same goes for Obituary, who I love, but I prefer other albums much more. So, the two places that have remained unoccupied in my original list could be filled by any of the following four albums, which I present in chronological order. A lot of thinking has gone into the following list, and although I can imagine most people finding my choices strange, these are albums that have stayed with me for many years, and have had a profound impact on my understanding of music, taste, and, of course, lasting enjoyment:

1. Nocturnus – The key (1990)

Nocturnus introduced a new logic of extreme music. It is a band that took me ages to appreciate, although I listened to them back in the mid-late 1990s. Today, and for a few years now, I cannot get used to the sheer perfection of this album. Most songs are complex, orgasmic explosions of creativity, and even a relatively simple song like “BC/AD” is unique, dark and imposing. Also, the impact that this band has on modern death metal often goes unrecognised. If Nocturnus did not shape the sound of Nile, then I don’t know who did (listen to the first minute – and beyond – of “Standing in blood” and tell me that Nile did not shamelessly copy every single aspect of it!). Another one of death metal’s most inspired bands, Sinister, has also clearly been influenced by Nocturnus (compare the main vocal pattern of “Lake of fire” to the chorus of Sinister’s “Sacramental carnage”; the second riff of “Droid sector” is pure Sinister). If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Throne of fire”, “Standing in blood”, “Droid sector“, “Neolithic”.

2. Atheist – Unquestionable presence (1991)

I have thought a lot about which Atheist album should be included in this list. I bought their debut in 1996 without knowing the band, after reading the sticker on the cover that announced “Death metal from Florida with a difference, you better believe it”. I probably got Unquestionable presence a year later, and at first I didn’t think it was amazing. It took me a few years to appreciate its awesomeness. Today I cannot listen to this album without getting chills down my spine from beginning to end. It is not very often that an album not simply does not get old, but also that it reveals new things to the listener every time they listen to it. Not that Piece of time (and even Jupiter) does not have the same effect, but this one is something else. Atheist is pure death metal, more so than most other bands that are widely considered death metal. Atheist, especially on this album, truly broke with all conventions of thrash by mixing up intensity and aggression with unorthodox tempos, dozens of different styles of riffing and melody. This is death metal. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “An incarnation’s dream”, “And the psychic saw“, “The formative years“, “Your life’s retribution”.

3. Monstrosity – Millennium (1996)

When I bought this album sometime in 1997, it was my first contact with Monstrosity, and by that time I already knew Fisher from Cannibal Corpse’s Vile (1996). The level of musicianship on Millennium was unheard of at that time. Of course there were other technical death metal bands, but bands that played technical music on this high level and maintained an equally high level of brutality were few and far between. Lee Harrison’s drumming on this album remains one of the most inspired I have ever heard. Hear him shine as he artfully orchestrates “Dream messiah” and “Devious instinct”. Jason Morgan instantly established himself as a guitar god in my consciousness (unfortunately, as far as I know he didn’t do anything worthwhile after this album – I own the first Wynjara album and I don’t like it at all). Fisher gives one of his absolutely top performances on this album. What can anyone say about the pure brilliance of this album? The manic riffing and genius musical narratives on “Devious instinct”, “Fatal millennium” and “Dream Messiah”? The creepy atmosphere and ultra-massive break of “Fragments of resolution”? The grinding “Slaves and masters”?  If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “Devious instinct“, “Fatal millennium”, “Manic“, “Dream Messiah”.

4. Nile – Black seeds of vengeance (2000)

When I listened to Amongst the catacombs… in 1999 I could not believe my ears. When Black seeds... came out I was a first day buyer. Nile, in my opinion, reached the pinnacle of their development with this album. It’s hard to think of a more majestic death metal album than Black seeds. A truly ambitious album in terms of orchestration and composition. A song like “The black flame” holds a unique position in the death metal genre. Derek Roddy wrote the absolute Nile drums which defined their style since. Kolias might be a machine but apart from precision he did not offer one single thing to the character of this band. Roddy’s drumming on this album is one of the best of its kind and can stand proudly next to the work of Gods of the genre such as Sandoval and Smith. If I were forced to choose the four best songs I would say: “The black flame”, “Masturbating the war god“, “Multitude of foes“, “To dream of Ur”. It’s worth noting that on the dark Lovecraftian masterpiece “To dream of Ur” Nile’s original drummer Pete Hammoura plays the drums.

Back to the grave

Over the last decade a large number of death metal bands that I consider important have reformed – or come back to death, if you will – and released albums after many years of absence, including Atheist, Asphyx, At The Gates, Autopsy, Broken Hope, Brutal Truth, Carcass, Desultory, Gorefest, Massacre, Obituary, Pestilence, Morgoth, and Suffocation. While I found some of these comebacks to be disappointing (Pestilence, Asphyx, Massacre) most were brilliant.


Re-united At The Gates.

Suffocation‘s comeback album (Souls to deny, 2004) might be my favorite album by this indisputably perfect and influential brutal death metal monster. The song structures, breakdowns, riffs, vocal delivery are just insane (check out the eponymous song). The production is also flawless and “real-sounding”, as opposed to their last two albums where the sound went from plastic to horribly overproduced. Gorefest returned to death with an album (La muerte, 2005, check out the massive and melancholic “You could make me kill“) that leveled me and made me crave for more. It’s a shame they folded again after Rise to power (2008). Obituary‘s comeback (Frozen in time, 2005) made me happy back in the day, since it reminded me a lot of my favorite Obituary album (that is, The end complete, 1992). I have slightly gotten less excited about it over time. Brutal Truth‘s comeback (Evolution through revolution, 2009) is another example of a fierce and full-on comeback. It is as if not one day had passed since their last grind offering more than a decade earlier and, in my books, it is every bit as perfect as Need to control (check out “Fist in mouth” and treat yourselves to some grindcore insanity – that change at 1:03 is sublime).


Re-united Atheist, in a picture reminiscent of their second album.

Atheist‘s comeback album (Jupiter, 2010) impressed me when it came out five years ago and still to this day I consider it a flawless old-school technical death metal masterpiece. In this album one can find clever and imaginative lyrics, interesting arrangements and variety in songwriting (check out “Live and live again“). Autopsy‘s comeback E.P (The tomb within, 2010, check out “Seven skulls“) and all albums since have been great, yet I never considered it a real comeback, as the Autopsy legacy lived on in Abscess. Desultory‘s comeback album (Counting our scars, 2011) is also brilliant and just keeps sounding better with time. It probably is my favorite album from them; I still cannot get used to songs like “This broken halo“, “Leeching life“, “Dead ends” and “Uneven numbers“. Broken Hope‘s comeback offering (Omen of disease, 2013) has also left a lasting impression on me. I thought it would be very difficult for the band to recapture the brilliance of their old albums, especially with Brian not being part of the reunion and Joe no longer being with us. However, the band with Jeremy and Shaun at the helm managed to offer an awesome album (check out the brilliant “Docking dead“).


Re-united Carcass.

Carcass‘s brilliant comeback album (Surgical steel, 2013) has been widely accepted as a masterpiece. As I have discussed in more detail here, it is an album that respects the huge Carcass legacy by sticking to the compositional canon that Carcass invented, without regurgitating their past. It is an album that both musically and lyrically gives what only a handful of bands manage to do: impress, cultivate, entertain, and influence. At the Gates‘ comeback album (At war with reality, 2014) is still fresh but I have listened to it enough times to be able to have a full-formed opinion about it; albeit non-comparable to their back-catalogue I consider it an awesome album full of great ideas (check out the brilliant “The head of the hydra“).

After all these awesome comebacks that happened, I imagine, for various reasons (nostalgia, creative need, friendship, habit, fame and money?), the question is “who next?”. Dismember disbanded four years ago. Although Dismember used to be my all time favorite death metal band, near the end I thought that they gave all they had to give. The last few records, although I did like them, were quite repetitive and felt a bit forced. There were a few brilliant ideas here and there, usually coming from Fred Estby (“Bleeding over“, “Chasing the serpent“, “Blood for paradise“, “Feel the darkness“) and David Blomqvist (“Questionable ethics“, “Combat fatigue“), but all in all, their main influences (Autopsy and Iron Maiden) tended to take over instead of being woven in their style, like in the early albums. Moreover, Karki’s obsession with war and militarism (especially the nazis) started to feel awkward and I would hate to see such a seminal band associated with fascism. Although a part of me wants Dismember to reunite, another part of me does not. Today, David, Fred and Christian are focusing their energy in The Dagger. Carbonized used to be one of the most brutal ambassadors of Swedish death metal. Their demos were a brutal mix of death and Grindcore. Their first album, a true masterpiece, also flirted with some weird dissonant melodies which they took further with their sophomore album. How cool would it be if Carbonized got back together and tried out some crazy death stuff! Of course, it would be extremely difficult to get Johnsson off his high horse. Comecon is another band from the 1990s which I love. Their leftist politics combined with a very unique musical style used to appeal to me in a big way. However, given that the core of the band (Pelle and Rasmus) have not done anything musical for two decades now, and since they never had a large following, I wouldn’t expect them to reform. Massacra is one of my all-time favorite bands and Signs of the decline (1992) will always be one of the most excellent albums of all time. Although I found their last two albums at best mediocre, I would love to see whether they have thirst for death metal and what they can do with it. Of course Fred is no longer with us, which I imagine makes things much more difficult. The last time I heard Jean-Mark Tristani’s name was on Dismember’s Hate Campaign promotional copy – he was the representative of the distribution company in France, or something like that. I wouldn’t mind if the Laws of the scourge (1992) era Sarcofago got back together with the desire to play some genre-defying death metal. For a while there were rumors that Unseen Terror would re-unite. Their debut and other demo songs provided the blueprint for grinding death metal, and Human error (1987) was only a powerful production away from being the definitive masterpiece of grindcore. However, given that post-Enemy Napalm Death resemble a lot old Unseen Terror, a modern Unseen Terror would sound like modern Napalm Death , so maybe there is no real need for a reunion. The band that I would love to see getting back together is Pungent Stench. Hopefully someday their un-released album from 2007 will see the light of day.

Now treat yourselves to a playlist of bands that have gone back to the grave:

Best music moments from 2010

Once more it’s this time of the year when I get to review what kind of music 2010 had to offer. I have the feeling that 2010 has been relativelly less exciting for me than 2009 was. 2009 was a year of monumental releases which included Paradise Lost’s “faith divides us’, Slayer’s “world painted blood”, Napalm Death’s “Time waits for no slave” and Heaven and Hell’s “The devil you know”. Bad religion‘s 2010 album was a surprise to me, since it is the first ever BR album which I disliked! Neither Immolation nor Unleashed, Grave or Misery Index amazed me. Motorhead once again disappointed me. Although Maiden‘s new album has 3-4  songs I really like (e.g. The talisman, Where the wild wind blows, The man who would be king) I find it boring overall (apparently since Smith has returned I cannot listen to any of the songs he composes). Anyway, here are my favorite musical moments of 2010:

1. Atheist – Jupiter

Atheist’s comeback album has been a pleasant surprise. It restored my faith in death metal’s ability to be intelligent, exciting and out-of-vogue. A release which is perfect to its last detail. Imaginative melodies, orchestration, lyrics, execution and cover painting. Every song is an invitation to a unique experience. It really feels great that there are still artists out there able to make your skin crawl. In a scene where Schuldiner no longer exists, were Immolation have not presented something innovative since 2002, Broken Hope have disbanded since 2000, it is not a hyperbole to say that Atheist is the last remaining pillar of American death metal. “Live and live again” may be the song of the year.

2. Imperial State Electric – s/t

imperialstateelectric_st_cdNicke Andersson’s new band is, as I expected it to be, awesome. Lighter than even the more recent Hellacopters moments, this album is a masterpiece. Quite diverse songs with bridges and choruses that stick to your head and never leave. Songs that scream out Beatles, like “resign” and “I’ll let you down” are breath taking. “Lee Anne” is an instant classic whose post-chorus melodies resonate (in my ears) with Andersson’s compatriots ABBA. “Throwing stones” reminds of the Detroit scene. Kiss riffing is naturally all over the place. Playing is more than excellent but not exaggerated and the production is perfect. Goddammit I love this man.

3. Desultory – Counting our scars

Desultory - Counting Our ScarsDesultory’s Bitterness album has always been a favorite among my old friends from high school. While I consider melancholic melodies and soulful vocals to be trademarks of the swedish death scene, few come close to doing them as good as Desultory. Although in recent years there have definitely been some monumental swedish death songs (e.g. christ all fucking mighty by Death Breath, combat fatigue by Dismember, and others) it’s been quite some time since I heard a masterpiece like “This broken Halo”. Overall it is an amazing album sounding something between Into Eternity and Bitterness (with a few american touches, like in “Ready to bleed” which reminds of Deicide). Slow songs like the beautiful “the moment is gone” or “leeching life“, remind of times when Sweden was ruling the musical world. Johnsson’s simple but intense drumming, which contributes to Desultory’s trademark sound alongside Morberg’s unique vocals,  is present once more and maybe more powerful than ever. The lyrics of “the moment is gone” strike me as ironic, since they are sang by a band that reformed after 14 years to play the death metal of its youth… But realising that the moment is gone is enough for Desultory to be sad and write music to express that emotion.

4. Blind Guardian – At the edge of time

Blind Guardian never disappoint! It appears their dedication to playing good music combined with inexhaustible creativity has paid off again. Moreover, I think it is in order to argue that A. Olbrich and H. Kursch constitute the most exciting partnership in metal music.  Blind Guardian’s unique music is a manifestation of this chemistry. The new album is less complicated than the two previous albums, in the sense that the songs are more straightforward with fewer changes. There are a few fast moments with songs like, “A voice in the dark”, “Tanelorn” and “Ride into obsession” but nothing like the raging first half of the 1990s. My personal favorite song is “Control the divine” which has a perfect chorus and mindbogglingly beautiful music. Well words are never enough to describe the perfection of Blind Guardian so I’ll just stop here.

5. Necronaut – s/t

Fred Estby’s comeback album is a brilliant but awkward album. The reason for this awkwardness is its musical diversity which prevents the album from being categorised in one genre or the other. I personally think that Estby committed commercial suicide by creating an album in which he composed music that he liked, without planning a consistent and conventional direction for the album. Having said that, the songs on this album are awesome! The introduction is an Autopsy-like song which puts the listener in a swampy early american death metal mood. The follow up is a punky swedish death metal song on which vocals are provided by the extremely talented Drette of Edge of Sanity fame. It also sounds like something Dismember would have written around their Massive killing capacity era.  One of the best moments of the album is the Autopsy sounding “Infecting madness” sung by Reifert himself. Really amazing monolithic riffs and amazing vocals! The two best songs in this album are however the two Sabbath/Candlemass/ Bathory sounding songs “After the Void” and  “the Tower of death”. On both songs music is exciting and heavy beyond belief. Andersson’s vocals on the Tower are awesome and so are Nillson’s on After the Void. As I listen to After the void, I can’t help imagining what it would be like if Matti was singing on it! “Returning to kill the light” is another great blackened-death metal song which would stand out in any album from bands like Nifelheim or Necrophobic. I am really intrigued to see how this experience will affect the direction of Estby’s musical future.

music to send you into orbit!
November 18, 2010, 12:02 am
Filed under: brutal memoirs, death metal | Tags: , ,

I accidentally discovered Atheist in 1996 returning home after an english exam. I asked my dad to stop the car while passing by a record store near my old neighborhood. We got in and I checked out the records, mainly old thrash and heavy albums like Paradox, Rage, Maiden etc. Among these albums I came across an lp I had never seen before with a white sticker saying “Death metal from Florida with a difference, you better believe it” or something like that. So I asked my dad for money and bought it.

In 1996 Atheist were long defunct already. A few years ago (2006) I had the chance to see them perform live in their reunion tour in Athens and was briliant. I didn’t really expect them to write new music. And here I am today with their new album spinning on my turntable. Expectations are not usually high with bands that reform after many years of silence. The fact that death metal nowadays is more popular than ever is another factor that makes me question the true intentions of bands. However, there was something very honest about their live appearance which made me wonder what they would come up with. It is true that death metal is very popular and that if there is a time for someone playing death metal to succeed  it is now. It is true that death metal is repeating itself and lacks abrasiveness, non-conformity and intellect. It is also true that Atheist created one of the best death metal albums of the last decade. I have to admit that most of contemporary death metal I listen to is very predictable. That is definetely not the case with the new Atheist album. The strange thing is that it does not really have a different approach from their past albums! The explanation I give is that they created a very sustainable style of music back in the day, very personal which was copied both by small and established bands alike (e.g. Death!). This style allows them to explore different territories without losing their character. So their new album has the classic Atheist sound without, however, being predictable. I get goosebumps listening to songs like “Tortoise the Titan” or “Live and Live again”, from how catchy yet innovative these melodies and arrangements are! There are no words to describe songs like the pre-mentioned, or “Faux king christ”. Trying to single out best songs is really difficult though. Every song is simply perfect and capable of mobilising emotions, thoughts and travel you to places were you would not go. There is not one mediocre moment in this album and the more one listens to it more of its dimensions unfold. The artwork is also amazing and the poster that came with the album is already on my wall. This is art.