Formed in 1985, Louisiana’s Exhorder left a brief but lasting impression on a dying thrash scene with their controversial 1990 debut Slaughter in the Vatican and its more mature, but equally impressive 1992 follow-up, The Law (both Roadrunner). Just as thrash was making way for the unplugged introspection and tatty woolly jumpers of grunge, Exhorder arrived in an attempt to revitalise the scene. Continue reading →
After all the noise being made about the giants of Sweden and the USA, it’s about time the Finns got a look in. Although don’t look too closely as you may not escape with your sanity intact after any length of time exposed to Nespithe, the single album by Kuopio’s Demilich, a quartet who decided to take death metal, dissect it in the most painful and morbid ways possible before reassembling it with alien technologies. The riffs and guitar lines make Voïvod sound like AC/DC, so complex, mangled and downright weird are the time signatures. The percussion and bass guitar are restless and almost jazz like, and as for the bizarre, almost burped vocals (recorded with no effects) and long-winded sci-fi themed lyrics, no one apart from the band had any idea what was going on. Too weird to live, Demilich, have reformed and split several times since the release of this thirty-nine minute monument to madness and maybe, just maybe it’s for the best.
diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence Into the Peripheral (Relapse, 1993)
Surely the North of England, with its bleak moors, freezing temperatures and morbid ethos was the perfect setting for doom/death, especially when you take into account the impact of the Peaceville Northern Doom Trinity of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost, right? Well you’d be dead wrong, for the finest example of that genre, then and ever, crawled out of the Australian bush twenty years ago in the form of diSEMBOWELMENT, who with the utterly peerless Transcendence Into the Peripheralmashed death metal and doom together not in some harmonious accord, but more like a berserk Victor Frankenstein drunk on the horror of his own creation. Nightmarish, drawn out doom sections sap your energy and will before rabid grind-speed blasting parts appear out of nowhere to pin you to the wall and spit blood in your face before retreating back into the darkness, while the sinister melodies and tortured moaning vocals do their best to make things even worse. An endurance test that few make to the end of, Transcendence Into the Peripheralproved that location meant jack if you hated yourself enough to begin with.
Thergothon – Stream From the Heavens (Avantgarde, 1994)
Just when you thought that metal couldn’t get any slower or depressive sounding, along came a trio of Finns who had other ideas, all of them in different shades of black. They were known as Thergothon, and with the forty minutes of anguish and drawn-out misery they committed to tape in the beginning of 1994, they not only explored more of the abyss than ever before, but created an entire new genre; funeral doom. Characterised by one-note downstrokes, haunting, ethereal keyboards and vocals alternating between diseased death grunts and stark clean-sung laments, the music captured was so wrist-slashingly bleak it’s no surprise that the band called it a day soon after. The host of imitators spawned was inevitable, but none yet have come close to capturing the barren, disfigured beauty on offer here.
Mysticum – In the Streams of Inferno (Full Moon, 1996)
Black metal was in a tight spot in the late 90s with the old guard past their best and the new school more interested in vampires and bloodsucking than darkness and extremity so thank fuck for bands such as Norway’s Mysticum who decided that the way forward was to look to the future. However, this was a nightmarish, militaristic future of deadly guitar riffs, merciless programming in place of live drums and an aesthetic that was just as grim as anything the Helvete brigade could ever conceive of. In short, Cyber-Black Metal was born, and were it not for the utterly shoddy efforts of the bands that followed in Mysticum’s wake, the black metal landscape would look very different today. Doubt the quality of this recording? Then head over to the band’s website where it’s free for all to hear.
Floodgate – Penalty (Roadrunner, 1996)
If you thought that Down were the only stoner/doom band with a singer recruited from a thrash/groove act that mattered, then you’ve obviously never heard Floodgate, and shame on you. Featuring the mightily refined and recognisable pipes of Exhorder’s Kyle Thomas, Penaltyis a timeless classic that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in rock and metal. The songwriting is stellar, with the effortlessly catchy grooves of ‘Through My Days Into My Nights’ and the loose, flowing rhythms of ‘Shivering’ lodging into your brain for days afterwards. Heavy without being abrasive and always enjoyable, it’s a tragedy and a mystery that Floodgate only ever recorded one album given the talents and resources at their disposal. As it is, we only have Penaltybut it’s a record that keeps on giving and will never let you down, and for that we should be thankful.
As any fool who follows the metal scene can tell you, there’s one hell of a lot of albums out there to listen to. New bands are emerging at an unprecedented rate, the old guard you thought long-dead are reforming quicker than you can say “Greatest Hits Tour” and bands that really should just lay down and die are instead locked into a seemingly never-ending cycle of record/tour/record, regardless of whether their fans have had enough. Grave Digger, Illdisposed and Paganizer have released forty albums between them. Does anyone own any of them? Thought not…
So, what about the bands who released just one full-length before disappearing into obscurity? What impact have these single-figured artists had on our beloved scene? The answer is quite a bit. More than quite a bit, in fact… With that in mind Ghost Cult is proud to present the fifteen essential albums by bands that only gave us one opportunity to hear their wares.
Read on and see if you agree.
Repulsion – Horrified (Necrosis, 1989)
Once regarded as the fastest band in the world, along with being one of the innovators of grindcore along with Napalm Death and Terrorizer, Flint, Michigan trio Repulsion released Horrifiedin 1989 to a largely unsuspecting public. Its light-speed, hideously ugly legacy has endured to this day, with the band still headlining festival stages on the strength of this one 29-minute recording. Featuring some of the most frantic, caustic riffage ever captured, along with suitably sickening lyrics and of course, that iconic goofy zombie on the front cover, Horrifiedis an extreme metal classic that you will never get tired of spinning. If you don’t lose your shit when the riff to ‘Black Breath’ begins you probably aren’t human.
Carnage – Dark Recollections (Necrosis, 1990)
When you think of Swedish Death Metal the obvious names that spring to mind are Entombed, At the Gates and Dismember, but there is one often overlooked act whose contribution to the genre is utterly essential. They were Carnage, five spotty oiks from Stockholm whose sole release Dark Recollectionswas perhaps the purest embodiment of the Sunlight sound that all bands of the genre strived for; buzzsaw guitars, twisted melodies and indecipherable barked lyrics concerning violence and death. Given the whiff of grindcore that imbued the recording it was unsurprising that guitarist Mike Amott soon jumped ship to join Carcass while the rest of the band merged with the remnants of Dismember. However, the spirit of Dark Recollectionswas absorbed into that band, a more than fitting legacy for an album of such macabre excellence.
Winter – Into Darkness (Future Shock, 1990)
Picture if you will, planet Earth devastated by a nuclear holocaust; a grey, rotting visage of sunless skies, obliterated cityscapes and blasted landscapes. Now imagine that some malign sorcery has resurrected the corpses of Celtic Frost to be this ruined world’s own house band, playing endlessly on only for the benefit of the endless piles of corpses that stretch to the blackened horizon. This is what Into Darknessby New York trio Winter sounds like. Arguably one of the most miserable, lifeless recordings of all time, this is a tortuous forty-six minute crawl through wretchedness via the medium of lethargic doom riffs, clattering percussion and gruff, indifferent vocals. You’re not meant to enjoy it and it’s no surprise Winter only managed one EP after committing this monstrosity to tape.
God Macabre – The Winterlong (M.B.R., 1993)
Another Swedish death metal act that lasted all too briefly, that isn’t to say that Vålberg’s God Macabre didn’t have the talent, as anyone who has spent time with the short but sick TheWinterlongwill enthusiastically tell you. Far more morose and bitter sounding than most death metal albums that were being released at that time, their sole release may have only lasted twenty-seven minutes but the songs on offer had ‘timeless’ stamped all over them, blending catchy yet savage riffs with mournful melodies and an innate disgust and horror at life. Recently re-issued with the band reforming last year, now is the time for those unacquainted with this forgotten classic to recognise one of the most important bands in death metal, in Sweden or anywhere.
Disincarnate – Dreams of the Carrion Kind (Roadrunner, 1993)
With death metal already beginning to show signs of creative stagnation in 1993, it took the twisted vision of one of the genre’s most talented and well-travelled soldiers to show that all was not lost and that where there was death there was life. Enter James Murphy, who after stints in Death and Obituary decided to take the lead, which he did with the utterly brilliant Dreams of theCarrion Kindunder the Disincarnate name. If you thought Death had started to sacrifice songwriting in favour of technicality, found Obituary a tad dull and Suffocation a bit too over the top then your prayers were answered, for Murphy somehow managed to filter all the plus points and none of the weaknesses from those aforementioned bands into one of the darkest, endlessly fascinating and still inherently listenable Death Metal albums of all time. Their split was a tragedy that often comes with an excess of talent but news that the band has reformed is a hopeful sign that more people will soon become aware of Dreams of the Carrion Kindand the brilliance of James Murphy.