Demilich –Nespithe (Necropolis, 1993)
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 Peripheral mashed 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 Peripheral proved 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, Penalty is 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 Penalty but it’s a record that keeps on giving and will never let you down, and for that we should be thankful.