Revisiting old favourites and forgotten classics. Some of these posts originally appeared on an old 2015 tumblr blog that never took off.
Sentenced - North From Here (1993)
So what’s not to like here? Twenty-two years after the fact, this is still one of my favourite albums of all time. Hyperthrash riffs straight from the 80s, glorious, heartfelt solos, FATES WARNING-style intricacies for ADHD sufferers… Magnificent galloping tremolos that sum up in just one long note what made second-wave scandinavian death metal vastly superior to any other kind of music in the early to mid-90s. Fuck me, you can even hear the bass lines! And, to boot, more of those “Everyman, I shall guide thee!” spoken narratives that baffled me back then because I thought I was the only one who’d heard of 16th century morality plays. Yes, I was quite snobbish, majoring in english lit and had no girlfriend. 1993, you have a lot to account for.
Listening to the whole album now, it’s amazing how much Taneli Jarva and the boys were on fire. All knobs set to 11, 666 or 1,000,000 because it’s fucking louder than 999,999. Sure, their first demos and “Shadows Of The Past” were awesome slabs of exhuberant, youthful ABHORRENCE-style Finnish heaviness but I must confess “North From Here” and its Wolverine-Blues manly counterpart “Amok” have always been my favourite. Too bad the band became a shadow of its former self later on, when Taneli quit to form the god awful THE BLACK LEAGUE.
SENTENCED! Fret thou shalt not (well, you get the drift). “North From Here” is such an important milestone in the history of Metal that all is forgiven, like taking the wrong road with all the post-“Amok” albums that sounded like cocksucker supremo HIM on downers (nothing wrong witch cocksucking, of course, but please do it in style!) or topping national charts with “The Funeral Album” ten years ago.
Nay, I forgive you, SENTENCED. As we’ve all learned the hard way, growing up is a bitch. All your sins are forgiven, except for making death metal renditions of classic Maiden tunes a cool thing to do in the mid-90s. After all, my friends, there are eldritch abominations not Everyman can forgive.
EPICNESS: 2'32’’ is where we learn DISSECTION is love.
RIP Miika Tenkula (1974-2009)
Pontius Prophet - Rites Of Hatred (1988)
Ever since I first got acquainted with AGENT STEEL, I’ve always been obsessed with John Cyriis. Maybe it’s the haircut, his nasal, quaky New York Ripper vocal delivery or the man’s Sci Fi, messianic-delusional lyrical obsessions I most identify with. Maybe it’s just because everything he’s ever done is so damn good he can pass himself off as some time-honored metal guru and not the greedy twat that he is. Anyway, for what it’s worth, today’s song of the day still means the world to me. I can remember hearing it the first time when this demo reached my tape-trading circle in the early 90s and being blown away. Forget the ridiculous drum patterns and the hissy sound (I seem to be the first one to upload a rip of my own copy onto soulseek at some point in 2003/2004 so maybe what you’re hearing comes from my own tape), just bang your head and listen to the real fucking deal: raw speed metal from the depths of John Cyriis/Father Damien/Max Kobol/Jean-Pierre Camps’ cosmic hell!
The runes have energy! The runes have power!
Agalloch - And the Great Cold Death of the Earth (2002)
Usually, I tend to steer clear of Folk/Viking/Pagan Metal. Come on, who in their right mind wants to listen to Ye Olde Traditional Ballads as sung by grim middle-aged men? Wasting perfectly good electricity while praising the Ole Ways of Yore, indulging themselves with songs about golden meads and ominous hawks and all kinds of large prairie mammals?
Ever since Quorthon went all viking on us, Folk Metal has been more of an acquired taste than anything else, I guess.
So what drew me to Agalloch in the first place? Well, the fucking deer on the cover, idiot! Also, to be honest, I wanted to know how on Earth could a band write a song called “I am the Wooden Doors” and just pretend nothing happened. Hello Mr. Wooden Door! Can I call you Knob?
Here is “And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth” and here’s why you should like it. First it’s got that DEATH IN JUNE/Folk Horror Summerisle element I’ve been digging so much lately (1). Not unsurprisingly, AGALLOCH comes from Portland, Oregon which harbours so many cool crust, activist/fantasy punk and Whitman-touting black metal bands that there may well be somehting lurking in those deep woods after all. No wonder TRAGEDY and FROM ASHES RISE relocated to Portland at some point in order to reinvent themselves.
Arguably, a song such as “And The Great Cold- ah fuck it can I just call it Dead Earth” must be listened to in the dark, preferably with headphones on. You must picture yourself strolling buttnaked in the woods, using antlers for drum sticks (I think that’s what the guys in AGALLOCH do anyway). Find a very warm and comforting fir tree, stroke it, and enjoy the lovely buzz of the Cello. Word of warning: you’ll get used to the little man’s raspy vocals and even start to like the oddball lyrics in a minute (be thankful the little man doesn’t use the words “gaze” and “grand panorama” in the same breath on this one).
See? All that mud on your chest? You’re starting to like the smell of moss, aren’t you? I told you it was going to work! Now grab that dead cow’s skull and let’s go together find the Great God Pan in the forest. Wait? Is that a friggin hawk above our heads? How cool is that? Yeee-haa!
(1) For local colour, please refer to a movie called “The Oregonian” (spare yourself and just watch the insane french trailer, the feature film is a waste of time
Witchcraft - Witchcraft (2004)
OK, Sweden. You win. You’ve always won. Best bands in the world, in every genre, from ABBA to ANTI-CIMEX, CANDLEMASS, HEAVY LOAD, ROXETTE, BATHORY, MARDUK and zillion others. Sweden, you’re the best… and the annoying thing is that you know it. When you decide to do early PENTAGRAM (or VIRGIN DEATH or MACABRE or DEATH ROW, pick your king), you do it better than the originals. Coming out of nowhere (here from the ashes of doom band NORRSKEN which also gave rise to GRAVEYARD), you pop up unexpected onto the scene with a band name so cliché that it actually sounds cool and fresh, you revitalize Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above label along the way and make every doom band of the 2000s sounds old and tired and out of it. That’s Sweden to you, a youthful kick in the balls every five years or so by good-looking young men, better dressed (sometimes even playing better) than the old farts who came before them. Yes, Sweden, you’ve hurt my balls time and time again and you know what? I’ve been loving every minute of it.
The County Medical Examiners - Casper’s Dictum (2007)
Retaining the sense of drama invented from scratch by the forefathers of goregrind, THE COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINERS are the best CARCASS copycats out there: highly infectious ER-style grindcore (allegedly) played by men with actual mustaches and lab coats… Forget the other clones, this is as close to the real deal you will get. By the way, wasn’t someone from EXHUMED involved in this project? Isn’t there always someone from EXHUMED involved in this kind of things? (A quick double check proved me wrong once again: seems Matt Widener from the almighty CRETIN is the true mastermind behind this band.)
Oh, how I wish CARCASS still sounded like this, especially on “Surgical Steel”. Not that it’s a bad comeback album per se but it feels like too much of a potpourri to stir me. Of course, “Olidous Operettas” is also a medley of some sorts, drawing from various CARCASS eras, playing original riffs backwards, alternatively reeking of putrefaction or syphoning sicknesses (beware, CARCASS puns are contagious).
Furthermore, “Olidous” has got one thing, ONE thing CARCASS seem to have forgotten: less than 30 minutes after the first note, it’s already over. Men in white know when to call it quits. Only real doctors know that no human beings are made to take more than 30 minutes of goredrenched grindcore in one go… Or listen to “Surgical Steel” in its entirety, come to think of it.
Supuration - The Cube (1993)
I guess in the early 90s I would have called this ‘Cyber Metal’ or something equally antiquated (after all, in these days and age, bear in mind that movies like this turd were all the rage). Truth be told, in 2015 “The Cube” still is one of the best death metal albums ever made and SUPURATION, France’s #1 death metal band, period. Think back hard, back to 1993. Who was doing it better at that time in France? LOUDBLAST? Puh-leeeaase.MERCYLESS ? Almost, but not quite there yet. MASSACRA or AGRESSOR? Well, yes, but they were already in another thrashier, no-prisoner division. MUTILATED, then? Unfortunately, they’d already split up again by that time if I’m not mistaken.
Nah, SUPURATION were in a league of their own with this one. Mutating from yet another CARCASS clone into a death metal version of VOIVOD that still sounds as awesome now than it did back then. Killer hooks, mixed vocals and clean-cut, glossy production values that befit the overall theme, “The Cube” is a high-end SciFi concept album with a blast radius so deep that it would keep haunting SUPURATION’s career up to this day. Sequels, spin-offs (as SUP), companion pieces… Just like its movie namesake, “The Cube” has taken a life of its own and spurred countless revisions over the years; SUPURATION still trapped in the sphere and playing the whole damn thing over and over. Not that I or anyone else would be complaining, mind you.
Hobbs’ Angel Of Death - Crucifixion (1988)
(NB. This review was written before Peter Hobbs' tragic passing in 2019)
Yesterday I learned two vital things: first and foremost, the definition of “beef curtains” (thanks Shawna!) as mentioned by THE MENTORS in their classic (and classy) song “Herpes Two”.
The second thing I gleaned yesterday (thanks Nico!): not only HOBBS’ ANGEL OF DEATH still exist but also they will be coming over here soon. I remember as a kid standing in admiration of the awesome cover artwork that adorned HOBBS’ debut album. The whole shebang; all things metal rolled into one: invisible oranges, bulletbelt, a mullet to die for, inverted cross, flames of hell, devil’s grin and leather jacket. On par with BULLDOZER’s “The Final Separation” in my top ten best metal artwork. No wonder Australian Metal has always been so uncompromising, from this to SADISTIK EXEKUTION up to the more recent IMPETUOUS RITUAL/PORTAL league of Mad Max extras.
Musically speaking, I wouldn’t say this is the best thrash metal album ever released but it’s done in style and the guitar work is amazing. Plus from what I’ve just seen on YouTube, at 54 Peter Hobbs still has what it takes to crush your enemies’ skulls and hear the lamentations of their women on stage. Going to be a fun gig!
Vektor - Tetrastructural Minds (2011)
I’ve just learned today that one of my favourite current technical thrash bands, VEKTOR, is gearing up for their first european tour ever. If I’m not mistaken, the first time they played in France was at Hellfest ‘13 which I’ve missed because I usually tend to avoid large metal festivals like the plague. Here’s an absolute scorcher from VEKTOR’s second album, probably one of the best songs they’ve ever written. I really love “Black Future”, their debut release, but it sounded so much like later-period DEATH at times that it made me a bit uncomfortable, although not as much as the recent DEATH TO ALL tours which, charity or not, are a definite artistic scam in my (admittedly jaded) eyes. What next? RAMONES TO ALL - the neverending tour? But I digress. “Outer Isolation”, VEKTOR’s second output, is a definite improvement as they seem to be fully coming into their own with this one. Catchy as hell “progressive thrash” (whatever the fuck this means) for the most discerning speedfreaks. Can’t wait to finally catch them on stage.