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Fight Fire with Fire: ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ vs. ‘Seven Churches’

Fight Fire with Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

Today we’re looking back at albums that were released about a year and a half apart but are still spiritual and sonic brethren, as they are both foundations of early death metal: Possessed’s Seven Churches from 1985 and Death’s Scream Bloody Gore from 1987.

With Seven Churches, Possessed took the most frantic of thrash metal and brought it to new levels of extremity, creating a game-changer album filled with wild energy and a consistently high level of boundary-pushing speed and mayhem. Then, Death took that sound and refined it with Scream Bloody Gore, making things heavier while also more mature and really paving the way for the death metal of today.

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that we really, really like both these albums. But we also really, really wanted to sit down with both and figure out which one is straight-up the better album. Get ready for the ultimate proto-DM showdown in today’s Fight Fire with Fire.

Possessed – Seven Churches

The early seeds of death metal were planted with Possessed’s 1985 debut Seven Churches, and what glorious seeds they are, this album absolutely a document of total chaos. It was the next step beyond thrash, and looking back on it now it’s hard to believe this came out in 1985; the heaviest of Slayer or Venom only hinted at what was on Seven Churches. Here, vocalist/bassist Jeff Becerra and his crew laid down next-level extremity.

“The Exorcist” starts this one off perfectly, those riffs haunting and just downright weird, while “Pentagram” continues with more great guitar work and frantic energy. “Burning In Hell” takes Slayer circa Hell Awaits and ramps up everything; “Evil Warriors” brings evilpunk to proto DM places but mainly is just early Teutonic thrash madness done to perfection.

The title track is Venom chaos with razor-wire thrash, while “Satan’s Curse” starts off the second half of the album with a great thrash/death tempo and atmosphere. “Twisted Minds” bops along and is almost… happy sounding for the first bit, that is until the awesome heads-down blackthrash riffing comes to save the day in what turns out to be a very accomplished piece of songwriting, one that hints at more than just all the speed all the time.

“Death Metal” ends it all off with what is basically the genre’s anthem, even if we kinda always remember the song title more than the actual song itself. But, of course, the song is awesome, another blinders-on race to the finish, the album, sure, lacking in many shades or hues, but totally killing it with absolute determination.

The production on this record is great—the songs have the rawness they deserve, and they can breathe just enough, even if it’s all one big blur. None of the playing stands out in particular, but together the members make a magnificent din, and there’s tons of great riffs here.

There’s a lot of youthful chaos on this album, which can go far, but a year and a half later, Death came along to prove that death metal was about to grow up.

Death – Scream Bloody Gore

Few bands are held in as high regard in our circles as Death. And for good reason, tons of good reasons, and they all start here, Scream Bloody Gore, the band’s quote-mark-happy 1987 debut, where Chuck Schuldiner begins the Death legacy. Seven Churches could be called the first death metal album, but Scream Bloody Gore could be called the first album that actually sounds like death metal.

“Infernal Death” opens things up expertly, the band immediately turning heads and dropping jaws with this sound, a bass-heavy mid-to-fast tempo attack that was heftier than Possessed in terms of pure heaviness but scaled back the sprint to the finish. “Zombie Ritual” mauls with this single-minded, blinders-on approach that will serve death metal well over the years, while “Denial of Life” has some groove and a brisk, almost fun feel to its gallop.

“Sacrificial” has fun double bass-led riffs and a double-time early DM stomp, while “Regurgitated Guts” shows the band’s skills at both mid-paced and frantic death. “Baptized in Blood” ups the mania with a bit of hysteria, showing the album has no interest in slowing down at this point, instead rather going faster and faster.

Scream Bloody Gore starts strong, stays strong and, yup, ends strong, with “Torn to Pieces” raging forth, “Evil Dead” being a complete classic, as well as the album’s best experimentation with a bit of melody, and the title track closing things off with one of the record’s most well-rounded songs, offering a slight glimpse into the songwriting mastery that would come on future albums.

All the playing—done almost entirely by Schuldiner, with fellow legend Chris Reifert on drums—is fantastic here, but I’ve always felt that things were a bit too stiff, and that could come down to production, the sound of which I never warmed up to (but bear in mind I’m the guy who, much to my editor’s chagrin, not that long ago criticized’s Heartwork‘s production as being too stiff, and I’m standing by that; buy me a beer and we can argue about it further).

This album has more of a focus on songs than Seven Churches does; it’s more accomplished and shows greater strides toward the advancement of death metal as a whole and as a genre to be taken seriously. But is that enough to take down Seven Churches‘ malevolent maelstrom?

—-

Whenever I begin one of these, my mind immediately gets ahead of me and declares a winner. It’s interesting, because after living with the albums more than usual for a few weeks I often end up choosing the other album as the better of the two. Not sure what that all says about me, but I can tell you that this time around I immediately thought Death would take home the win but today our horns all point to Possessed and Seven Churches masterpiece as the champ.

With an energy to it that just can not be contained and a level of restraint that… well, no, there’s no restraint, there’s just total sonic destruction that still sounds amazing all these years later. And it still sounds fresh, and it still sounds dangerous. Seven Churches standing tall as the ultimate early-DM cornerstone, one that shall never be forgotten, its youthful chaos never getting old, its groundbreaking forward-thinking nothing but sincere, its ability to get heads banging never once wavering all these brutal years later.

The post Fight Fire with Fire: ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ vs. ‘Seven Churches’ appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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Hall of Fame Countdown: Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”

No one really saw it coming, but in 1990, Judas Priest cut the crap and released a no-frills metal album that bordered on thrash at times, had—if we may use some food references—minimal cheese or fat and pretty much everyone agreed was a rager.

The album was Painkiller, it ruled then and it rules now, which is why our own Adem Tepedelen inducted it into our Hall of Fame in our January issue. Today, we take a look at each song on the album and rank them from worst to best.

10. Battle Hymn

56 seconds of slow-burn guitar work; it’s cool enough, but where else is it going to go but at the bottom of our list? Works okay in the context of the album, though.

9. One Shot at Glory

The album ends off with one of its weakest tracks, “One Shot at Glory” taking way too long to really get anywhere, although the guitar work is, naturally, great, and the drum performance, naturally, airtight. The players were absolutely on point on this record, and every song is worthy, this one just beats around the bush a bit too long, even if Halford’s Paul-Stanley-meets-The-Chipmunks vox are absurdly awesome.

8. Metal Meltdown

It’s wild how this album is just banger after banger, “Metal Meltdown” a double-bass-led air-siren attack on the senses at the album’s midpoint. The chorus is a touch hokey, and the “metal meltdown” chant at the end only half works, but those verses? Forget it. Pure metal glory. The intro guitar solo would just be stupid elsewhere, but here, Priest, unbelievably, make it work.

7. Between the Hammer and the Anvil

I always sort of want to like this song more than I do, because I just love that title. And while it places relatively low on our list today, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this, the band honing in on everything that worked so well for them at this time, such as killer choruses and a streamlined and focused mid-to-fast tempo that doesn’t try to thrash too hard but also avoids becoming a trad metal trope. Fist-pumping riffs? Of course. Killer Priest melodies? You bet. Simply another life anthem on an album full of ’em? Horns up.

6. Hell Patrol

This wildly dependable and sturdy mid-paced anthem is pretty awesome, if not slightly comfortable, the band settling in and hammering it out, a nice change of pace after the red-hot mania of the opening title track. “Hell Patrol” hits the melodies perfectly, Priest laying down a very enjoyable razor-wire metal slice and dice here.

5. Night Crawler

This song inches higher up the list some days due to its chorus vocal line alone, Halford totally nailing the melodies in a subtle and spooky sense, the guitar solo a rare lesson in restraint on this very unrestrained record, everything here riding the perfect Priest pace to another victory. The riffing in the chorus reminds me of hearing my older brother listen to Priest records in the ’80s, but here delivered with a more modern metallic sensibility. Glorious.

4. All Guns Blazing

Alright, the vocal intro is a bit absurd, but it fits with the go-go-nowgo! attitude that the band was flying loud and proud at this unlikely point in their career, so, sure. Here, the chorus kicks a whole lotta butt, and the verses just fly past in metallic glory, the band settling in the perfect mid-to-fast tempo that they had nailed down incredibly hard at this time, and still do to this day.

3. A Touch of Evil

Yes, it’s a bit of an outlier on the album, “A Touch of Evil”’s slower groove and synth flourishes definitely hinting at an album or two previous to Painkiller, but, man, I love this song. Great verse, and then the chorus takes it up a notch to total glory. And among the album’s full-throttle ragers, it’s great to have this one for a bit of fun breathing room. Works better in the context of the album as opposed to listening on its own, but it’s a hell of a moody banger either way.

2. Leather Rebel

This song takes all of Priest’s old motifs—lyrical and musical—and filters them through the Painkiller-era molten metal with great success: the chorus is huge and memorable, but the attitude is still enormous, the band not getting fluffy at all here on this most shining metallic of tracks. Nowhere near as talked-about as the title track, but it’s right up there for pure Priest perfection.

1. Painkiller

So, to the surprise of absolutely no one, here we have sitting at the top of the pack a total classic metal banger, an anthem for every day of our lives, just total victory set to music. “Painkiller” is heavy but still fun, something that Priest have had a hard time pulling off ever since this album. But, man, turn this one up, from that ridiculously good drum intro to the for-the-ages chorus. “Painkiller” is a classic, a Priest re-energized, and a song that encapsulates all that is great about heavy metal.

The post Hall of Fame Countdown: Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Mic Dion of Altered Dead

Victoria, BC-based grimy death duo Altered Dead recently dropped their second full-length, the gruesomely fantastic Returned to Life, on Memento Mori. To celebrate the release of this death metal album most foul, we caught up with guitarist/bassist/vocalist Mic Dion to find out what five heavy albums changed his life.

“As this is top five albums, I feel I’ve left some bands out that are important to me to mention,” says Dion. “Obviously, the genre I play wouldn’t be where it is without bands like Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Unleashed, Grave, Gorefest, Exhumed and so many more. So, thank you for creating some of my favourite albums to date!”

Metallica – Kill ’em All (1983)
When I think of records that changed my life, I think of Metallica, Kill ’em All. I received this on cassette one Christmas from my brother Marc as a gift when I was 8 or 9. I remember opening it up and seeing that hammer with the blood and that logo, and my eyes went wide. I had never owned a metal album at this point. I opened it up and tossed it into my Walkman; I must’ve listened to it on repeat for the entire day. This record opened the doors to my search for heavier and heavier records, later finding Venom then Bathory, which sounded a lot like Kill ’em All to me… I wonder why? I was learning guitar/bass by ear at this time and it was one of the first albums I tackled when starting out. It was a ton of fun to figure out. Definitely a good gateway band for me.

Minor Threat – Complete Discography (1989)
I really got into this band in high school. I had heard more mainstream punk at the time, but this had an extreme sense of urgency and passion to its music and lyrics that I didn’t feel the other bands lived up to (just one jerk’s opinion). To me, it had a clear message and direction. The song structures were beyond three-chord punk and were more imaginative than its predecessors. It was all the things a kid could want. My friend Ross and I would get together in his basement and rip this album, Black Flag, Misfits, etc. We wrote a bunch of punk/metal music, and that was really my first experience working on writing music with someone else. Another gateway band I think a lot of people have had the joys of experiencing.

Sepultura – Schizophrenia (1987)
I was obsessed with this band growing up. It was the perfect mix of metal, thrash and punk. The album artwork on the first five records are so eye-catching, and that’s why and how I found them. Ripping through the used bins at the local record shops was always a good time. I’d found Arise and Chaos A.D., later Beneath the Remains and Morbid/Bestial; each one had their own style but it was Schizophrenia that was the most elusive to my collection. At the time, it was out of print and no shop could order it in; the internet was in its infancy so even finding digital was a no-go. I eventually came across this innocent-looking music shop in a small town, the type of place that looked like it carried the top 40s. I had time to kill and decided to check it out with my friend. Lo and behold, under the used S section, there it was. It completed my collection… My friend and I went back to his truck and put it on. What a ferocious album—it instantly connected Morbid Visions and Beneath the Remains; the raspy vocals added that extra layer that set this album apart from the others to me. This was a major influence on me, for sure.

Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)
Well, it was 3 am and it was well past my bedtime, but staying up to catch LOUD on MuchMusic was what I did at that age. Again, internet wasn’t really a thing everyone had, but LOUD was 30 minutes of metal videos, [and they] would play some pretty underground stuff at that time, like Gorefest, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Ancient, etc, but when they introduced me to Emperor, that was a game-changer for me. The video of “The Loss and Curse of Reverence” put a spotlight on black metal. I had to find Emperor. When I did, I found a copy of In the Nightside Eclipse; it was on another level from bands I heard in the past, completely new to me. It was haunting and dripping with atmosphere, the duality of the guitars and the dissonance created—I was hooked. This album takes you places, and really showed me there was a lot more to the metal genre than the thrash and death metal I had known!

Brutal Truth – Need to Control (1994)
This was the first Brutal Truth album I had ever heard. It had so much to take in when I first listened to it that I had to listen to it a second time immediately after the first play. I didn’t even realize I was listening to grind at the time. I thought bands like Brutal Truth, Assück, Napalm Death, etc., was just death metal with higher vocals thrown into the mix. I was waaay off. This band showed me that you could fuse punk/death metal/doom so seamlessly and perfectly, and that music did in fact get more extreme than I had previously imagined. Grind is definitely a must if you ever liked punk or death metal. The structures and flow on this album will stay with me forever.

The post Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Mic Dion of Altered Dead appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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They Were the Storm: Five Times The Dillinger Escape Plan Knocked Us On Our Asses

This might seem a bit out of the blue, but here’s the thing: The Dillinger Escape Plan were one of the most groundbreaking, forward-thinking bands in extreme music history, and although they’re certainly far from forgotten, sometimes I wonder why I can walk down the road, grab five random strangers by the shoulders and scream the band’s name in their face, and they have no idea what I’m talking about. (Pro tip: never do this.) So, just because they were the kings of face-melting technical metalcore and we never want anyone to forget it, we thought it was time to take a look at five of the most jaw-dropping moments in the band’s catalogue.

Presented here in chronological order are five times The Dillinger Escape Plan totally killed it, totally shattered expectations, totally knocked us on our asses.

1: 0:00 to 0:44 of “The Mullet Burden”
Sure, there was a more or less forgotten debut EP from 1997, but The Dillinger Escape Plan truly found themselves with 1998 EP Under the Running Board, and our introduction to it was “The Mullet Burden,” arguably (see #2) the band’s most classic cut. And is there anything more balls-to-the-wall frantic and shocking than the first 44 seconds of this song? From the can’t-quite-air-drum-to-it blasting to the sampled scream that etched its way into all our memories, the first part of “The Mullet Burden” will go down in extreme music history as a game-changer, 44 seconds that made us all stop dead in our tracks and just listen, jaws dropped, adrenaline pumping, excitement building as to where this band was about to take extreme music.

2: 0:00 to 0:23 of “43% Burnt”
Then they went and did it again with “43% Burnt,” the other track that stands in competition as the band’s defining moment. Taken from their debut full-length, 1999’s Calculating Infinity, the song was more of a warning than a teaser of what was to come, and the first 23 seconds of it were nothing short of a revelation. After the surprising suckerpunch of the tech-sludge opening, the metalcore-on-speed riff that came next, which sounded like the cogs of a machine getting tangled in themselves on warp speed, was pure audio innovation, the band bringing in the next level of metalcore right at the genre’s peak.

3: 2:07 to 3:35 of “Sunshine the Werewolf”
Now, those first two were paradigm-shifting moments of absolute boundary pushing in extreme music, and I loved every second of them the day they came out, and still do today. But to me, what really made DEP reach the realm of legends was their second full-length, 2004’s astounding Miss Machine. Here, the band suddenly ventured into the danger zone of the melodic, but never left behind the chaos they established with previous releases. But with then-new vocalist Greg Puciato behind the mic, something even more exciting happened as the band channeled batshit bonkers Faith No More anti-radio radio rock with beyond-tech metalcore. And when the build-up that starts at 2:07 in “Sunshine the Werewolf” begins, you’re sucked into this strange and fascinating world until it spits you out at 3:35, anxious to see where the band will take this newfound sense of extremity within melody next.

4: 1:04 to 1:52 of “Unretrofied”
What you didn’t expect was that later in the same album, they’d take things here. “Unretrofied” is a one-of-a-kind funky groove chill electro-metalcore… What sweet hell is this song? I still have no idea, but it’s incredible, the bizarre left turn that the band’s whole career up to this point had been leading to, placed as the second-to-last song on Miss Machine, and the section from 1:04 to 1:52, with the fantastic verse and soaring chorus, is untouchable. In a world far better than one any of us have ever known, this is a hit single and the band went on to headline stadiums throughout the rest of their destructive time with us. “Unretrofied” is unreal, Puciato’s vocals incredibly on point, the band playing things shockingly restrained to great impact, Dillinger Escape Plan pulling off with glory what could have been horrifying garbage.

5: 1:13 to 1:28 of “Black Bubblegum”
For their next album, 2007’s fantastic Ire Works, the band perfected the sound they created with Miss Machine. “Black Bubblegum” is a great example of this, and the brief section from 1:13 to 1:28 is a perfect, head-shaker of a build-up as the band, again, harnesses their inner Faith No More but adds more slivery shards and antagonistic prickles hiding behind the deceptively pretty melodies. On its own, the section doesn’t sound like much, but placed in the greater context of the song, of the discography, it’s a perfect summation of what they were going for at this point. Like “Unretrofied,” this song has all the makings for enormity in a world that can appreciate such groundbreaking sounds. And, you know, our world could, kinda, as the band went on to achieve greater success than any of us ever would have thought when those first 44 seconds of “The Mullet Burden” destroyed our earholes all those years earlier. Still, in a perfect world, The Dillinger Escape Plan topped all charts and destroyed stadiums, songs like “Black Bubblegum” echoing in the air; here on planet Earth those in the know simply nod in reverence to one of the greats, the beautiful chaos gone but never forgotten.

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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with James Beveridge of Portrayal of Guilt

What does Daughters’ Hell Songs and System of a Down’s self-titled record have in common? More than you might think: they’re just two of the five albums that changed Portrayal of Guilt drummer James Beveridge’s life.

Read on to find out what sounds influenced the man behind the kit on Portrayal of Guilt’s new album, We Are Always Alone, which drops tomorrow on Closed Casket Activities.

Slipknot – Iowa (2001)
Not much I can say about this album that hasn’t been said already, but this was probably the number-one game-changer for me. Heavy, dark, tortured music that appealed to the mainstream somehow and got countless people like myself into metal. Joey Jordison’s drumming on this record was the singular reason I begged my dad to buy me a double kick pedal and start pursuing “extreme” drumming in the first year or two of playing. Even though I ultimately ended up switching back to a single kick years later, the ideas/concepts have stuck with me. I literally had to unlearn the fills from this record because I couldn’t stop playing them in all the bands I was in. Anyway… amazing record.

Daughters – Hell Songs (2006)
Swarm of insect-like guitar riffs, dizzying drum patterns, seemingly random song structures with Elvis Presley-style vocals to top it off. This record is perfect to me. There’s still nothing like it, in my opinion. I have vivid memories of listening to the first track over and over again at full volume on the bus ride to school, secretly hoping that other kids would hear it and think, “Damn, this guy is into crazy shit.” This is a record that I still listen to all the time and it never gets old.

System of a Down – System of a Down (1998)
System of a Down is another one of those bands that got a ton of kids into metal just because of how popular Toxicity was, and although I like that record a lot, this is the one that really got me hooked on them as a child. I took two guitar lessons when I was maybe 9 or 10 and the first day I learned the “Enter Sandman” riff. That same day he tried to teach me a riff from “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin and I was not having it. The poor guy told me to just print out a guitar tab from something I wanted to play so I chose “Sugar,” the big single from this album (also incredibly easy to play for a beginner, as it turns out). That was my introduction to the world of guitar tabs, and, because it was so easy, I decided I didn’t need lessons anymore and I never went back. Turns out not every band can make a sick song out of simple riffs like that. Big mistake on my end, I guess.

The Sawtooth Grin – CuddleMonster (2004)
To me, this album is the epitome of “dangerous music.” Total MySpace-era scene grind but it for sure was on another level compared to similar bands at the time. The first song I heard was the last track on this record, called “Good Touch Bad Touch 123,” a more or less mellow, vibey track with a pseudo-dissonant but mostly pretty-sounding guitar riff played over a standard kick, snare, hi-hat beat that just repeats for a while and then fades out. Not at all a representation of the band/this record’s sound. Upon discovering what they actually sounded like, I was shocked. The music made absolutely no sense to me at the time, but I knew that I loved it just because of how abrasive it was. I got back into this record later on down the line after developing a better understanding of music and I love it now more than I did then, for sure.

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Calculating Infinity (1999)
Obviously the godfathers of “mathcore” or whatever you’d like to call it. This one set the still-unachievable standard for drummers like me who want to push heavy music to the next level. Chris Pennie is a one of a kind player who essentially invented a new kind of bomb blast on this record. You know the one… Alternating singles between the kick and snare while accenting the china to align with or just complement sporadic guitar riffs/patterns. Haven’t found the right moment to throw it into a Portrayal of Guilt track, but one of these days I’m gonna bust it out. “Sugar Coated Sour” is my favorite track off this release, but nothing beats hearing those first hits on “43% Burnt” and feeling like someone’s about to come around the corner and beat your ass.

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Primitive Origins: Crushed Butler’s ‘Uncrushed’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

Uncrushed is a short and sweet collection of tunes that serves as the main recorded documentation of British punk/proto-metal band Crushed Butler, a definitely forgotten trio that never recorded a proper record. What we’re left with is this, a seven-song collection that features two versions of one (not good) song, the band basically leaving us with an EP’s worth of songs that are decidedly more proto-punk than proto-metal, but still with enough crashing and bashing to investigate here. The band existed from 1969 to 1971, a brief blip during an important time, and haven’t left us with much. Let’s dive in to see if it’s worth digging up.

Things start off promising, with “It’s My Life” being rockin’ and rowdy enough, although the guitar work presents itself as early rock and roll more than anything heavier, despite the spirit and energy being pretty solid early Detroit punk. Brings to mind fellow Primitive Origins inductees Gedo and their rockin’ tune “Scent,” which is a very good reference point to have, and to start a record with. I’m listening.

“Factory Grime” just kinda promises Sabbath with its title, and, sure, the riffs here aren’t too far off from early sludge heaviness, but the song itself leans more punk than metal, even if those are basically early stoner riffs to die for, and the high-strung go-go-go drum performance is fantastic. I can get behind this one pretty hard, the riffs alone being reason to check in at least momentarily.

“Love Is All Around Me” is a bit more restrained and neutered than the first two tracks, this one definitely a pitch for success with that cloying chorus. It’s fun to listen to the maniac drummer try to hold back, but that’s about it. Apparently, this is the song the label was excited about, compared to what the band was pumped on: the much heavier, and better, “Factory Grime.”

“My Son’s Alive” brings back the fire with a memorable stomping guitar line and some unrestrained vocals. It’s all well and good, kinda forgettable but also not without some great guitar licks in there. Not the best of the bunch, but certainly not the worst, this one bops along pleasantly enough when it’s spinning, the crashing, raw production actually working just fine, thank you very much, and some of those near-growling vocals are pretty proto-metal.

“Love Fighter” is awesome, a dirge that goes deep into the sounds of decades past while also foreshadowing some extreme doom and sludge sounds. Not for the faint of heart as the ’70s rolled around, no doubt. Love that opening dirge of a riff, and the band just hammers things hard throughout this one, creating the sort of sound that would have Rise Above Records staffers drooling at the doomy water cooler. This song and the first two on this release are the trio of tunes that Decibel readers would be most interested in.

“High School Dropout” is atrocious, a sloppy drunk-uncle take on old-time rock and roll, like when The Replacements get loaded and we have to sit through it. Even more unfortunately, we get two versions of it here, ending off this release with a pretty ugly whimper.

There’s a reason this band is forgotten to time, and it’s not bad luck. It’s that only about half of these seven songs are noteworthy. Heck, you’re in lockdown and have nothing else to do with your time, might as well check it out for yourself and see if this one crushes you or not. It’s probably not going to change your life, but it’s a cool little document of a band that rocked pretty hard for their time, laid down a few minutes of heavier-than-most proto-doom in one song, and rocked pretty hard in two, maybe two and a half, others.

Crushed Butler’s Uncrushed – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No.

Heaviness factor: Not incredibly heavy but enough frantic proto-punk energy to appease the longhairs.

Obscura Triviuma: Changed their name to Tiger after 1971, but you haven’t heard of them either. Drummer Darryl Read recorded with Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the results of which are documented on the 1999 Freshly Dug release.

Other albums: This is all she wrote. There’s an “It’s My Life” 7” but both songs are here, and Uncrushed has seen various issues.

Related bands: The Hammersmith Gorillas, Aardvark, Freddy Robinson.

Alright, fine, if you must: A couple beers is all you need.

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Fight Fire with Fire: ‘Left Hand Path’ vs. ‘Like an Everflowing Stream’

Fight Fire with Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

The first Fight Fire with Fire was a showdown of classic melodic death metal, with Carcass’ Heartwork taking the win over At the Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul. Today we go back to more death metal, with a Swedish showdown of the highest order, pitting off two legendary debut albums.

Entombed‘s Left Hand Path dropped in 1990 and announced loud and proud that Swedish death metal had arrived; Dismember‘s Like an Everflowing Stream was released the following year and, it could be argued, sharpened the sound to a finer point.

These albums are both classic death metal and deserve tons of respect; they’re records that helped usher in a much-beloved splinter genre of DM. It’s all here: the melodies, the catchiness, the chainsaw guitars. But whose chainsaw cuts hardest? Whose Boss HM-2 gave us the most, uh, boss HM album… uh, forget it, read on to find out which of these two classics is a cut above. A cut made by chainsaws, of course.

Entombed – Left Hand Path

Fills me with joy just hearing the words: Left Hand Path. It’s the perfect early Swedish DM distillation; with their debut, Entombed put it all together and laid down for the world an incredible statement of intent.

The album opens with the title track, and I tend to forget how epic this one actually is, the band taking 6:38 to guide us on a journey through the catacombs, through the underground, through the outrageous guitar tone into a whole exciting new world of extremity. Love the drawn-out solo, and the sense of atmosphere lulls us into a bit of peace before “Drowned” comes along and just tears everything apart, the band working mid-tempo and double kicks to create a stunning and memorable slice of DM.

“Revel in Flesh” brings barbaric blasts, and “When Life Has Ceased” is an excellent example of peak early Swedish DM, with catchy riffs and a brisk yet battering pace.

“Bitter Loss” anchors the album’s final third with a wildly catchy vocal hook and riffs to remember. It’s one of the classic cuts on this album, one of those songs that has a chorus that ends up in your head even if you haven’t spun the album in half a year, which speaks to the songwriting skills on display here, shockingly good so early in the band’s career.

“But Life Goes On” is, in my mind, the classic, with a perfectly written chorus (vocal hooks!), an early suggestion at how death metal can indeed use rock structures and still be completely intense. I’ll never, ever tire of hearing the chorus of this song.

“Abnormally Deceased” and “The Truth Beyond” (and, sure, “Carnal Leftovers” and “Premature Autopsy” if we’re gonna go with the CD bonus tracks) end things off with style and ease, the band just laying down well-crafted song after well-crafted song.

Finding complaints is pushing it, but I suppose there’s not a lot of ebbs and flows here, but we didn’t really come to Swedish death metal in 1990 for subtlety, did we?

Entombed excelled on Left Hand Path in a lot of different ways: it’s trailblazing, it has tons of atmosphere—even the raging parts take the listener places beyond just a total beatdown—and it has killer songwriting placed within an extreme metal framework. And some of these points Entombed really don’t get enough credit for. For my money, the band ramped it all up a notch next time out on Clandestine, but for today’s purposes, Left Hand Path is as perfect a Swedish death metal album as there was in 1990.

Then, one year later, Dismember dropped their debut.

Dismember – Like an Everflowing Stream

Dismember have a slight advantage here, having had a bit more time to perfect the Swedish sound, and the first thing that comes through when cranking this one up is the production is more crisp and inviting than Left Hand Path‘s more primitive take on the sonics. And, man, does the mighty “Override of the Overture” ever take full advantage of that, the production wrapping up the glory-ride middle section and the chainsaw workshops alike, and “Bleed for Me” just keeps things going, the band not stopping for a minute to breathe, even though the album suggests a refinement over Entombed’s glorious din from a year prior.

“Dismembered” works on the atmospherics that Entombed’s debut also did so well before going batshit crazy, while “In Death’s Sleep” goes low and slow, the band showing some power in the spaces, not so much giving us respite as finding new ways to kill.

There’s just great song after great song throughout this album, the band playing with some killer trad metal melodies in “In Death’s Sleep,” the song showcasing some fantastic guitar work both rhythm and lead, and showing some sounds Entombed hadn’t explored on their debut.

“Defective Decay” flirts with gore-grind as it brings the album to a very brutal close, reminding us that this is still completely extreme, even if the slight hints of maturity (and that delicate album title) might have lulled us into thinking this was going to be a bit less heavy than Entombed’s take on the genre from the year before. But it’s not at all: it has all the heaviness and a bit more sophistication, this one not sounding so much like the work of realm-exploring teenagers as it does, well, maybe, like, slightly older teenagers taking a template and absolutely nailing it.

However, the songs aren’t as memorable as the ones found on Left Hand Path, and it lacks that genuine creepy feeling that Entombed’s record manages to hold on to even all these years later. For two records that, really, sound so similar, they sure take you different places. Like an Everflowing Stream feels slightly classier, slightly more nuanced than Left Hand Path, but we’re talking slightly, like… really slightly. All the players in Dismember are fantastic here, the guitar work in particular being a highlight, the band hitting the melodies hard but never cloying, still maintaining an intense atmosphere.

Dismember laid down some incredible Swedish death metal on their debut, the album being pretty hard to fault unless you’re taking a magnifying glass to it. The same can be said for Entombed’s debut. So, the question is, which of our Swedish heroes does it better?

 

Even more than a lot of our Fight Fire battles, this one is a close call. Stripping away context and forgetting about what happened in the years after the records is key when you’re just sitting with two albums and trying to figure out, straight up, which one is better. And I’m glad that’s how it’s done, because everything that Entombed did post-Left Hand Path has been extremely confusing and distracting, but today nothing can distract me from the fact that Left Hand Path is the winner of our Swedish DM showdown, for its total brutality, for its trailblazing, for its utterly devious atmosphere. Left Hand Path is the exciting sound of young men exploring and creating new forms of extremity, yet it still sounds invigorating and well-crafted today. If we had a golden chainsaw kicking around (which, surprisingly, we don’t), today it would belong to Entombed for their timeless work on Left Hand Path, the Swedish death metal album to rule them all.

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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Doug Moore of Pyrrhon

Doug Moore knows a thing or two about extreme metal vocals: after all, the man sings for noise-metal racketeers Pyrrhon (whose Abscess Time from last June is still bending minds) and DM heavy hitters Glorious Depravity, whose most recent album, Ageless Violence, dropped on November 27. I mean, then there are his other bands: doom/deathsters Weeping Sores, black/death trio Seputus… I’m not really sure how he had time to deal with our request to spout off for a while about the five heavy albums that changed his life, but here we are.

“A lot of the albums that make up my primal metal influences are super famous, and nobody needs to hear how great Master of Puppets and Covenant are again,” says Moore. “Here are a few slightly less obvious albums that changed the way I think about life and music.”

Nile – Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000)

Black Seeds isn’t the first death metal album that really captured me, or the one that influenced my own shit the most, but it’s the one that drove home how big of a role death metal was going to play in my life. When I first came across it around age 15, I considered it more or less a joke. And like so much death metal, it is pretty absurd in many ways: Derek Roddy’s strobing blasts; Karl and Dallas’s mile-a-minute tandem gurgles; Bob Moore’s murky, fecal production; the dorky lyrical theme and accompanying exoticist musical dressing; and especially the insane song titles. During my first month in possession of Black Seeds of Vengeance, I would often play snippets of it for friends or read out titles like “Libation Unto the Shades Who Lurk in the Shadows of the Temple of Anhur” to get laughs out of them. But before long, playing it for friends as a joke on occasion became listening to it on my own all the time, because as it turns out, Nile rips extremely hard. Black Seeds taught me that the absurdity of death metal is a feature, not a bug. Even today, I consider it a good sign when a new DM album can make me laugh.

Human Remains – Using Sickness as a Hero (1996)

Not long after my come-to-Satan moment with Nile, I blind-bought the 2002 Relapse reissue of the Human Remains discography, mostly because I had started getting into some other Dave Witte bands and thought he was a cool drummer. I wasn’t ready for the scuzziness of the early material on the comp yet, but Using Sickness as a Hero blew me away. Even in the early ’00s, when metal/hardcore hybrids had become commonplace, there was really nothing quite like Human Remains around. They had no respect for the supposedly important distinctions between various types of extreme underground guitar music, and plainly only cared about fucking you up. But they were playful about it, too; they’d flip from Looney Tunes guitar noises to blasts and back within a span of a few seconds. Using Sickness is only 17 minutes long, but it showed me that it’s better not to care about other people’s ideas regarding what music should be. For such a brutal album, it feels incredibly free and explorative—qualities that a lot of self-serious metal chuds didn’t appreciate then and still don’t today. But as the sample from “Human” puts it: well, who gives a fuck what you think?

Slint – Spiderland (1991)

I think I first came across Spiderland via a passing mention in a review of Calculating Infinity, of all places, circa 2002 or 2003. At the time, the only thing I cared about was finding the next heaviest thing out there. Spiderland stopped me in my tracks anyway. It wasn’t fast or loud, but it was clearly heavy in some eerie, intimate way that I had never encountered before. The music seemed to have emerged whole from the mind of some ruminating shut-in, a hermit somehow projecting himself into the limbs and throats of the four puckish kids adrift on the album jacket. The fact that the band had dissolved messily after recording such a masterpiece, leaving their promise unfulfilled, thickened the air of mystery and tragedy around it. More than any other album, Spiderland taught me that the nebulous musical quality of “heaviness”—perhaps better thought of as intensity or severity—doesn’t necessarily depend on loud volumes or rhythmic density. Quiet expressions of anguish can crush just as easily as any kill riff.

Cursed – II (2005)

Near the end of high school, I started to realize that my musical future lay in vocals (as I sucked at guitar and drums, despite my best efforts). Compelling lyrics are pretty thin on the ground in metal and hardcore, so the handful of sharp lyricists I came across at the time seemed like gods to me. My own later efforts probably owe the most to Chris Colohan’s lyrics on this album. Unlike the shallow sloganeering of most overtly political heavy music, Colohan’s bitter tales of humans being ground to pulp in post-industrial Toronto seemed to capture something profound about the way political evil works in the everyday life: as a creeping background process that sets the terms for reality without clearly announcing itself. I was particularly struck by the way he would creatively repurpose commonplace, clichéd phrases to show how sinister they really are—a trick I have ripped off many times. And as good as Colohan is as a singer and writer on this album, the band is right there with him. II should be considered a top-10 metallic hardcore classic. I remember going for a lot of lonely runs at night while listening to this album back then, and feeling that something was following me, just out of view.

Anaal Nathrakh – Eschaton (2006)

I had been a fan of Anaal Nathrakh for a bit when this album came out, so it didn’t feel like as much of an epochal encounter when I first heard it as the rest of the albums on this list did. Nonetheless, it inspired me to go all-out as a vocalist and push my instrument to its limits in a way that no other album has. Dave Hunt was a monster on the Anaal Nathrakh and Mistress releases prior to Eschaton, but on this album he absolutely took over, dominating in about seven different registers and outshining a set of Mick Kenney instrumentals that are themselves unfairly stacked. As wild as Hunt’s performance gets, it’s clear that he put a ton of thought into his arrangements, which often make it sound like there’s a whole gang of DH clones screeching at you. (You can tell that there’s a nerd spewing all that venom by sourcing nearly all of this album’s song titles and audible lyrics to various hifalutin’ intellectual sources.) A great deal of extreme metal—even the good stuff!—treats vocals as an afterthought to the main event; this monument to ambition and athleticism in the vocal department sounded like a call to arms for me.

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King’s Resurrection: Can You Identify the Mystery Song Puzzling the Metal World?

We realize you’re busy with the holidays and all, but scrap all that immediately: We have a massive metal task for you, faithful longhairs. You must help Sirius XM DJ, Bazillion Points head honcho and friend of Decibel Ian Christe figure out the perplexing mystery of a 33-year-old metal song.

It all started when Sirius XM listener Armador Thrash sent Christe, who hosts the excellent Roots show on Sirius, a tweet asking if he could identify a particularly raging old-school power metal song (Helstar is probably the best point of sonic reference) that he had taped off of Z Rock radio back in 1987 outside of Chicago. Christe could not, but started asking around on his radio show and social media.

But shit got kinda weird when a 2009 post on The Metal Archives was uncovered and revealed that an entirely different person, who goes by the username sled1025, had at that point attempted to ID this song, also using a recording from the radio from way back then. That search yielded no results.

Z Rock DJ Mike Paine, who hosted a demo show on that station, has been contacted but does not remember the song. Members of Redd Barron (one of the bands that people were suggesting this might be), Jag Panzer and Helstar have denied it is their bands. It’s also apparently not Kinetic Dissent, another band whose name has come up a few times during the hundreds of comments about this song on Christe’s posts and on message boards from around the world. Will Palmer of Angel Witch and the organizers of the Keep It True fest, among other metal musicians, experts and journalists have all sounded off on the song, but no one has been able to identify it.

The best sleuthing yet was by an eagle-eyed commenter who found a copyright notice for a song called “King’s Fall” by Bernard Cavazos (which lines up with the lyrics), from 1987, and who noticed that a Sylvia Cavazos was a program director at a Houston radio station at the time; Bernard’s copyright originated from Houston. (Decibel contacted Sylvia for this story, and while she says she does not know Bernard she said she would ask some old DJ friends if anyone remembers the song. We also contacted a Bernard Cavazos from Houston on Facebook, but he says he wasn’t involved in our mystery song.)

“As far as why this song appeals to me, well, that’s an easy question,” says Thrash (not his real name). “It fuckin’ kicks ass [laughs]. I was 14 when I recorded this song off the radio. It was just one of those songs that stood out. This song captures a time of musical discovery and excitement for me. As I got older, I became a hoarder of music. Albums, cassettes, CDs, MP3s… File sharing opened the floodgates to all this old obscure metal that I missed back in the day. Most of the songs I taped off of Z Rock I was able to find and identify through file sharing. This song, though, still eluded me. I thought I had a breakthrough when I found that post in The Metal Archives forum but it didn’t go anywhere. It definitely was a surprise to see that someone else was looking for this song, too.”

“For me, the quest has uncovered or rediscovered tons of great records by Eldritch Rite, Quick Change, Kinetic Dissent, Blackmayne, Karion and dozens of others,” says Christe. “So the search itself has been totally fun. The serious big-picture message is that if all the metal muftis of the world can’t identify a song, there’s lots of room for adventure in discovering hidden metal records—and plenty of room for new metal experts and documentation of this music. Seeing how people’s brains try to deduce the origins of this band has been really inspiring.”

For Thrash, the journey has solidified his beliefs about the worldwide brotherhood of heavy metal.

“This is an exclusive club,” he says. “You don’t chose metal… it chooses you. Unlike other genres, the music lives on throughout the years, rarely sounding dated. This whole thing has taught me that the spirit of the metalhead is alive and well. Lost songs from the past can find new life many years down the road by a whole new generation. This is one huge family. No matter where you’re at… no matter what age you are… you can be at the grocery store, mall, doctor’s office… it doesn’t matter. You see that person wearing that metal shirt and it’s like you’ve known each other for years. I once was pulled over for speeding and the officer let me go with a warning. Who knew that wearing an Angel Witch T-shirt would get me off the hook? [laughs]”

The mystery song features strong playing, good songwriting and an above-average guitar solo, putting the band firmly in the second tier of American power metal. Lots of commenters have pointed out that it sounds Texan, and I would agree with that, although I wouldn’t put Los Angeles out of the running either. The song is easily good enough to sit in the top third of any Metal Massacre compilation of the era.

It’s probably not a song that got released on a label of any note or it would have been identified by now. But the sound quality is decent, so we’re looking at maybe a smaller compilation or even a private pressing or promo-only release, or, at the very least, a demo by a band who were putting a not insignificant amount of time and money into the project.

The song has been getting lots of attention, with Dee Snider retweeting one of Thrash’s tweets about it and Divebomb Records saying in a Facebook comment that they’d reissue a demos collection from this mysterious band if they can be located. (Divebomb confirmed to Decibel that they indeed will do this.)

So, come on, metal detectives and life-long longhairs: show us what you’re made of. Listen to the song below and, if you have any ideas on who it is, hit me up at gregpratt@shaw.ca and I’ll make sure Christe and Thrash get the info.

The king is dead. Long live the king. You know what to do. Let’s solve this.

The post King’s Resurrection: Can You Identify the Mystery Song Puzzling the Metal World? appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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Decibel Apple Music playlists to keep bringing the noise in 2021

Whoa, that was a crap year. It’s pretty much universally agreed upon that, thanks to COVID-19, 2020 sucked. But because you need some good stuff to look forward to, we at Decibel Enterprises Inc. persevered, and we’re going to continue bringing you all the noise in 2021. And part of that noise are our playlists at Apple Music.

Twice a week, we bring you a new themed playlist to help pass the time, whether you’re locked down, kinda locked down or back scrubbing the toilets at work.

Once a month, we have a playlist with the bands in our new issue; we usually also devote a playlist to our cover star and deep-dive into their history.

When a band has a new album coming out (or sometimes just at random), we sometimes hit them up to guest curate a playlist for us, like we did this year with members of Fuck the Facts, Dropdead, Brave the Cold, Oceans of Slumber, 16, Hirax, ACxDC, Lamb of God, Vader, and others.

Daniel Lake, author of our latest book, USBM, guest curated a playlist for us this year, as did Martin Popoff, author of a trilogy of books about Rush, and Decibel’s Shawn Macomber, who guest curated a 17-song Bang Tango (!) playlist, which ties in to Macomber’s excellent Gasping for Hair column on our site.

Our playlists tie in to other stories on our site, as well: a playlist with the five albums that changed Corporate Death of Macabre’s life, or Shane Embury of Napalm Death’s life, for example.

We did a series of playlists spotlighting the albums in our Decibel Hall of Fame Anthology: Volume III book this year, and, of course, we always take time to make a spooky playlist for that most metal of holidays, Halloween.

Sometimes we take a moment to honour our fallen comrades, like we did this year with Riley Gale of Power Trip, Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity, Sean Reinert of Cynic/Death, Sean Malone of Cynic, Neil Peart of Rush and Jason Rainey of Sacred Reich. RIP, brothers.

We counted down the top 100 metal albums of the decade, the top 40 of 1995, and the top 40 of 2020, as well. We even had a member of the mighty Mare make a playlist of the best tracks from both Use Your Illusion records.

Don’t blow it: follow us on Twitter to catch the new playlists as they’re sent out on Mondays and Thursdays, or head here to check out an archive of all the playlists mentioned above and many more.

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