Grotesque – Incantation
Genre: Death / Black
Out of all the Swedish death metal bands in the early ‘90s, Grotesque was likely the odd one out, as their brand incorporated a heap of elements from the rising black metal scene. The songs on this EP can go from a classic death metal riff to a tremolo picked black metal one in a flash. These transitions, although abrupt, do manage to flow together naturally. The drums follow the same pattern, sometimes going from a slow churning beat to a ruthless blasting section in only a second. The vocals typically maintain a blackened shriek, although they dip a tad lower at times. At the time this style was highly innovative and it’s disheartening to say that the band’s contrasting, abrasive output on this EP was the last thing they did together.
“Blood Runs from the Altar” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UckDQ047-8M
Inquisition – Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan
One of the most unique black metal bands to exist is Washington’s Inquisition. There is simply no other band with vocals resembling Dagon’s. Upon first listen, they may seem awkward and out of place, but if given a chance you will realize how perfectly they fit in, as unusual as they may be. This uncanny style transmits and almost supernatural vibe to the listener and entrances them deeper into the music. The songs are varied, with only a few focusing on blistering speed and the others remaining in a prolonged slower pace, winding through bizarre passages with hypnotic riffs and a couple of astounding solos. This is an album that will be rewarding to those who spend time attempting to comprehend it.
“Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItG2mRLcnjc
Katharsis – 666
Founded in Germany in 1994, Katharsis did not release a full length until approximately six years later. Sounding much like the second wave bands, they have forged a ravaging piece of material, often compared to Darkthrone’s masterpiece, Under a Funeral Moon
. This iniquitous album is hateful and vicious, full of savage riffs, blasting drums, and heinous screams. To the untrained ear this could very well pass as a mid ‘90s release, with its rough production and primitive structure.
“Thy Horror” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj-IXgfrL9U
Koldbrann – Nekrotisk Inkvisition
Along with Beastcraft, Koldbrann was another addition to the so-called third wave of black metal. The lyrics are exclusively in Norwegian, which gives a nice feel to the album. They attempt to replicate the ‘90s sound, but they keep it fresh by changing up the formula a bit. The riffs tend to change and build upon each other throughout the songs, instead of centering around a couple of repeating riffs. Secondly, the drums are quite varied, with continually evolving beats and interesting use of the cymbals. There is only a sparse helping of blast beats to be found. Essentially, Koldbrann has kept the fundamental elements of their black metal while breathing new life into it.
“Korpus Sepsis” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYw0r4PCIw4
Merciless – The Awakening
Genre: Death / Thrash
While so many bands in Sweden focused on creating a crunchy guitar tone and thick production, Merciless deviated in the opposite direction. Combining chaotic German thrash with early death metal, Merciless wrote an absolutely timeless record. Abrasive could be a word to describe it, but it’s just so much more than that. These are the type of riffs that melt the skin off your face and leave you on the floor bleeding profusely, yet strangely enthralled by what you have experienced. Unbelievably, there’s not a dull one to be found here. Each one builds upon the predecessor with seamless transitions leading into the following ones. The ripping vocals only amplify the intensity. They are more concentrated on the early death metal style, but are delivered at a rapid pace, much like those found on Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill
. The drums are adept and never feel overly complicated, augmenting the music perfectly, which is ideal for an album like this, where the riffs are clearly the driving force. Lastly, production gives this album an absolutely tormenting sound. The instruments are powerful and the vocals sound menacing, while not sounding excessively clean. This is one of those very few albums I would dare to call flawless.
“Bestial Death” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5BNTnMcJFI
Morbid Saint – Spectrum of Death
Genre: Thrash / Death
On the other side of the pond we have our own stellar death thrash band, who released this killer album. From the opening riff of “Lock up Your Children”, you can tell you’re in for a hell of a ride. Morbid Saint amps up the pace here, writing fleeting riffs supplemented with a shot of Methamphetamine. These furious riffs are accompanied by rigorous drumming and psychotic screams that could easily revive the dead from their underground confines. Two of the songs, “Assassin” and “Scars”, clock in at seven minutes long, and to some people this might concerning, but I assure you they are just as powerful as the rest of the songs on the album. They are still loaded with the explosive riffs and solos that make this album such a masterpiece.
“Lock up Your Children” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGx_lkJsCZI
Morgoth – The Eternal Fall
While the Florida death metal scene had already produced the first wave of bands and the Swedish scene was well on its way to producing the second, one German band was busy drawing the blueprints for their own work. By this time Morgoth had been around for a while and The Eternal Fall
would be the second EP they had released. Arguably, their best songs are on this EP, but Resurrection Absurd
is an extremely close rival. With weaving riffs and macabre screams, this small collection of songs is the quintessence of death metal. The release maintains a steady mid-pace throughout, which helps emphasize the gruesome aura it radiates so fervently. Each song is a classic reminder of the genre’s beginnings, and what it was all about
: death in its most repulsive form.
“Burnt Identity” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zb0x0C2OT8
Mütiilation – Vampires of Black Imperial Blood
If you want the definition of a cult black metal band, look no further. Mütiilation is a one man band, with the exception of session drummers solely on this album. There is a plethora of bands like this out there, but many fall short of creating anything worth listening to; Mütiilation, however, stands out from the masses, writing perfectly constructed songs, complemented with a fitting production, which is thin and raw, just as you might expect from such a release. If anything, it gives it a dissonant and vile ambiance, a necessary component for the most diabolical mood. The screeching vocals ring in such an abhorrent noise, sounding like torturous screams from the underworld. The simplistic, repetitive riffs, endless blasting, and monotonous vocals bring about a strangely soothing sensation, producing an excellent record.
“Born under the Master’s Spell” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAxr4cht8DA
Mutilator – Immortal Force
Genre: Death / Thrash
By the late ‘80s the Brazilian metal scene was flourishing, with many notable artists releasing their best material in the period of a few years. Mutilator was among those bands, putting forth their best effort to write abrasive metal. With an even mixture of thrash and death riffs, combined with harsh vocals, this record is a perfect representation of the transition era where death metal was gaining popularity. The primitive songwriting and quick shifts in tempo still manage to do great justice to this brief stage in the metal scene. While the band went on to release one more album in 1989, it did not quite stand up to this beast.
“Tormented Soul” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJwyhA7ztGs
Nifelheim – Nifelheim
Genre: Black / Thrash
I have mentioned a couple other blackened thrash bands, but the most well known one is the Swedish masters, Nifelheim. Although the band members themselves look completely ridiculous, the music they’ve formulated here is exceptional. With their name being derived from the Norse mythology equivalent of hell, you could only guess that their sound is as heinous as you can imagine. Their primitive black metal mixed with thrashy riffs meshes together to form a purely evil record. The journey you endure with this album will have you contorting in pain and begging for mercy.
“Possessed by Evil” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deRjzHsD-pk