(William Smith is the vocalist for Buckshot Facelift and a Long Island band named Artificial Brain that I’ve written about twice — here and here. He also writes a very entertaining blog called Vitos Squid Stop and Death Metal Museum. I asked him around this time last year if he would write something for NCS . . . and he gave us a 2-part list of “anniversary” albums — five albums recorded 10 years and 20 years earlier, respeectively. And this year he’s done it again. The first part appeared yesterday, and this post discusses metal gems from 10 years ago.)
…but then it came – the era of Chris Barnes as the Death Metal Elvis was dead – bloated on a toilet after a worldwide glut of gore. George Fisher took the flag and waved it through the fog of corpse paint and KORN, but the late nineties and early 2000s was an awkward, diehard period when keeping it real was all about guttural slam metal, old guys ran out of ideas and started Impetigo worship bands, and all of a sudden cassettes just disappeared .
10 years after the Death Metal renaissance of ’93, the internet had established a stronghold on the underground scene. File sharing sterilized the fun out of tape trading and straight edge hardcore bands began using blast beats and guttural vocals for their own benign purposes. “Fruity Loops- Relapse message board computer grind” all but drowned out “sociopathic loner tape trader grind”, one of North Americas most unsung “KVLT” phenomena of the late nineties (re: Extreme Scene, Anal Birth, Slough, Dismembered Fetus, Vomit Spawn) and old school tech-Death pioneers began sounding more and more like Hatebreed.
To view in the context of history where some of the last holdouts from the 90s stood in this unsure era, I’ve raided my collection for 5 underground releases that have stood the test of time to still be personal Kult favorites a decade later.
Intestine Baalism (Japan) – Banquet in the Darkness (Blackend Records)
In this inspired follow up to their remarkable debut album, Ultimate Instinct, Intestine Baalism remained true to their signature mix of guitar-driven Thrash, old school Death, and melodic Black metal that fans had come to expect from them. The only difference was that this time around, the songs were just slightly better fleshed-out and more dynamic – the epic parts soared higher, the melodic parts were more heart-wrenching, and the dark parts were, well, darker.
This was a band with a style all its own. Like a hybrid of the classic melodic Swedish bands (Dismember, Grave, Entombed) mixed with grim Scandinavian Black Metal and accented with ornate Iron Maiden-esque guitar leads so catchy and forlorn I risk describing them as “poppy” – not in the MTV sense but in reference to how subliminally addictive they can be.
Years later, Intestine Baalism harmonies pop into my head out of nowhere and I am forced to revisit this classic. Think of this as a Japanese reinvention of Swedish Death Metal – certain sounds and aesthetics are dead on, but this is too unique and talented to be considered derivative – more like evolutionary.
Lord Gore (Oregon, USA) – Autophagous Orgy (Razorback Records)
Somewhere between the influences of Autopsy, Impetigo, and Carcass there was Lord Gore. There were also hundreds of other “B movie retro gore Metal” bands, of varying quality and gimmicks, but Lord Gore stood out for their over-the-top guttural, crunching brutality, amazingly grotesque, yet eye-catching, artwork, and a talent for writing and executing songs in such a way that made them feel less like a “clone” or “tribute” band and more like the next step in this style – bringing it back to the larger-than-life ”Metal” feel that was lost with so many of the nineties Goregrind bands who embraced a more old school English hardcore approach to Grind riffs and song structure (i.e., Dead Infection and Regurgitate, who, at one point early in their career, publicly rejected Death Metal influences and the Death Metal scene).
Lord Gore used campy, exploitation-style lyrics and musically flirted with old Carcass, General Surgery, and even a little Autopsy and Death at times, but acknowledged that, since these pioneers, times had changed for the more brutal and recorded with a thick, tight, modern production, guttural vocals, and a proper clarity given to those wailing dive-bomb leads and creepy (dis) harmonies. Lord Gore was one of the few bands who could borrow so readily from their heroes, yet update those influences to achieve a rich personality and sound all their own.
Nunwhore Commando 666 (Germany) – World Whore 3 (Stuhlgang Records)
Waaaay back in 1993, in an interview from an issue of Corporal Arts zine (Japan), Olli of GUT alluded to a forthcoming side project named “Nunwhore Commando 666”. It would be ten years of waiting and wondering through the demise of GUT and the rise of Libido Airbag to find out if this mysterious project with an amazing name would ever see the light of day. Finally, with the lo-fi House music/pornogrind party of Libido Airbag winding down after 2 demos and 2 full lengths, 2003 saw the release of World Whore 3, the debut album by a German cybergrind supergroup of sorts featuring members of Gut and Nyctophobic.
Though not as warm and analog sounding as Libido Airbag, N.W.C.666 had a cold, industrial feel and sounded a bit more like a band with cohesive songs then the spontaneous “live DJ” feel of Libido Airbag – kind of like Libido Airbag re-imagined through the soundboard of Skinny Puppy or Ministry but never losing the “more guttural than guttural” blasting approach.
It took a while for this to grow on me, but in hindsight it was a very innovative album (EP?) and helped push further the catchy, electronic cybergrind that these “caviar cowboys” pioneered, while setting them further apart from the growing sea of imitators. Oh, yeah, and they cover the song “Consequence” by Ulcerous Phlegm – apparently the European grindcore equivalent to “Amazing Grace” the way people keep it alive.
Reign of Terror (Texas, USA) – Thredony of the Impaled (Evil Vengeance Records)
“Reign of who?” Reign of Terror from Texas. While many Death Metal bands in Texas at the time were trying as hard as possible to sound like they were from NY, Reign of Terror stuck to their southern Morbid Angel-inspired guns and inconspicuously churned out this brilliant slab of stoic, crushing Death Metal (OK, maybe a little Suffocation-inspired as well, in parts).
The production is thick, brutal, and airtight, and despite often sounding like Internal Suffering with their over-the-top Floridian barrage of monster grind, they manage to carve a distinct personality on this whirlwind of darkness by slowing things down every once a while into true Texas abysmal doom a la Imprecation or Magus. They use many clever samples throughout the album, usually with a sardonic, tongue-in-cheek kind of humor – again, adding more personality to what, in less capable hands, could have just ended up “another Death Metal album”.
I had the privilege of sharing a bill with these guys in 2006 and still recall vivid memories of an El Paso biker bar exploding with a mix of local pride and drunken head banging fever when these guys took the stage. Give these hairy, whiskey-smelling Texas brutalitarians a second chance, especially if your face is still stuck on “permanent cringe” after hearing “Radikult”.
Copremesis (NY, USA) – Demonstrating the Fist demo 2003
Featuring Wilson of Animals Killing People and Andromorphous Rexalia on drums, this anomaly of hyperbrutal cricket-croak Death Metal made up in personality tenfold for what some feel it lacked in originality. What many people fail to realize about Copremesis is that they were completely self-aware of their sound and cherished the feel and soul of guttural Death Metal. They didn’t seek to innovate or revolutionize music – only to channel their innermost turmoil through epic septic tank Metal.
Paired with bizarre, misanthropic performance art aspects (I once saw them mock their fans by performing sitting on stools in mock “Unplugged” fashion, whereas another show that I thankfully missed allegedly involved transvestites, a port-a-potty, and violated health codes), they presented their brand of “all meat” septic tank Death Metal in a self-deprecating lifestyle statement that has evolved (devolved?) over time into a kind of abstract reflection on life as an underdog in the underground Metal scene.
Full nudity, bodily fluids, questionable sexual practices and even a giant frog costume have all materialized on stage out of a need to transcend the typical Death Metal aesthetic and offend even their peers and fans. Look at this classic over the top, slobbery riff fest of a demo with its spastic blasting and unexpected wailing solos as a prelude to life imitating art – disgusting, unsanitary, misanthropic art.