There comes a day in the early teens of every young man and woman in modern times when we come across a type of music that's completely alien to our ears. Metal music, with all its illustrious variety, is quite baffling to the virgin ear. In most cases, we would have heard about it from classmates that were thought to be the weird kids of our school. The average student dismisses it as the new "in" thing, and for some kids it really is. But in every city on this earth, there roams an eternal weird kid, the one who didn't stop listening to metal. He could be sitting behind you on the train or in the office next to you, and it doesn't look like he's going to stop listening anytime soon. This article is compiled by a small group of these guys, and is dedicated to these guys: the ones who are serious about their metal and care about it; whether old or new.
In this article, the Chronicles of Chaos staff presents to you a modern look on ten of the most pivotal metal albums that were released in 1992. We take a closer look at the level of musicianship on these albums, lyrical content, production and other parameters. All of us stumble across scores of impressive albums each year, but only a select few can stand the test time. Here's to metal, in all its glory.
At the Gates - _The Red In the Sky is Ours_
(by: Pedro Azevedo)
At the Gates. What metal fan will dispute their enduring influence? Yet for most, At the Gates is synonymous with _Slaughter of the Soul_. While in many ways their crowning achievement, _SotS_ nonetheless stands on the shoulders of remarkable predecessors. _The Red in the Sky Is Ours_, the band's debut album, bears perhaps less resemblance than you might expect, and does have its fair share of endearing flaws (apart from the mediocre production; that one is not endearing). It is all part of this faithful portrait of the band's visceral birth.
As the brief title track finishes, the listener has already been introduced to peculiar guitar and drum styles -- not to mention a certain Mr. Lindberg on vocals, here at a particularly anguished point in his existence. Yet it is the violin instrumental piece at the end of the opener, titled "The Season to Come" that immediately sets the band apart; to this day, a heartrending melody that has never left my mind. This is followed by the now classic "Kingdom Come", where their potent yet emotional delivery, coupled with unusual guitar melodies and drum patterns as well as Lindberg's screams, really comes together for the first time. The violin returns towards the end of "Through Gardens of Grief" -- enhancing its emotional peak -- and by then, what else can you do but stand in awe of a band that bursts into the scene with such flair?
The highlights continue throughout most of the record, as At the Gates mix death metal with melodic sensibilities in a unique manner. The follow-up record _With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness_ stuck to similar elements, before _Terminal Spirit Disease_ started the transition into what later became the thrashier and much tighter _Slaughter of the Soul_. It would be unfair if At the Gates were only lauded for their latter day output, however; their discography has much to offer, and indeed much that remains relevant today, and _The Red in the Sky Is Ours_ is the right place to start.
Burzum - _Burzum_
(by: Johnathan Carbon)
When this project was being passed around the CoC boardroom, I paused with the leather-bound portfolio resting comfortably in my lap staring at one entry: _Burzum_. This was not out of any sort of fan servitude; rather having spent a great deal of time ignoring, ribbing, and generally rolling my eyes at everything related to Varg Vikernes and Burzum. This was done because I despise the fact that violence has become so much a part of one timeline of black metal that it clouds anything else. I also think Varg Vikernes is a bigoted idiot. No, when I looked at that name I was ready to pass or throw Pedro's leather-bound portfolio up in the air. However, I thought differently. Perhaps this was the time to make amends. Despite all of the true crime hype, unfunny jokes, and rehashed stories about teenagers being colossal morons, it was time to set the record straight and recognize at least one Burzum record. Do not ask for any more. You have fifteen minutes, Burzum. Make it count.
The early '90s in Norway: a potent time and place for emotion and productivity. Varg Vikernes and his one man project Burzum released its debut, which was the second album for the newly formed Deathlike Silence productions. Burzum's debut came at a renaissance where many Norwegian youth were forming black metal bands and releasing records. They were also hanging out with each other and being colossal morons. Before the scene turned more sour than it already was, Burzum's debut would be a powerful statement of darkness, Tolkien worlds, and youthful angst. I think we can all stop, put aside our differences, and give credit where credit is due. Ten minutes.
_Burzum_, as a record, is a pretty clear thesis on Vikernes' conceptual framework. From the intended low fidelity to the songs about orcs and darkness, _Burzum_ is meant to be a rejection of, well, everything. Embracing fantasy and mythological worlds, Burzum's black metal was centered around isolationism and complete escapism into constructed realities. This escape, however, was not passive or silent in any way; rather it was meant to cause as much noise as possible. If Burzum's debut was anything, it was Varg Vikernes stating, quite nosily, that he was leaving and all of us could go to fucking hell. His words.
The music on _Burzum_ is perhaps Vikernes' most visceral. I know who we are talking about here, but bear with me. The debut songs like "Spell of Destruction" seethe with anger and longing as well as a charismatic optimism that darkness would be the only comfort. The listener is empowered by a renewed sense that evil would be there after everyone was gone. It was no longer cool to play a knight or a cleric, rather it only made sense to be dark wizard or a goblin. Through all the negative emotions, I truly feel that this music was fun for teenage kids to play, think about, and listen to. I feel it gave people a cathartic escape that was productive and creative. You see, I say this, and then look what happened. Goddamn it.
Despite what would follow, Burzum's debut would be further inspiration for a long line of one man black metal projects. The aesthetic of one man versus everything with black metal as a voice was originally championed by Quorthon of Bathory. Now it suddenly got a charismatic and slightly deranged poster child. I pretty much say goodbye to Burzum after this release, combined with the follow up EP _Aske_. I used to stand behind _Hvis Lysett Tar Oss_, but one has to draw the line with Burzum somewhere. His music is powerful at the right times, but too much of the creator and things get weird too quickly. I'll give you this one, Varg. Just this one. Time is up, by the way.
Cianide - _The Dying Truth_
(by: Aaron McKay)
What a truly wretched travesty. Overlooked and so very under-appreciated even in their own time, Cianide, and especially the band's incomparable full.length debut _The Dying Truth_, have been flying under most of the metal listening community's radar for many years. As a matter of fact, as a synonym for "underground", the thesaurus lists "see Cianide".
From their salt-of-the-Earth old-school yet humble beginnings, Cianide began their metal crusade on Grind Core International, a label hailing from Illinois. Notable labelmates back in 1992 were the mighty Broken Hope, with their scathingly bile and gruesomely spectacular 1991 _Swamped in Gore_.
_The Dying Truth_ is heavy -- really crushingly damn heavy. A death, doom-laden escapade of blunt fuzz-foggy passages and oppressively murky metal uneasily pulsate steadily from tracks one through eight. As a three-piece outfit, Scott Carroll on guitar, Jeff Kebella taking on the drum duties (currently Andy Kuizin) and Mike Perun working the bass and raspy rot-gut vocals, _TDT_ very much exhibits a fuller, richer, and organically primal sound often mistakenly overlooked by other bands of the genre.
Starting _The Dying Truth_ off is the subtlety understated, but infectious "Mindscrape" -- one of the best executed tracks on the release. Speeding things up, as much as these lumbering elephantine mountains of sound care to quicken their pace, "Human Cesspool" delivers a taste of maybe what Incantation (circa _Onward to Golgotha_) might sound like through a Cianide speaker cone.
"The Suffering", coming in at around the four minute mark, provides a subdued, slightly hypnotic ebb and flow rhythmic appeal further texturing _The Dying Truth_'s allure. Next up is the pinnacle, apex, peak and summit of Cianide's acumen, "Scourging at the Pillar" -- simply masterful. "Crawling Chaos", the title track and "Funeral" further enrich the dense viscosity of Cianide's layered approach. The last song of the debut, "Second Life", tempts the listener with the unspoken promise poised prophetically at the precipice of an airless sonic suffocation winding up this excessively austere release.
Despite nearly every song on _The Dying Truth_ clocking in between the five and six minute mark, at no time does this album stall, stagnate or become disinteresting, which, by any account, is an accomplishment for this style of leaden doom/death technique. _The Dying Truth_ is a testimony of epic proportions and a true credit to the metal community.
Darkthrone - _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_
(by: Johnathan Carbon)
I do not roll my eyes at everything that came out of Norway in the '90s. There are some things which I enjoy, even to this day. Unlike Burzum or Mayhem, I have many high regards for Darkthrone. In fact, their music, to this day, continues to challenge the aesthetics of black metal and constantly surprise the fuck out of its listener. Following a death metal debut in 1991, Darkthrone released their second album on Peaceville Records -- one which is every bit deserving of its legacy. If black metal needed any more iconic releases, _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ would be one of its main events.
I do not know if _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ follows every rule of black metal presentation or if the album was a pioneering force in second wave's structure. From cover, to lyrics, to toolshed production, the entire album confronts its listener with something unmistakable. But unlike Burzum's isolationist spirit, _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ is more social and inviting. Darkthrone is more cult-like where the presence of evil comes with a council. Its vocals, in retrospect, are more even and full and well adjusted. If I ever needed a reason to join the darkness for companionship, _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ would be a good one.
In terms of Darkthrone records, the ones recorded with second guitarist Zerphyrous are unmistakable. For two records, Darkthrone as a trio would create a memorable sound. _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ and its follow-up _Under a Funeral Moon_ have a warm and rich tone which resembles a downpour of broken glass. The signature buzzsaw guitar leads fill the atmosphere, only to be contrasted with its cold harrowing imagery. Again, I do not know if the pagan winter theme falls in line with the second wave zeitgeist or if Darkthrone was a large influence on the style's subsequent structure. What is known, however, is that each of the songs fits seamlessly into place is and everything is played with near perfection.
It is hard to critically evaluate this record because of its historical importance. I do not think the concept of musical talent comes into play when its place within culture made such an impact. Everyone liked it. It aligned in place with everything that was going on. Makeup, dark covers, and coldness. Let us do this. _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_ would live in history only to be renewed every few years with Darkthrone's continued success. And while the members of Darkthrone did do idiotic things, they seemed to have done the least idiotic things out of the lot. It's all about perspective.
Faith No More - _Angel Dust_
(by: Daniel Lake)
I considered ditching the whole "original content" idea for this piece and simply filling the page with top-to-bottom _Angel Dust_ lyrics. Longtime devotees need no further prompting than "The world expects the pose, perfectly natural!" to mumble disconsolately, "Loosen up"; "Smiles, bruises, smiles, bars on the womb" to commence violent neck abuse; "B-E A-G-G..." to embrace the idea of deep-throating some rock-hard male genitalia with utter homoerotic abandon. That approach might not convince the uninitiated, though, or assuage detractors, so the idea got unfriended in a hurry.
_Angel Dust_ is truly a triumph of sequencing in the CD age. I'm pretty sure track-by-track summaries are for bitches, and I'm just the bitch for this one. Quirky but easily assimilated heavy rock wakes the record in the form of "Land of Sunshine"; familiar funk bass and comfortable inspirational drivel get subverted by the maniacal laughter and Bunglesque calliope ripples. Primal ferocity snaps the chains on "Caffeine" and flashes the album's first truly menacing moments. Similarly dark single "Midlife Crisis" somehow implies anthemic hooks without truly giving them voice, working around lines like, "Your menstruating heart ain't bleeding enough for two." Having settled into overt (if odd) aggression, "RV" whips out a head-scratching breather before "Smaller and Smaller" flips amps back on to tear another little hole in your psyche. "Everything's Ruined" plays the impish minister presiding over the farcical marriage of pop and dark rock, which eventually descends into the eccentric house of mirrors that is "Malpractice". A modicum of human sanity returns (musically; Patton's lyrics eschew sanity forevermore) on the rap-tastic "Kindergarten". "Be Aggressive" celebrates personal choices regarding pole smoking with an infectiously peppy rhythmic bounce and a popular cheerleader chant -- comedy gold. "A Small Victory" whacks you with some late-album pop perfection (though, like "Everything's Ruined" before it, laced with more unsettling elements) just before "Crack Hitler" and "Jizzlobber" shove your ass all the way down the bad-trip rabbit hole and fill it in behind you with concrete. Even the instrumental cover of "Midnight Cowboy" is indispensable to experiencing FNM's transcendental peak.
Could 21st century metal have attained its current shape without Faith No More's _Angel Dust_? It's fair to say that NWOBHM, thrash, and death metal all made their mark long before any ripples from the gritty Californian funk-balls were ever a factor, and black metal came into its own on a totally different plane. These legacies of brutality were certainly safe and would have continued forward whether the synth-swirled hard grooves and maniacal ravings of an otherwise accessible rock band made a splash or not. But Faith No More, as well as the myriad musical abominations that hovered nearby, proved that offbeat music could be serious and that "progressive" needn't always mean "bloated" or "overwrought". FNM inexplicably broke mainstream with "Epic" and its eight psychotic siblings on _The Real Thing_, but true deranged darkness flowed from its follow-up. _Angel Dust_ marked its listeners, refusing to be what they wanted and resolving instead to be the sadistic spanking they deserved. There's likely very little support for Chronicles of Chaos propping up 1995's _King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime_ or 1997's _Album of the Year_ as similarly revered classics (though there are songs on each that will ever remain a part of this writer's core), so _Angel Dust_ is our one chance to nod vigorously in the direction of Patton, Gould, Bottum and pals. We celebrate the record because it mattered then, it matters now, and we can't imagine a future without it.
My Dying Bride - _As the Flower Withers_
(by: Aaron McKay)
It is all about either definitively defining who you are or defining the governing principles of the environment. My Dying Bride does both. That desirable feat is a rarity even for three-legged ballerinas. The debut full-length release, _As the Flower Withers_, established early on that My Dying Bride displays a formidable prowess in the obscure ambiance of the musical world that they create. Not so pigeonholed as to simply be referred to as "doom" or "death" metal, My Dying Bride transcends such callous classification, preferring to dwell in the heavily melodic atmosphere they collectively generate as a band. Plainly put, My Dying Bride flawlessly defines themselves, even this early in their laudable career, through the mood, feel and tone of the gripping music they create.
Occasionally a band comes along, precious few in a lifetime, that demands to be experienced instead of just "listened to" or "heard". _As the Flower Withers_ draws no clear lineage to efforts that came before. At the morose intersection of immeasurable sadness and infinite melancholy, My Dying Bride cultivates a darkened, at times quick-tempo approach enviable to even those outfits flourishing primarily in any thrash-y arena.
Hopelessness, bleak despondency and dark sorrow all markedly valuable arms in the My Dying Bride arsenal. Conversely to the title of the album implication, _As the Flower Withers_ nurtures and develops a purposeful raw yet poignant course from beginning to end. The album itself is a formidably appropriate launch pad for MDB's reputable career.
The instrumental "Silent Dance" plants a stirringly emotional mindset for the rest of the album to yield its bounty. The erratic nine minute "Sear Me" follows on encountering Aaron Stainthorpe's Latin sung lyrics piercing the unconscious awareness; all-the-while swinging from low, drawn-out notes of sorrowful hollowness to beaten rhythmic tempos of powerful execution. "The Forever People" bold-faced and nakedly increase the darkening anticipatory pulse -- "Remember each one. Named even this day. We'll never forget. Like it or not."
"The Bitterness and the Bereavement" is next to follow, cautiously working in painstaking cries and asymmetrical mid-tempo beats, at times thickly layering on violin accompaniment to vastly intensify the repressiveness of the track. "Vast Choirs", track five, is a compilation worthy of purchasing _AtFW_ alone. Oppressively dark, Aaron's sinister laugh at the onset and purposefully thick, quick guitar riffs and a soul-seeking lead solo provide for one of MDB's most outstanding track to date in their stellar calling. "Drop by drop in sleep upon the heart. Falls the laborious memory of pain. In the rich upheaval of vast choirs. Death shall flee from me."
Haunting violins and Stainthorpe's oppressively strained vocal delivery sorrowfully acknowledge the listener at the beginning of nearly thirteen minute "The Return of the Beautiful". Heavily atmospheric with profound earthy tones, the piece seems to wholly consume the fundamental nature of MDB. Staggered into "parts" within "The Return of the Beautiful" -- "The Sadness" immediately called upon by "The Lust", then the luridly striking passage of "The Battle" culminating with "The Return". "Please leave me. I think I'll close my eyes now. The first sunshine was mine. Look for me among the flowers. Sleeping with the earth. My dying bride."
The oppressive yet spiritual translucence of "Erotic Literature" brings My Dying Bride's sometimes under-appreciated album epic of despondency to a close. In doing so, _AtFW_ stands as true study of a stunningly beautiful albeit tortured exploration of emotional discovery with "the frantic weight of oceans", "cathedrals of immense awe" and "brilliance of erotic literature". A nourishing bitterness and divine contempt all clearly defined within _AtFW_.
Neurosis - _Souls at Zero_
(by: Daniel Lake)
Sure, Neurosis started their mighty mountain-moving journey in 1988 with _Pain of Mind_, but I didn't start there and probably neither did you. Our understanding of the Neurosis legacy most likely began with the psychological ground war that characterized _Through Silver in Blood_, or with the multidimensional _Times of Grace_ that balanced apocalyptic destruction with a heady invitation for listeners to participate with an atmospheric companion disc, or possibly with the colossally under-appreciated bombed-out aftermath of _A Sun That Never Sets_. Everything Neurosis has been in the past twenty years has, to varying degrees, strapped jarring heaviness to the broader, bleaker sensibilities inherited by their natural mysticism and personal experiences with loss. And all of it started here, in _Souls at Zero_.
_Souls at Zero_ excites a non-musician like me precisely because it sounds like the metal record I'd probably try to make if I tried to make a metal record. The metal is punishing but often cut with very non-extreme instruments (flute, piano, violin, etc.). The transitions are a little jerky, as if the composers had clear ideas about how themes were meant to be juxtaposed but had little patience for the actual blending process. Tumultuous storm clouds brood over every lyric and riff attack, but the hope for growth and redemption is never wholly abandoned. _Souls at Zero_ is an impressive and monumental statement from a young band, but it never looms as so grand an achievement that similarly raw listeners become awed into silence. _Souls_ holds, for me, the same populist compulsion as a Mr. Bungle record: "We created this so that you would know that creation was possible."
For a decade, laughable references have been made to the "NeurIsis" sound by misinformed miscreants with wads of wet wool in their ears. Neurosis have always been burlier, starker, and deadlier than Isis have even wanted to be since their earliest EPs. Other bands aping the style have focused on musical artistry, while Neurosis has continued to pound their audience with the blunt (if well decorated) instrument of their honest search for meaning in a desolate and deluded world. The found-sound cacophony that opens _Souls_ lasts far longer than a Neurosis n00b might expect before "To Crawl Under One's Skin" screams into being. The lead guitar riff on the title track (and its follow-up) is immediately recognizable to anyone who has heard it even once before. The band's raw spiritual core reveals itself in "Takeahnase", with its spoken word admonitions, beautiful bass line foundation, and ultimately satisfying aural simulation of a world-cleansing flood.
In retrospect, _Souls at Zero_ is primitive by 21st century Neurosis standards, but as a growth out of the crusty hardcore of their early records, _Souls_ is nothing short of revelatory. Every Neurosis release since has been another blow to the concept of metal as meathead music. They played a show in Philadelphia recently, and when I had made a path through hundreds of people to reach the stage, I found myself standing next to a woman I hadn't seen or spoken to in more than eight years -- since, in fact, the last time I was at a Neurosis show; in Philadelphia; hours away from where we both live. Neurosis' music causes this kind of synchronicity, and it all started here, in _Souls at Zero_.
Paradise Lost - _Shades of God_
(by: Chaim Drishner)
Paradise Lost were metal underground's wunderkinder in the turn of the decade, when the 1980s had given way to the 1990s; being highly acclaimed for each of their earliest releases -- whether justifiably so or otherwise is highly debatable -- the band's singular sound was unparalleled and their style unmatched by any of their contemporary peers.
Changing styles rapidly since the band's inception, at the course of three albums, Paradise Lost had already transformed thrice, from 'pure' doom/death metal through a unique blend of doom and death metal with genuine gothic touches, to the band's third effort, _Shades of God_, where they had taken a ninety degree turn, distancing themselves from the metal underground and gesturing, with a massive wink, towards the mainstream. They would keep on changing throughout the years, constantly altering their musical agendas, but the transformation became subtler with each future release. The band no longer re-invented themselves like they did when they abruptly changed styles in such an extreme fashion, from _Lost Paradise_ to _Gothic_ to _Shades of God_.
_Shades of God_ is a more raucous and ballsy version of the band's next album, _Icon_. This pivotal point in time, the release of _Shades of God_, was crucial to this English group from the audience's point of view, and in that context it was a bold move, because surely the band had a hunch many of their fans would lose interest and abandon ship. I was one of the 'true' metalheads who still held firmly at the frayed ropes of this once, not long ago, metallic semi-legendary vessel. While the release of _Shades of God_ was a bit hard to swallow for someone who had expected at least another _Gothic_, my patience paid off: _Icon_ was beautifully accessible but had gotten old pretty fast, while _Draconian Times_ on the other hand was probably the album I listened to the most, and have learned to deeply appreciate. The irony is, _Draconian Times_ being the band's most lightweight offering till that moment in the band's career, it was also the one I enjoyed the most -- with the exception of _Gothic_ of course, which was a true timeless masterpiece. But soon after, I had completely lost interest in the band (and there lies the true irony) and from the bits and scraps of songs I listened to later, I couldn't rouse even the slightest interest inside me. I'd rather listen to true goths such as Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy than latter-day Paradise Lost.
_Shades of God_ still showed some traces of its predecessor, the seminal _Gothic_, yet the sound became more compacted and monolithic, and gone were both Nick Holmes' grunts and his deep clear vocals. His singing from now on will become mellower and mellower still, yet punchy, throaty and aggressive albeit intelligible. On _Shades of God_ it became clear to all what he was singing about, almost without the need of being aided by the lyrics sheet. Gregor Mackintosh's guitar playing unique signature was all over the place, both in the rhythm and the intricate lead sections, and the overall production was nothing anyone had heard before in relation to a metal band.
For a relatively young band, Paradise Lost circa 1992 showed an immense maturity both in handling their instruments and in their songwriting ability, but also in the texts department; Paradise Lost were, and probably still are, among the best lyricists the metal movement has seen. Their texts dealt mostly with existential issues, oppression and pain of existence, but they also dealt with religious issues and relationships. Paradise Lost are modern metal's poets and dark love song purveyors, encapsulating their pain in an abrasive sound that's epic yet minimal, melodic yet skeletal, dynamic yet restrained, for their music is all nuances amplified; nothing on _Shades of God_ is explicit, the texts as well as the music.
Paying homage to the Greek sound of Nightfall and the likes, _Shades of God_ was a tricky and odd little album. It offered some headbanging hooks, mostly in the beginning of tracks where rhythm guitars usually appeared for a short while, while soon after these very hooks disintegrated and transformed into complex song structures, convoluted guitar solos, and serpentine rhythms that were hard to follow and hard to swallow. A lot of that wah-wah effect was smeared all over the album's guitar work and a healthy dose of groove had been simultaneously introduced into the music, probably for the first time in the band's career.
_Shades of God_ was perhaps Paradise Lost's least memorable album and the band's least heralded effort to date, maybe due to the big shoes it had to fill, with a legacy that had been the remarkable _Gothic_ casting aspersion on the band's following effort. _Shades of God_ marked the band's evolution as a songwriting prodigy experimenting with sound and melody, and in a way this very album was a virtual middle finger to everything the underground had known or had expected; a sheer love-it-or-hate-it album. It also served as a declaration of intent hinting that the band's desire was to broaden their circle of audience. The obvious trend was undoubtedly turning toward the mainstream, but Paradise Lost did it like everything else they had done: with class.
Twenty odd years later, and _Shades of God_ still sounds fresh and unique; hard to grasp and larger than life; an album only musicians in the Paradise Lost caliber could ever offer to the world.
Samael - _Blood Ritual_
(by: Chaim Drishner)
What did these Swiss know about Jewish mysticism and demonology anyway, dubbing their band the way they did so many years ago? Surely they knew a thing or two about good music, so that will have to suffice, especially when an album of their own making easily manages to stand the test of time and sound so vast today (production values again and again) as it had sounded, inspired and mesmerized, two decades ago.
_Blood Ritual_ was my girlfriend's (who has later become my wife) present for my twentieth birthday (oh my god, I'm forty!). I was a metalhead through and through, but as it happened I did not like black metal, for I thought it to be a lesser metallic art compared to death, thrash or doom metal. I had my reasons.
Playing _Blood Ritual_ for the first time was like a revelation to me. Never before had I been so overwhelmed by such a sweet darkness; velvety, all-encompassing, engulfing melody charged with derision and spite, unfathomable depth and profane beauty. From the sinister and blood curdling opening epilogue, every song echoed and reverberated from the walls of my soul and skull. Waves of fleshy guitars and menacing keyboards devoured what had remained of the skeptic in me. Every note dripped with evil, every line the devil's tunes incarnate.
Before this life-changing experience, courtesy of _Blood Ritual_, black metal had always sounded to my ears watered-down and lacking power, and I adored the power invested in metal and in turn the power it had charged me with. _Blood Ritual_ has changed all that, forever. The music had so much raw power, so much drive and dynamic, dark energy; it had obliterated almost every memory of any death metal band I had been listening to.
Vorphalack's scything vocals sounded way cruder and crueler than the typical high-pitched black metal screeching vocalists of the time. Ominous and almost intimidating, the vocals were the album's backdrop, mercilessly cutting bruises in my soul. Xytras' drums and synthesizers, aided by the belching, fat bass lines of Masmiseim, had added a definite insurmountable depth. It all updated the bare metallic sound displayed on the band's debut, _Worship Him_, which was a pretty solid black/thrash amalgamation lacking the depth and the spiritual dimension so blatantly manifested on _Blood Ritual_, to say the least.
_Blood Ritual_ was never a black metal album per excellence; being of Swiss origin, Swiss musicians do what Swiss musicians do best, and that is perfecting the 'dark metal' sound, where doom, death and black metal are being fused into a single entity, adorned with classical music innuendos; an amalgamation that eventually sounds like a melodic, neo-classical dark metallic opera, where its metal ingredients equal to the other, 'atmosphere-inducing' instruments. Alastis, another Swiss band, were doing just that on their _The Other Side_ and _Revenge_ albums (and later, much later, also Celtic Frost on their highly acclaimed _Monotheist_ album), but prior to that the 'dark metal' sound had already been perfected by their fellow countrymen Samael on this, the darkest offering of them all, the band's sophomore _Blood Ritual_.
_Blood Ritual_ has a huge, pristine production, where the hammering drums and the guitars were given an extra dimension, often sounding as if they're literally crawling out of the speakers toward the listener. A production so clear, virile and gigantic was surely a rare and costly endeavor, and could only be achieved with the aid of a big label. It's good Century Media Records backed this recording up, for I dare not think of any other production fitting the music captured on _Blood Ritual_.
Coupled with the always-mysterious, vitriolic, usually slow-paced velocity of the tracks, the piano interludes and the sheer genius of writing very simple, straightforward, even linear songs that are catchy to the bone but also so very sinister, the production allowed for the true colors of this recording to shine -- and these colors were so very dark, evil, cold and fucking Satanic.
"From the North, From the South / From the West, From the East / I summon you, God of the pit / Come to us, infernal legions. / Satan, father of man, God of Gods / Take a look at your children / Tonight, they give you their soul."
Sodom - _Tapping the Vein_
(by: Aly Hassab El Naby)
Despite the worldwide decline of thrash metal, numerous line-up changes and a lackluster_Better Off Dead_ two years earlier, Germany's most famous coalminer-turned-metal-icon Tom Angelripper still had it in him to put out _Tapping the Vein_ in 1992. This album had the same thrash base on which Sodom built its empire, but there was a little something extra. There was a very obvious death metal sound in this album that melded perfectly with the thrashy foundation of the band. Tom's viciousness at the mic and relentlessness on the bass elevated this album's brutality to the band's all time high. _Tapping the Vein_ was an evil hybrid of Sodom's dynamic thrash sound from the late '80s and the then-rising sound of death metal with its own aggression and brutality.
I must admit that I've had a pretty rough time compiling a list of the finest metal albums released in 1992. It seemed like a dry year at first, but then I dug a little deeper, which is always good when you're looking for metal, and some gems started shining. During the preparation phase of this compendium of blasts from the past, it dawned on me that Sodom's _Tapping the Vein_ is an effort that naturally fits here. It stood defiantly against the odds of its time and it still stands today thanks to its raging speed and creative blending of two sub-genres of metal.
"Body Parts" starts the album off with a blistering tempo and a very demonic, never before heard growling Tom Angelripper. You also get a brief yet sweet guitar solo that boosts the track even more. "Skinned Alive" follows suite almost exactly, but it's at "One Step Over the Line" where things really change. It's a slower, plodding track that boasts a loud and thunderous bass. The vocals take more from Tom's earlier hoarse screams than this new found death metal sound. The last track "Reincarnation" clocks in at seven minutes and fifty seconds, which makes it the longest track in Sodom's career so far. But that's only a numeric value. This track is seriously unique. The keyboards used in the background add a lot of 'evil' to the track's ambience. All that time allows the band to expand a bit more in terms of arrangements and variations on the drums and the guitars.
Follwing the release of _Tapping the Vein_, Chris Witchhunter would eventually get off the Sodom drum throne after eleven years. He passed away in 2008, leaving an unforgettable thrashing legacy behind him. Debutant guitarist Andy Brings would continue with Tom on 1995's controversial _Get What You Deserve_ and then go on to pursue other projects. The full Sodom catalogue may not be one of consistency, but between the low valleys of _Better Off Dead_ and _Get What You Deserve_, stands tall a mountain of brutality called _Tapping the Vein_ that demands respect.