From the Past Comes the Storms
by: T. DePalma
Each year it seems more artists and labels seize upon the opportunity to reissue their back catalogs and showcase unreleased material to the public. These attempts serving not only to celebrate but naturally to cash-in on the past, there are bound to be those whose work is either tagged as a post-mortem "classic" or, having secured the proper rights with no further complicity, are designed to milk capital from naivety. Bearing in mind the recent abominations by individuals like Back on Black Records, the list below aims to showcase those releases offered with some genuine concern for each musical legacy, often lovingly compiled by the artists themselves. The charm then, is to have these lost or forgotten cuts presented in historical context; a chance to learn what the fogies will relive and those born too late might only grasp through sordid text and perfunctory titles of today. While this selection is primarily concerned with rare or unreleased material, it becomes apparent that when able, such items are inevitably tacked onto a full-length reissue and will be dealt with in full. 2005's round up from the vault:

Absu - _Mythological Occult Metal 1991-2001_ (Osmose)

The cocky, pleasingly pretentious, enfant terrible of the underground may be on ice, but this two disc set would be a fitting close to the journey which most likely peaked with 2001's _Tara_. Compiling alternate cuts, covers, material from three 7"s and concluded with live tracks (these are not the same dates as those on the _Barathrum V.I.T.R.I.O.L._ reissue) makes this a fairly useless introduction [to a concept band], but patches up the collection nicely. _MOM_ realizes Absu in varied disclosure, complete with photo chronology and recording details. A worthy release for long-time fans, the discs whir through expert permutations of thrash-inspired black metal with touches of NWOBHM and symphonic pomp to satisfy ten years of mayhem and theatrical persona while echoing The Beast's maxim, "All existence is pure joy".

Atheist - _Piece of Time / Unquestionable Presence_ (Relapse)

With nearly unanimous accolades bestowed on this Florida quintet throughout its lifespan, Atheist's essential material comes refurbished with studio outtakes, demos and isolated rhythm tracks stuffed onto one disc per album. Of particular interest is the pre-Atheist R.A.V.A.G.E. demo (_PoT_), featuring in raw form several pieces that made it onto the premiere with far greater articulation and methodical performance. Just as enticing, sessions from the pre-recording of _Unquestionable Presence_ featuring Roger Patterson on bass before his untimely end are contrasted with Tony Choy's beautiful work on the album itself; Patterson remaining the more aggressive of the two, as well as the blueprint for the actual tracks on record, which are presented with a not to be wary of mastering job by Colin Marston (Behold... the Arctopus) bringing both drums and bass up to a more equitable level. The booklets for each are filled with memorabilia, containing liner notes by Ula Gehret and vocalist Kelly Shaefer, whose warm reconstruction of the band's history with uncolored reflections on Roger Patterson as well as what inspires great music add the definitive touch to the set.

Disembowelment - _Disembowelment_ (Relapse)

In the annals of doom, there are few stranger entities than Australia's Disembowelment. Built from odd variants of distorted ambience, the quartet coiled scratchy death-grind around agogic riffing to parallel such legends as Thergothon and, later, Evoken. This deluxe reissue celebrates that entire recording history (full-length, demos, compilation and rehearsals) across three discs. The bare cuts here remain close to the overall projections of sustained, hollow echoes; made weirder by mechanical drum fills in suspended composition, revealing through each step a fascination with abstraction and form. Small wonder then that core members would move on with the exponential project Trial of the Bow. Housed in a silvery bulk of a jewel case, the fixings include a history by Paul Mazziota, sparse photos of the members themselves, with complete lyrics and recording details spread over ten pages. Although annoying to have two more versions of "The Spirit of the Tall Hills" and a Necrovore cover ransomed out at a six dollar difference (contra the two-disc version), it all depends on your level of fandom and, of course, your threshold for suffocating doom.

Ildjarn - _Ildjarn Is Dead_ (Northern Heritage)

"If people label their works art, subsequent to having made it, that's perfectly OK -- it may actually be just that. Of course, it's one of those words subject to abuse by the common man, and when incorporating too many trivial aspects, while it should be denoting a one-of-a-kind quality, the word just becomes totally redundant."

With its slim book-shaped design also doubling as a headstone, Ildjarn's story is closed via this compendium of earlier material. As a last chance offer to own tracks already ladled out in various forms the past few years, Ildjarn's 1993 demo, the _Minnejord_ demo and _Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths_ come packaged exquisitely within a fold-out paper cast containing two slipcase discs, complete with original and color artwork, though it offers little understanding than was previously allowed through its original or segmented form. The item's centerpiece, a "16,000 word" statement by the author, serves as a defense and explanation of the philosophy behind the music itself with a stressed introduction towards the piece's style:

"'s particularly rewarding if the listeners channel the hatred contained in these works into deeds that cause mental and physical harm onto undeserving humans. Some people claim I use a drum machine on my recordings..."

Though for the entire skewering of cars, meat and children, with views offered on church burnings, fitness and tribute albums, Ildjarn makes the most "sense" in the abstract. It meets no other requirements than a reptilian necessity, and honors no greater purpose than itself. Such it is gleamed from vocals sprayed forth in contagious shrieks, the minimal organic beats of a purely taxing acoustic barrage -- one man's clatter like the rapping of the wind.

Morpheus Descends - _Ritual of Infinity / Adipocere_ (Xtreem)

A bare bones reissue from this seminal act, obscured today by the very groups it influenced. Morpheus Descends is a benchmark of the New York sound, exercising its greatest influence over what coalesced into "Human Waste". As such, their perhaps belated full-length encompasses many now typical traits; applying percussive rhythms hammered through by unearthly growls with dissonant punctuation, cross-influenced slam breaks ("Immortal Coil") and feverish trills raised while the bass hauls a dragon's weight within the ensemble -- fizzy, industrial mix intact. Licensed from Dark Horizon Records, who planned to release new-ish material of the group before the heroin death of ex-vocalist Jeff Riemer, this version attaches the _Adipocere_ EP (as Morpheus) to close the disc with a better context of evolution and perhaps also to make up for the bland layout and redesign. Includes lyrics and original liner notes.

Nihilist - _Nihilist_ (Threeman Recordings)

As crossover rapidly spread throughout the mid-Eighties, the future sounds of metal became codified unconsciously into a new aesthetic. With Sweden beginning to break from its traditional output of heavy metal, bands like Bathory and Mefisto opened the way for new forms that would arise, further blending the loose technique and melodic structures ingrained in groups like Master, Discharge, Celtic Frost and Genocide / Repulsion. When Nihilist's _Premature Autopsy_ tape was unleashed in 1988, it was arguably the ugliest expression of death metal to date. The official fourteen-track treasure trove of this pre-Entombed material presents a more concentrated sound, resolving much of the hiss and background ambience compared to the various generations already in circulation. The Sunlight Studious hatched "But Life Goes On" is particularly well preserved, with the guitar's slovenly progressions given added weight behind the master. The compilation is rounded out with a twelve page booklet filled with pictures and scans of the original layouts and includes liner notes by Ula Gehret, competent enough to render any further comment here unnecessary.

Order From Chaos - _Imperium: The Apocalyptic Visions_ (Merciless Records)

Messrs Keller, Helmkamp and Miller return with the first chronicle of their pivotal union, resurrecting the group in the form of their scrungy _Inhumanities_ demo and less diminished live performances. Molded from the psycho-electrics of Voivod and epic / accidental punk vomit of Bathory and Sodom, Order From Chaos_ consummates each trait with an ecstatic power that eventually transcends comparison. The bulk of material contained here is plucked from one gig in 1994 and an '88 rehearsal, which is explained as only a small gathering of local 'heads on Christmas; chattering and cheering as the bolide attack spurned from Helmkamp's unassailable presence, kingly echo of drums and corrosive string offense fills the room. At a hefty sixteen tracks, _The Apocalyptic Visions_ is seldom repetitive, settling accounts of the group's abrupt collapse and cult infamy through word and song via detailed liner notes, a layout with both candid and promotional shots and finally, a catalog of the equipment used to hammer these blasphemies into eternity.

Revenant - _The Burning Ground_ (Xtreem)

Too often mentioned only as a footnote in the career of one John McEntee, Revenant began as thrash group and soon coped within a post _Beneath the Remains_ genre by reconciling the superannuated forms of speed metal into the dissonant voice and existential chaos of death metal. These salvaged recordings between 1987 and 1993, although presented out of chronology, are evidence of greater potential fulfilled as the group moved beyond their lone full-length, _Prophecies of a Dying World_. The latter period tracks here are tinged with similar progressive orchestration, winding arpeggiated chords around coarse vocals expounding the end of material form as Revenant's vision of cosmic oneness comes at the price of pure apocalypse. Such elements tied together with greater emphasis on melody, remain bound to the rhythmic fury of other tri-state groups of the time. Mastered by Colin Davis at Imperial Mastering, these beginnings remain clouded by age, but performances are equally discernible across the board and altogether less sterile than the Nuclear Blast outing.

Rotting Corpse - _The Demos_ (F*ck It Records)

Rotting Corpse emerged in the heyday of the Texas underground, churning textbook thrash alongside more notable acts like Devastation and noted for a founding member going on to form Solitude Aeternus. This disc (now in its third print) compiles each of the group's four demos, starting in 1986. While not too distinct from the Bay Area sound in general, this collection remains a fairly enjoyable and quality recorded with a slightly "tinny" production to offset the energetic riffing. There's trivia here as well, as the group's second demo was produced by Vinnie Paul Abbot. An eight-page booklet includes lyrics as well as tons of photos and show flyers plus a sticker and pin. My copy was actually mailed with a Jack Chick tract, which always cracks me up -- even more so after I found out that ex-Rotting Corpse bassist Steve Murphy truly does care about my soul's final abode in the great hereafter. Parties still interested may want to request a better companion piece by Mr. Chick, perhaps the more appropriate "Angels" or "The Sissy"?

Rottrevore - _Disembodied_ (Necroharmonic)

Woven from a similar thread as friends Nunslaughter and Derketa, Rottrevore arose from the Pennsylvania death metal scene but soon disappeared after the release of their woefully under pressed full-length, _Iniquitous_. With _Disembodied_, every song written by the band throughout 1990 to '92 is brought together, complete with lyrics and (of course) tons of photos and flyers from the same period; one weeps at a particular bill involving Deceased, Rottrevore, Embalmer, Mythic and Nokturnel.

Raised and formed under the Reagan / Bush era, Rottrevore's aesthetic reflects the anti-corporate and social mindset of the time, even as many preferred to immerse themselves in the fantasy side of the genre, this giving a certain logic to the songs' gloomy atmosphere. Musically, Rottrevore makes the most of fundamental death metal in the early Finnish / Scandinavian mold (see also Eviscium). Blast beats are spared in favor of slow, blunt churns, with vocals buried in their animate role of deep inhuman tone. The slouching rhythm is further occluded by the chewed static sound of the actual disc, like scratching the bark off trees. Still, _Disembodied_ is as professional an exhumation as could happen here, and welcomed as an intriguing reminder of death metal’s impetus in the States.

(article submitted 22/2/2006)

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