You can find the first part here
Piece Of Time
[Sarasota, Florida, USA]
9 tracks – 32:10
Release date: August 30th (Europe)
(Active Records – re-released several times, e.g. in 2005 by Relapse Records on CD with various demo outtakes as bonus, and in 2013 by Season of Mist on limited edition vinyl)
‘Death metal with a difference – you better believe it’. 27 years ago, Active Records opted for this fanciful catchphrase on a glossy front sticker to plug their latest album release, and not quite to the liking of Kelly Schaefer, frontman of the band in question. No matter what arbitrary genre tag one uses to categorise Piece of Time, the debut offering of Atheist was and is music of a rather exceptional calibre. This veteran Florida foursome introduced a level of technical aptitude in death metal that it would take the rest of the scene many years to properly calculate and emulate, without having yet outdone it, maybe. Lightning-speed arpeggios, syncopated rhythms aplenty, wayward time signatures and a bottom-line jazzy feel typify the album from start to finish, but unlike many present-day (self-styled) techdeath outfits, Atheist never once sacrifice the virtue of ‘good songwriting’. Piece of Time was ready for release already in the winter of 1988, after recordings took place in the soon-to-be trendsetting Morrisound Studios with the likewise soon-to-be mandatory Scott Burns at the helmet. Unfortunately, the band’s first record company, Mean Machine, suddenly went bankrupt, and the record was not brought into official circulation until a whole year later, when the hype around death metal was steadily climbing towards its absolute boiling point. Finally out and about, the album sold 15,000 copies on the European market in just the first week! Everything looked similarly bright and shiny for Atheist on the domestic front, having issued four demo tapes (three of them under the moniker R.A.V.A.G.E.) and toured extensively in their local area before the release of Piece of Time, thus gaining a devoted following in their many neighbourhoods. Just like their compadres in Obituary, the band had raised eyebrows by supplying two tracks to the 1987 Raging Death compilation, and a tour around the US with Candlemass as headliner further consolidated Atheist’s weighty status in the death metal community. However, on February 12th, 1991, disaster struck. On the highway back home from tour, Atheist’s guitar technician/driver messed up a possibly too ballsy overtake, with the consequence that the tour van did six somersaults and landed in the road verge. For the band’s only 22-year-old bass player, Roger Patterson, the accident ended tragically, as he died in the ambulance en route to the hospital. This prompted a couple of fellow bands releasing material that same year to pay him tribute in the liner notes (viz. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten and Napalm Death – Mass Appeal Madness). It is Patterson’s songwriting and performance, though, on his sole full-length release with Atheist, that remain the grandest testament to the man’s exceptional virtuosity, then and now.
Symphonies Of Sickness
10 tracks – 43:12
Release date: November 4th
(Earache Records – re-released several times, e.g. in 2008 on CD dualdisc (later CD/DVD digipak) with part two of the documentary The Pathologist’s Report on the DVD side and six demo tracks as bonus on the CD side, and in 2013 on limited edition vinyl)
22 tracks with an average duration of under two minutes on the debut album to only 10 tracks with a total playing time of 43 minutes. It was quite obvious that Carcass were aiming for something a wee bit more complex and sophisticated with their, even by then, patented goregrind formula. Just like they did with the previous album, Reek of Putrefaction, the Liverpudlian trio, starring veggie drummer Ken Owen and vegan string-handlers Jeff Walker (bass) and Bill Steer (guitars), had pieced together a yucky collage of snapshots from the necropsy room for the cover. Yet, this time around, all the delectable close-ups of puffy heads, extremely rotten limbs, etc. were positioned side by side with photographs of succulent pork, veal or lamb dishes, the band satirically playing on the aphorism “meat’s meat”. The vinyl edition came packaged in a just as graphically indecent b/w picture of a decapitated, partially squished head. Exactly like it happened with the debut album, the meaty photomontage on Symphonies of Sickness was censored in nothing flat and replaced by something as clinical and unspeakably boring as hand-drawn illustrations from a manual on human anatomy. Luckily, the ever-overzealous censorship honchos could do nothing about the band’s lyrical obscenities and musical atrocities … Pathological nightmare tableaus – verbalized in candid doctor’s lingo – were gurgled, screamed, burped, grumbled or snarled on top of a mushy-flowing deluge of grating riffs and chaotically thundering drums, all of it discharged through Colin Richardson’s semi-gritty, yet well-balanced production job. With choice cuts such as “Swarming Vulgar Mass of Infected Virulency”, “Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment” and “Exhume to Consume” (which, ostensibly, inspired some frisky teenagers to do a number of recreational excavations at a local cemetery), Carcass once and for all defined for posterity goregrind as a genre. Whether it be the viscera-visceral lyrics, Steer & Walker’s high/low vocal delivery, or even the painstaking denomination of every guitar solo on their first three full-length albums, the lads from Liverpool have inspired oodles of death/grind combos over the decades, and likely spawned more flagrant copycats than any other band from the golden age of extreme metal. Give Symphonies of Sickness two or three consecutive spins on your home stereo right now, more than 25 years later, with the volume button set to ‘11’, and it should be perfectly evident why.
[Oakland, California, USA]
10/11 tracks – 38:47/41:34 (vinyl/CD)
Release date: April 24th
(Peaceville Records – re-released several times, e.g. in 2009 on CD with a bonus disc containing rare material and two new tracks, and in 2009 on vinyl, now containing “Stillborn”, the CD bonus track)
What actually happens if you  smoke excessive amounts of marihuana,  watch too many gooey-gory splatter films, and  monkey about at rehearsal with some icky thing not quite death, not quite doom, not quite ‘real music’ at all …? Probably something like Severed Survival! At the height of spring 1989, sticksman Chris Reifert (already semi-famous for laying down the drums on Scream Bloody Gore) and the two axemen Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles – along with session bassist Steve DiGiorgio – excreted the sonic equivalent to a warm, greasy plastic bag jam-packed with sexually abused slaughterhouse waste. With their mucky, plodding, cavemanly death/doom and some utterly depraved, deranged poetry slopped on top – either collected straight from the gibs’n’guts dumpster or fished out of a slow-heated toilet bowl – Autopsy promptly won the love of teenage deathsters everywhere. And the hate of everyone else, of course. Thanks to the fandom and legwork of Jeff Walker, who had served up the band’s Critical Madness demo to label founder and boss Paul “Hammy” Halmshaw, Autopsy went into Starlight Sound music studio in January 1989 with a freshly inked record contract and 11 awfully pre-cooked songs in their grubby hands. Three months later, Severed Survival was released as a huge middle finger in the face of everything clean and wholesome, but was right away pulled back, and then re-released with all-new cover artwork. Peaceville Records, it turned out, dreaded a major boycott from hypersensitive distribution companies due to the explicit nature of the original cover illustration. So, with a brand-new, arguably more hair-raising album artwork, plus some auxiliary nasty drawings for merchandise use (e.g. a very believable caricature of Tom Araya with exposed brain matter), Autopsy were once again ready to, musically as well as lyrically, gently buttfuck everybody straitlaced far up into the nineties. Today, close to the 30th anniversary of Severed Survival, Reifert’s maniacal vocals, C & C’s filthy riffing plus DiGiorgio’s rumbling bass lines sound more gorgeously rotten than ever before and – some would argue – more jävla Swedish than the Swedes themselves! Autocannibalism, necrophagy, homicidal compulsion, anecdotes from the dissection table, as well as all thinkable and unthinkable types of sickness … Severed Survival, still nowadays, is a textbook case of the old-school, just as very few death metal combos from ‘back then’ enjoy a stauncher cult following than these splatter-happy, coffin-sniffing miscreants from the West Coast.
Realm Of Chaos – Slaves To Darkness
11/12 tracks – 34:20/38:12 (vinyl/CD)
Release date: October 28th
(Earache Records – re-released in 2005 on CD with new artwork and without the band’s permission; again re-released in 2012 on CD with a bonus DVD containing live footage from the 1989 Grindcrusher tour)
Myriads of projectiles whizz through the smoke-filled night air. Panzers roll heavy across a repulsively squelchy carpet of mud-plastered bodies. With irregular intervals, the ear-splitting boom of a hand grenade drowns out the rattling cries of mortally wounded soldiers. You are an untried squaddie, positioned in a makeshift trench countless miles from home on the nth day of a global war – or maybe you have just briefly closed your eyes while listening to a random record off Bolt Thrower’s eminent discography … Realm of Chaos, the second full-length album by these warfare-smitten Britons, marks the transition from a messy mix of proto-death and gritty grindcore to megasize death metal with bone-shattering riffs in A tuning, deposited onto bass lines played on strings which according to the performer herself, the incomparable Jo Bench, felt like ready-to-eat spaghetti. On two distinctive musical fronts, Realm of Chaos differs markedly from Bolt Thrower’s successive releases: drummer Andy Whale fires off a blitz of oh-so-cringingly untight, albeit frigging intense ‘bomb blasts’, while frontman Karl Willetts has his vocal performance upgraded by a pitch shifter in order to secure an adequately abysmal kind of growling. Like the debut album, In Battle There Is No Law, the lyrics all pertain to wartime past, present and future, but said themes are wrapped inside a somewhat more exclusive packaging. The cover artwork for the second Bolt Thrower full-length was sponsored and designed by the role-playing consortium Games Workshop, who initially even offered to actually release it! Hence, the album title Realm of Chaos specifically refers to a gaming compendium published in 1988, while the thematic inspiration for “Plague Bearer” and the emblematic “World Eater” likewise is found in the Warhammer universe, one song title alluding to a disease-ridden, pus-dripping monster, and the other an infernal legion of marine soldiers. Talking of “World Eater”, Bolt Thrower have reused the opening riff of this particular anthem on the songs “Cenotaph” from War Master, “Embers” from The IVth Crusade, “Powder Burns” from Mercenary and “The Killchain” from the band’s 2005 swansong Those Once Loyal. Not to forget, the fantasy-stylized (and very, very kitschy) band logo has remained a fixture on their album releases since then. What, truthfully, could be more appropriate for a death metal group named after a supersized muthafucka crossbow operated by dark elf reapers and/or dwarven war engineers?
Macabre - Gloom
[Downers Grove, Illinois, USA]
21 tracks – 21:33
Exact release date unknown
(Vinyl Solution Records – re-released on CD the following year with the Grim Reality EP as bonus)
This ending entry in our Top Ten conglomeration of Death Metal 1989 is without a doubt the freakiest, most wacko and perfectly fucked-up of them all. Just take a look at the madmen who made it … One is a demented lumberjack, the other a total sicko in dungarees (seemingly naked otherwise), and the third a complete nutter in a scarlet union suit! At least if you browse through the official Macabre press kit. Appearances are deceptive, though, for the instrumental prowess of this eccentric threesome is as face-slashing, neck-wringing and skull-piercing as the miscellaneous bloody deeds of the serial killers immortalised in their bordering-on-erotically-charged lyrics. For their EP-length debut album, Gloom, this Illinois trio had polished and perfected their hysterical casserole of bouncy punk, superfast thrash and extreme fucking metal. It was cordially introduced first on the Grim Reality mini-release from 1987, and since then Macabre has spiced up the entire thingamabob, using all kinds of odd ingredients, such as vaudeville tunes, children’s lullabies, rockabilly, country songs – and blah blah blah. Neither then nor now could one liken Macabre to any other bizarre bastardization of heavy metal, and neither then nor now is the band one easily overheard or overlooked. There is only little pure, genuine death metal about Gloom (which probably sounds more like how freshly vomited orange juice and meatloaf taste like if eaten right off the straitjacket than any one particular band from the extreme-metal spectrum). Nevertheless, messieurs Corporate Death, Nefarious and Dennis the Menace have given many a finger-nimble DM instrumentalist a run for their pocket money, likely also nervous twitches, and Gloom justifiably ranks among other trendsetting benchmarks for metal of the genre-expanding, style-defiant kind. So far no one has managed to really outplay, even less convincingly imitate, Macabre’s tongue-in-cheek patchwork of ‘sing along’-friendly thrash/grind/death/punk and lustmord balladry – except, of course, the band themselves.
To be continued...
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