Worship Metal casts its death metal-obsessed eye over 20 of the most under-appreciated classics of 90’s American Death Metal!
You can forget the big guns of the genre, as we’re focusing on those albums that tend to slip under the radar! So, you’ll find no Morbid Angel, no Death, no Deicide, no Cannibal Corpse, no Suffocation, no Obituary….not even Malevolent Creation! Enough has been said about these classic acts already.
Instead, this feature will attempt to draw attention to those albums which often find themselves cast aside in favour of the big guns of death metal and serves as a mere introduction to the sheer quality of death metal which broiled away in the underground of the 1990’s!
Nocturnus – The Key (1990)
When Mike Browning was unceremoniously set adrift from an early-era Morbid Angel, his answer was to return with a band whose identity was just as unique as the more famous band he’d originally helped engineer.
Nocturnus released their debut in 1990 and while most death metal bands of that era peered down into the bowels of hell for inspiration, Nocturnus looked to the skies and conjured a sci-fi masterpiece of progressive death metal which possibly gleamed with space-age shine and technical efficiency.
Not only were Nocturnus a rarity in having a drummer as a vocalist they also pioneered the use of keyboards in death metal, a brave move but one that immeasurably adds to the otherworldly atmosphere and originality of this unique death metal release.
Revenant – Prophecies Of A Dying World (1991)
A death/thrash colossus, Revenant‘s one and only full length remains a fast and frantic, technically audacious slab of semi-forgotten brilliance!
These New Jersey boys were a class act and they somehow managed to conjure an album that perfectly encapsulated the forward-thinking nature of early-90’s metal, while – at this stage – also giving Chuck Schuldiner a run for his money in the ‘progressive’ stakes.
Like a (much) heavier Aftermath, Revenant would stop and start on a dime, toying with pace and tempo at will and embracing crushing doom passages when they weren’t slashing and thrashing their way through hyper-speed death metal.
Precious few bands could match such a dark, multi-layered, multi-faceted work of ever-changing tempo and arrangement, making Prophecies Of A Dying World an absolute meisterwerk; under-appreciated or otherwise!
Ripping Corpse – Dreaming With the Dead (1991)
Featuring the considerable talents of Erik Rutan (later of death metal legends Morbid Angel and founder of the mighty Hate Eternal), Dreaming With The Dead remains the one and only full length album from the underrated Ripping Corpse.
Fearlessly fusing elements of groove, doom and thrash with a progressive flair for schizophrenic time signatures and razor-sharp technique, Dreaming With the Dead is quite the anomaly, standing proud on its own as an album of considerable skill and identity.
Ultra thrashy and brutal as fuck, Ripping Corpse may have failed to officially follow up this colossal release (their ‘lost album’ remains unreleased and unmastered but you can check it out here) but they made an indelible mark on the American death metal scene with Dreaming With The Dead!
Baphomet – The Dead Shall Inherit (1992)
Easily one of the finest death metal releases of the early 90’s, it’s utterly unfathomable that Baphomet‘s The Dead Shall Inherit isn’t as revered as it probably should be.
Rigidly sticking to death metal’s fundamental principles, it’s the incessant chug of mid-tempo devastation which hits the hardest; delivering track after track of guttural brutality while keeping one foot in the murky waters of death/thrash and the other in the even murkier wasteland occupied by the likes of Bolt Thrower and Benediction.
While diversity was hardly Baphomet’s strong point – with the majority of The Dead Shall Inherit maintaining the same sense of structure and pace throughout – the thrill comes from experiencing an album which lurks in early death metal’s darkest corner, waiting patiently but eager to rip you limb from limb.
An East Coast death metal classic and no mistake!
*Baphomet changed their name to Banished in 1992 and 1993’s Deliver Me Unto Pain is also worth checking out!
Epidemic – Decameron (1992)
Skirting around the periphery of being more thrash than death metal, it still seems appropriate to highlight this early 90’s skull-splitter from San Francisco’s Epidemic.
Arriving rather late on the scene, Epidemic’s fusion of thrash and death was understandable, as by 1992 death metal had already begun to ensnare those fans looking for ever heavier sounds. With complete disregard for the level of melody the majority of mainstream metal bands had been playing with – this was around the time of Testament’s ultra-melodic The Ritual, Death Angel’s next-level Act III and the behemoth that was Metallica’s Black Album – Epidemic’s death/thrash was relentless in it’s attack and rivalled the sounds emanating from Ripping Corpse!
An often forgotten gem from the early 90’s, this incensed body of work shunned the expected formula of the day and went straight for the jugular, with quick-fire bursts of pure rage.
Thrash had been contorted and twisted into new shapes and Decameron was the deathly result!
Morpheus Descends – Ritual Of Infinity (1992)
New York death metal par excellence, Morpheus Descends may not be as well known outside of niche death metal circles as Immolation but in 1992, these guys were the superior act, with Ritual Of Infinity proving to be a proto-tech death album of unrivalled complexity and shattering talent!
Dank, dark and decidedly devilish, Morpheus Descends were capable of nerve-severing ferocity while still maintaining a level of ‘catchiness’ which would appeal as much to the neck-muscles as those over-stimulated cerebral’s. With one foot in the old-school and one in the still-opening door of technical death metal’s future, Morpheus Descends certainly paved the way for those bands who morphed traditional death metal into ever-changing sounds as the decade drew on.
Morpheus Descends were there at the beginning though, and Ritual Of Infinity – their only full length album – remains a milestone of jaw-dropping intensity.
Paralysis – Patrons Of The Dark (1992)
The howling winds of unholy death metal greet those who venture into the abstract darkness of Paralysis‘ one and only album.
Lurching into death/doom territory, Patrons Of The Dark (and weren’t they just!) also added a grind element to deliver a sound that was fundamentally abhorrent, while maintaining sledgehammer grooves accompanied by the lower than low vocals of one Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green / Goatwhore).
Home to a cavalcade of horrifyingly catchy rhythms, this work of primeval filth appears to be shrouded in some Lovecraftian hell-mist, ready to unleash its ‘monsters’ on an unsuspecting world at any given moment.
Brutal, guttural, sinister: Patrons Of The Dark was the work of some seriously deranged human beings and remains as caustic as ever!
Deteriorate – Rotting In Hell (1993)
The apocalyptic soundtrack to every human atrocity, Deteriorate‘s Rotting in Hell is a full blown excursion into pure evil from a band who simply wanted to ‘out-heavy’ their peers at every step!
Pure intensity carries this oft-ignored album along at breakneck speed as this pummeling death machine rose to the challenge and eviscerated its peers. Appropriately sloppy, the raw and organic nature of Rotting in Hell disregarded death metal’s mid-90’s penchant for experimentation (think Cynic, Death, Atheist etc) and went straight for the throat; gnashing and clawing its way to the grisly viscera that lurks beneath the skin.
No tears please, it’s a waste of good suffering!
Disincarnate – Dreams Of The Carrion Kind (1993)
Arriving just as the golden age of death metal was arguably drawing to a close, James Murphy’s (Cancer, Death, Obituary, Testament) Disincarnate were a state of the art shock to the system; enamoured with technical showboating and bringing a level of brutality to technical death metal that had rarely been heard.
After honing his considerable chops with the cream of death/thrash metal, Dreams Of The Carrion Kind was James Murphy’s chance to prove his status as a death metal guitarist capable of steering his own ship instead of setting sail with whoever would offer him safe passage. As it turned out, he was more than ready. Dreams Of The Carrion Kind was – and still is – a masterpiece and deserves to be spoken of with the same reverential tones as early 90’s technical death metal standard bearers such as Suffocation’s Effigy Of The Forgotten, Atheists’ Unquestionable Presence and Death’s Human.
From the exquisite death/doom of “In Sufferance” and the Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) guesting “Monarch Of The Sleeping Marches”, to the pummeling workout’s of “Deadspawn” and “Stench Of Paradise Burning”, the sheer audacity and technical verve on display remains revelatory but never at the extent of an ingenious hook to keep the neck muscles, as well as the brain, engaged.
Infester – To The Depths, In Degradation (1993)
If degradation and wallowing in the unfathomable depths of human existence floats your death metal boat then the deliciously sick, maniacally twisted, utterly perverted and deeply, deeply disturbing To The Depths, In Degradation is the album for you!
Infester‘s one and only full length album, To The Depths, In Degradation can quite rightly be regarded as one of the most truly evil sounding albums in death metal history. Astonishingly barbaric and completely lacking in formulaic structure, the essence of pure bestial vengeance seeps forth from every track, as each ‘song’ suffocates the listener with endless shape-shifting patterns of ambient, hellish noise, punishing doom metal slogs, shuffling grooves, ear-piercing tremolos, clattering percussive blasts and a technical nerve that belies the primitive nature presented throughout much of the album.
Only the likes of Incantation, Immolation and Morpheus Descends (we’ll pick up on these guys in a future article) can rival the dark despair of To The Depths, In Degradation and that should be enough of a recommendation to check this album out….if you haven’t already!
Killing Addiction – Omega Factor (1993)
Hailing from Florida – always a good sign when talking death metal – Killing Addiction sprang to life way back in 1988 and their debut full length album, Omega Factor, was a lethal killing machine which combined grind, thrash and death metal to thrilling effect.
With the kind of death/thrash riffs that Malevolent Creation used to (and still do) excel at – alongside the kind of intricate solo’s Uncle Chuck introduced into Death’s repertoire circa Spiritual Healing onwards – there was always an enjoyably clean and crisp sound to Killing Addiction’s brand of death metal.
And, while the brutality was clear to hear, so was that all important groove; relentless savagery laced with an old-school energy and catchiness that demanded neck-snapping head movements of the most furious kind!
Morgue – Eroded Thoughts (1993)
Morgue‘s only full-length album sure ain’t the perfect old school death metal album – with originality not exactly its strongpoint – but Eroded Thoughts still retains its power to pummel you into submission with it’s Autopsy-esque excursions into crushing death metal supremacy!
The slowest, heaviest grooves informed much of Eroded Thoughts 7 tracks; with an Asphyx meets the aforementioned Autopy approach adopted for the majority of the album. However, the 90’s burgeoning obsession with technicality soon reared its head on the ferocious likes of “Plagued Birth”, as Morgue proved that they could deliver speed, precision and contorted riffs to rival the work of Pestilence and early Gorguts.
A melting-pot of influences, Eroded Thoughts may lack clarity in its compositions but its disparate charm still lies in its ability to deliver high-density riffs with a schizophrenic sense of dynamics!
Morta Skuld – Dying Remains (1993)
Wisconsin’s Morta Skuld kinda got lost in the early 90’s barrage of quality death metal bands, despite Dying Remains proving to be a highly atmospheric, incredibly well executed, descent into outstandingly heavy, mid-tempo death metal.
Predominantly playing at an Obituary-esque pace, Morta Skuld’s material trod a fine death/doom line but sudden bursts of thrash-like speed kept it from wallowing in the Peaceville gutter alongside early Anathema, Paradise Lost etc. Ironically, Peaceville Records re-released a fully remastered edition of Dying Remains back in 2013, giving OSDM fans a chance to devour this beast once again.
A saturated genre may have stalled Morta Skuld’s carrer in the early 90’s but with 2017’s Wounds Deeper Than Time proving particularly effective, it seems Morta Skuld’s time may still come!
Resurrection – Embalmed Existence (1993)
Florida’s Resurrection may have arrived a little late to the Floridian death metal party – and you’re really gonna be up against it when the likes of Deicide, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Atheist and Death are your nearest competition – but their 1993 debut, Embalmed Existence, should still be considered more than just a footnote in the annals of early 90’s death metal.
Fully embracing the progressive nature of the majority of their peers, Resurrection’s skill lay in tempering the blast beats with slamming grooves, varied pace and a penchant for otherworldly and eerie experimentation.
The over use of soundbites is a distraction but the music on display is nothing less than impressive throughout, with a strong sense of Obituary’s circa Cause Of Death informing much of the work found on Embalmed Existence. Not that Resurrection were copying John Tardy and the boys wholesale. Instead, their series of slowly decaying anthems and, sometimes, measured and sedate pace, draws comparison with Obituary’s sophomore album while affording them their own cloying sense of overriding menace.
Rottrevore – Iniquitous (1993)
Raw, rancid and utterly reprehensible, Rottrevore‘s debut full length was an ultra-guttural dose of diseased death metal and one which deserved far more acknowledgement on initial release!
Taking their cues from Finnish masters Demilich and Purtenance, the ‘Scandinavian’ aspects of Rottrevore’s sound were stapled to the diabolically dark nature of Incantation, resulting in one of the grimiest death metal albums around.
Fuelled by politics and slathered in hate, Iniquitous should be considered the equal of anything served up by the likes of Incantation, Immolation and Autopsy and remains a highpoint – if under appreciated – example of early 90’s brutal death metal.
Rotten to the core!
Brutality – When The Sky Turns Black (1994)
Ferociously fucking heavy, Brutality‘s When The Sky Turns Black was the follow-up to their outstanding debut Screams Of Anguish, and found the band branching out into ever more progressive realms.
With some of the finest acoustic interludes ever conceived, Brutality were capable of out-playing their peers on every level, with an uncanny knack for melody and serious style tempering the brutality (obviously) on display throughout. The art of dynamics may not always be a pre-requisite when it comes to death metal but Brutality were masters of the art, resulting in a collection of songs which were varied and consistently impressive.
Hailing from Tampa Bay, Florida meant Brutality had some serious competition to contend with (Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel amongst many others) but when compared to the big guns of 1994, When The Sky Turns Black proved itself to be more than just the equal of 1994 classics World Demise and The Bleeding.
Plus, their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” still kicks serious ass!
Cianide – A Descent Into Hell (1994)
Cianide released a death/doom colossus in the lumpen, malformed shape of A Descent Into Hell, an album which deliberately deconstructed the technical sounds of mid 90’s death metal and slowly retreated back into the bowels of hell.
Here lies the most neanderthal, bare-boned death/doom riffs imaginable, plodding through endless eviscerated carcasses strewn across the Netherworld as Satan laughing, spreads his death/doom lovin’ wings!
A Descent Into Hell sure ain’t fun to ‘listen’ to but this suffocatingly dank and depressing act of primal catharsis still has the power to render you speechless…..with bursts of fleeting speed offering precious little respite from the ultra-heavy dirge which surrounds it.
Gutted – Bleed For Us To Live (1994)
Gutted excelled at their relatively unique blend of classic death metal with thrash and death/doom elements and with Bleed For Us To Live they delivered a true underground classic – one which provided just as many neck-wrecking grooves as their Swedish contemporaries Entombed, Grave etc.
The vocals are a revelation and some of the best in business, with range and clarity adding layers to what is a forceful showing of guttural power. Fortunately, the music matches this quality and intensity and remains both brutal yet ridiculously catchy.
The epitome of the sheer strength and breadth of 90’s American death metal, Bleed For Us To Live remains an absolute classic from an era that seemed to vomit forth albums of this calibre on a weekly basis!
Horror Of Horrors – Sounds Of Eerie (1994)
Horror of Horrors‘ little known debut, Sounds Of Eerie, is a curiousty that’s for sure…..but it’s also an under-appreciated gem that’s ripe for rediscovery!
An old-school slab of death metal sickness, what Horror Of Horrors may have lacked in originality they more than made up for in brutality and Sounds Of Eerie is actually a strong debut from a band who would go on to boast having Kevin Talley (ex-Dying Fetus, ex-Misery Index, ex-Six Feet Under, ex-Suffocation), in its ranks.
Sinister, occasionally thrashy and focused on delivering nothing but a harrowing experience, this was horrifically heavy stuff in 1994 and precious few bands were matching Horror of Horrors in the ferocity stakes.
Oppressor – Solstice Of Oppression (1994)
Perfectly balancing brutality with technical audacity and pioneering verve, Oppressor‘s Solstice Of Oppression remains a mid-90’s milestone of technical death metal without quite receiving the accolades afforded to Death’s Human, Pestilence’s Spheres, Cynic’s Focus and Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence etc.
An accomplishment equal to all the classic albums listed above, Solstice of Oppression carved its own particular niche with ultra low gutturals, unyielding brutality and the melodic, experimental, progressive and jazzy influences expected of a 90’s progressive/technical death metal album.
Once you get over the fact that this band eventually became nu-metal chart-botherers Soil (with Oppressor’s Tim King, Tom Schofield and Adam Zadel recruiting Broken Hope’s Shaun Glass in the late 90’s), you’ll be confronted by an album which defines the very nature of 90’s death metal – a shining example of metal evolving at an alarming rate without forsaking its core principles.
Have we forgotten your favourite American death metal album which deserves more recognition? If the answer is a resounding yes…..pop it in the comments section below!