Here’s just 9 one album wonders in metal (there are, of course, lots more) – classic albums from bands who apparently had a ‘one and done’ motto to adhere to…..
Carnage – Dark Recollections (1990)
Dark Recollections, the only album from Swedish death metal pioneers Carnage, arrived fully formed in 1990…..despite the fact that this rag-tag group of individuals had already broken up by the time the album had clawed its way out of the underworld!
This cult classic had a tortuous existence beset by band members habitually jumping ship but the line-up speaks volumes for its overall calibre. Aside from ever-present guitarist Michael Amott (Carcass, Arch Enemy), Carnage also boasted Matti Kärki (Dismember, Therion, General Surgery, Carbonized), Fred Estby (Dismember) and David Blomqvist (Dismember, Entombed) in its ranks, resulting in a Swedish death metal supergroup before the genre had even taken hold.
The Dismember connections were incestuous with “Deranged From Blood”, “Death Evocation”, “Blasphemies Of The Flesh” and “Self Dissection” previously appearing on Dismember demos (circa 1988–1989), and yet such pillaging never once threatened the overall cohesion found on Dark Recollections.
A Swedish death metal milestone.
Control Denied – The Fragile Art of Existence (1999)
From the neanderthal, gore-drenched days of Death’s Scream Bloody Gore and Leprsoy, to the ever increasing progressive nature of each subsequent release, Chuck Schuldiner’s genre-defining creative spirit was always striving to expand death metal’s boundaries and The Fragile Art Of Existence – Control Denied‘s only studio album – would prove to be the swansong that altered perceptions once and for all.
Handing vocal duties to the all-together more accessible Tim Aymar, Chuck Schuldiner was free to concentrate on his impeccable musicianship and incredibly intricate and varied compositions. From doom-passages to blistering death metal speed finessed to the point of perfection, not a single moment is wasted on an album that should have led to greater things.
As it transpired, the world was robbed of one of its most creative minds when Chuck succumbed to brain cancer in 2001 but at least the Fragile Art Of Existence left us with a cacophony of ideas, tempos and atmospherics that ebbed and flowed at such a rate that even now, it can become impossible to keep up with the myriad of changes.
Decomposed – Hope Finally Died… (1993)
Possibly the most overlooked album in death/doom history – and UK metal in general – Decomposed‘s Hope Finally Died… deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those seminal releases from the Peaceville three (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema) namely Gothic, Turn Loose The Swans and Serenades respectively.
Deceptively simple, the beauty of this staggering release lies not in its musicality, nor its vocal prowess or even its songwriting nous. At face value, all these facets seem relatively generic but the true reason this savagely under-appreciated cornerstone of death/doom deserves higher praise, is down to the almost unparalleled way in which Decomposed blend the mournful melancholy of doom with the caustic and cathartic blur of death metal aggression; each song unearthing a new spin on an already standard formula and expertly fusing sorrowful soliloquay’s with neck-breaking riffs.
Whether primitive old-school death metal savagery or shuffling excursions into doom metal’s swampy territory peels your onions, Decomposed’s one and only full length should be mandatory listening. Unearth its treasures and discover why Hope Finally Died… is not only a hidden gem but should also be held in the same regard as the majority of death/doom’s so-called classics!
Demilich – Nespithe (1993)
A true oddity and an album that sounds like no other, Demilich‘s Nespithe took the world completely by surprise when its cavernous compositions and Antti Boman’s ultra, ultra low gutturals instantly marked them out as technical death metal innovators!
The sounds that emanated from these crazy Finns were otherworldly; tentacled and slimy like a Lovecraftian nightmare made audibly flesh with bass lines and riffs slithering amongst each other without ever actually making contact. The result was an altogether alien experience that shouldn’t have worked but somehow came together to deliver one of the most unique moments in death metal history.
Surrealistic and as bewildering as it was on release, Nespithe may be the only album released by Demilich but it sure as hell left an indelible mark on the technical death metal landscape.
disEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence Into The Peripheral (1993)
Dark ambient death/doom, Australia’s disEMBOWELMENT may have released just one album but what a suffocatingly crushing death/doom masterclass that one album was!
Transcendence Into The Peripheral took the bleak slothful riffing of classic doom and immersed it in the sickly putrid filth of death metal; the combination proving difficult to swallow with its bleak and sorrowful bitter aftertaste.
“The Tree of Life and Death” remains one of the quintessential death/doom anthems; oppressive, dissonant, unnerving and back-breakingly heavy in the truest sense of the word. The clatter of “Your Prophetic Throne Of Irony” then added some truly bleak black metal into the industrialised machine – akin to the raw avant-garde nature of Beherit’s seminal Drawing Down The Moon – adding further layers to disEmbowelment’s oppressive sound.
Predating funeral doom, Transcendence Into The Peripheral took a groundbreaking approach to extreme music, undoubtedly influenced by the experimentation of Celtic Frost – particularly on the off-kilter, female spoken word of “Nightside Of Eden” – and slowed down to a lumbering deathly crawl.
Disincarnate – Dreams Of The Carrion Kind (1993)
After honing his considerable chops with the cream of death/thrash metal, Disincarnate and 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.
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 expense of an ingenious hook to keep the neck muscles – as well as the brain – fully engaged.
Repulsion – Horrified (Recorded 1986/Released 1989)
Horrified is the big daddy of grindcore and the fact that Repulsion were virtually ignored – and saw their one and only album released years after they split – doesn’t mean shit; Horrified is grindcore and grindcore is Repulsion!
With Horrified, Repulsion gorily blended a festering mix of hardcore punk, metallic might and distorted riffs to create a beast barely recognisable as music. In the process, they fashioned an album still revered as a defining moment in the genre and at the very core of grind’s humble beginnings.
The production may be atrocious but tracks such as “Eaten Alive”, “Horrified” and “Black Breath” deliver carnage and cruelty with every shredding note.
Grindcore and death metal may not exist if it weren’t for this one and only milestone in underground extremity!
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!
Sempiternal Deathreign – The Spooky Gloom (1989)
An extremely obscure release, Sempiternal Deathreign‘s only album is a shockingly underrated yet vital death/doom release that demands to be rediscovered.
While leaning more towards the death than the doom, openers “Creep-O-Rama” and “Resurrection Cemetery” mimic much of the death/thrash that reared its ugly head in the late 80’s with breakneck speed and bowel-loosening growls misleadingly omitting practically all doom elements. Stick with it though and this ‘lost classic’ truly elevates itself to must-hear status with its subtle introduction of doom on the simply awe-inspiring “Devastating Empire Towards Humanity”. It’s acoustic intro instantly brings to mind the likes of Candlemass before a classic doom metal riff – the kind Tony Iommi would have been proud to have penned – tuns The Spooky Gloom on its head and its pioneering death/doom intentions become clear. Interspersed with death metal speed, this epic flits between the two genres with consummate ease.
Way, way ahead of their time, Sempiternal Deathreign may be a mere footnote in metal history but The Spooky Gloom is one album that epitomises death/doom more then most.