Dark Millennium – Ashore The Celestial Burden [Germany]
Released: October 21st, 1992 via Massacre Records
Genre: Progressive Death / Doom
Progressive death / doom is hardly a prolific sub genre (of a sub genre) but if kings of this particular niche sound need to be crowned, then Germanys’ Dark Millennium are surely contenders for the throne!
Why? Because Dark Millennium’s Ashore The Celestial Burden is a staggering work of progressive death/doom that remains virtually peerless and if you haven’t heard it, you should do yourself a massive favour and resolve the situation post haste!
A multi-faceted beast, Ashore The Celestial Burden is the kind of album that never becomes overly-familiar, such is its ability to surprise with each and every listen. As powerful when pummelling you senseless with its more traditional death metal moments as it is when allowing heavier than hell doom to take the fore, Dark Millennium‘s debut remains a magnum opus of progressively minded and utterly fearless metal.
Incidentally, Dark Millenium‘s latest album Acid River (2022) is well worth checking out!
Defiance – Beyond Recognition [USA]
Released: March 27th, 1992 via Roadracer Records
Genre: Technical Thrash Metal
At this stage in their career, Defiance were now trying to out ‘heavy’ the likes of Testament (by way of fellow Bay Area brethren Heathen) and found themselves forging ahead in an ever more progressive thrash direction….and they were damn good at it too!
“Inside Looking Out” entertained a decidedly warped take on typical chugging riffs (and featured vocal contributions from aforementioned Heathen frontman David White) and the heady thrash-fest of “Promised Afterlife” rivalled Justice-era Metallica for complexity, while remaining staunchly ‘heavy’. The remainder of Beyond Recognition’s tracks offered diversity, complexity and enough ideas to make 90s era Metallica hang their heads in shame.
Beyond Recognition is Defiance’s greatest achievement and one of the most impressive moments in 90’s thrash, even though it remains ironically unrecognised by those clearly not ‘in the know’. Of course, the rest of us recognise the moment when Defiance excelled themselves and if thrash hadn’t died on its arse in the 90’s, this outstanding album surely would have seen Defiance swiftly rise up the ranks!
Demigod – Slumber Of Sullen Eyes [Finland]
Released: November 1992 via Drowned Productions
Genre: Death Metal
In 1992, Finnish death metallers Demigod may have released their debut album, Slumber Of Sullen Eyes, to little fanfare but this album’s reputation has grown substantially over the years, and is now revered as one of the most chillingly atmospheric, morbidly dark and fiendishly melodic death metal albums of the early 90’s!
Demigod didn’t adhere to the crushing, buzzsaw brutality of their Nordic cousins and, instead, they adopted a more nuanced style informed by diversity, doom-influences and a characteristically Finnish low-end which rumbles so effectively as to induce involuntary bowel movements.
Each track on this beast is decidedly distinct and delivers the kind of depth not usually associated with death metal. While heavy as all hell, it’s the sombre melodies and intricate interplay – which incorporates everything from tremolo riffing to Bolt Thrower-esque groove – which marks out Slumber Of Sullen Eyes as a cult item and an all-time death metal classic.
Demolition Hammer – Epidemic Of Violence [USA]
Released: March 1992 via Century Media Records
Genre: Thrash Metal
The second album from violent New York City thrashers Demolition Hammer, Epidemic of Violence is a cult classic of the highest order and remains one of the most ferocious thrash albums in existence!
Having the nerve to release one of the meanest thrash albums of all time during a period when thrash was all but forgotten by the metal masses took guts, but these guys were blatantly unconcerned with the arrival of death metal and groove metal. Instead, they took the elements they admired from both sub-genres and shackled them, kicking and screaming, bloody and bowed, to their own thrash metal framework.
Arguably as sonically devastating as any death metal album of the era, this undisputed epitome of pure thrash brutality was propelled by the pummelling drumming of Vinny Daze who excelled himself here (those kicks are lightning fucking fast) and the aptly titled “Skull Fracturing Nightmare” sums this album up perfectly. Riffs that were both technical and built around brute force may have been the primary focus but Daze’s skill behind the kit, and the larynx-lacerating vocals of bassist Steve Reynolds, were equally as important.
Epidemic Of Violence was abject aggression in musical form!
Depressive Age – First Depression [Germany]
Released: March 30th, 1992 via GUN Records
Genre: Technical / Progressive Thrash Metal
Kicking off a career in thrash in 1992 was probably il-advised….not that anyone told Germany’s Depressive Age!
Progressive, technical and melodic, First Depression was a debut of considerable stature and one that perfectly balanced Depressive Age’s idiosyncratic nature with an innate accessibility. Very much a Teutonic thrash band at heart (the influence of the likes of Destruction’s Release From Agony and Deathrow’s Deception Ignored are writ large throughout), much of First Depression’s appeal actually lay within its melancholic nature. With a depressive (oh, the irony), doom-like atmosphere backed by Jan Lubitziki’s often haunting vocal delivery, this was technical thrash refined – mellowed even – despite the expected display of crushing riffs remaining ever-present.
Quite the anomaly despite being part of a scene that was rapidly changing, Depressive Age’s First Depression was a last gasp for technical/progressive thrash in the 90s….so breathe it in!