5 stone-cold death metal / proto-death metal classics that turned an incredible 35 years old in 2023….are you feeling old yet??!!
Bolt Thrower – In Battle There Is No Law! [UK]
Crusty ol’ grinders Bolt Thrower certainly laid down the law with their uncompromisingly raw debut, In Battle There Is No Law!
A crushing mix of crust punk, grindcore, hardcore and early-doors death metal, Bolt Thrower‘s debut was vicious, implacable, socio-politically charged and noticeably faster, and certainly less polished, than the albums that followed it…but it was no less convincing because of it. In fact, In Battle There Is No Law! was a sonic storm of unparalleled brutality and savagery when compared to much of what called itself ‘death metal’ in 1988.
Just give the title track a spin and try denying that Bolt Thrower, for a short while there, were the heaviest band on the fuckin’ planet.
1989’s Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, 1991’s War Master and 2005’s Those Once Loyal may take all the plaudits (let’s be honest, Bolt Thrower never put out a bad album but these are most definitely highlights) but In Battle There Is No Law! was where it all began. And it began with one hell of a bang!
Death – Leprosy [USA]
Emerging at a time when death metal was still barely in nappies, Death‘s Leprosy was the next logical step after the neanderthal bludgeoning of Scream Bloody Gore had first attempted to lay waste to thrash back in 1987.
Notably progressive when compared to Death‘s solid yet unspectacular debut, the late, great, Chuck Schuldiner upped the ante in every department on this sophomore effort. With a vast improvement in songwriting, Death were already leaving their peers in the dust (primarily made up of flaky skin, probably), and Leprosy‘s 8 tracks of sublime brutality arguably defined the genre before it had even begun.
Leprosy is an album whose importance to death metal cannot ever be underestimated.
Num Skull – Ritually Abused [USA]
Ritually Abused may have been ritually ignored on release but there’s no denying its pedigree and albums this savage rarely reared their snarling, slathering head in the late 80’s.
Redefining what it meant to be truly brutal, Num Skull‘s debut may have been neanderthal in essence but fans of Kreator’s early noise – and those fond of the ferocity of Reign in Blood era Slayer and Exodus circa Bonded By Blood – would undoubtedly offer themselves up to the kind of proto-death metal abuse Num Skull were dishing out.
Speed, aggression and unbelievably unhinged vocals characterised album highlights “The Henchman”, the Exodus-esque “No Morals” and the utterly merciless title track….true American hate performed by absolute maniacs!
Opprobrium (aka Incubus) – Serpent Temptation [USA]
Not those digerideroo-blowing nu metal wombats, this is the real Incubus (before the enforced name change); a towering death/thrash colossus who annihilated their 80’s competition with debut album, Serpent Temptation!
Opprobrium / Incubus were absurdly talented, tempering their ferocity with intricate riffing and a superb sense of dynamics. It has to be said, this shit was astonishingly heavy back in ’88; a savage re-appropriation of thrash metal’s fundamental’s strapped to death metal’s still to be completed blueprint.
The results were almost beyond comprehension, with Opprobrium / Incubus paving the way for countless acts who took thrash metal /death metal into ever heavier realms as the 90’s dawned and death metal took hold.
A hyper-speed, proto-death metal classic, Serpent Temptation deserves to be considered an equal of Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill!
Protector – Golem [Germany]
Easily as heavy (heavier even) than anything released by Kreator, Destruction, Sodom etc at the time, Protector‘s debut album was the sound of the German thrash underground at its most corrosive and most frightening.
A relentless barrage of hyperactive, hyper-speed proto-death metal riffs greeted those of us brave enough to embrace this sort of filth and an instant cult classic debut was born. Golem‘s deathly thrash attack was necro-enough to appeal to early Sodom, early Destruction and Possessed fans, and while the likes of Kreator were courting MTV, Protector were keeping the underground flame alit.
While time has not been quite so kind to Golem‘s relatively rudimentary charms as nostalgia will probably lead you to believe…. it still kicks almighty ass!