Asphyx – The Rack [Netherlands]
After leaving Pestilence in the early 1990s, Martin van Drunen joined Asphyx and a new Dutch giant of death metal (with a little doom added in for good measure) was born!
Asphyx‘s debut album, The Rack, may have taken a different approach to the more technically minded bands of the era by embracing death/doom but they were no less ferocious because of it.
Asphyx‘s d-beat approach to death metal wallowed in muck and favoured an economical delivery over all-out blasting. The result was an album that immediately stood out from the pack and with songs such as Vermin” and “Diabolical Existence” in it’s arsenal, The Rack was never going to fail.
Cancer – Death Shall Rise [UK]
Aside from Bolt Thrower and Carcass, the UK’s death metal contribution was never particularly lauded and yet the likes of Cancer – and particularly their sophomore album, Death Shall Rise – were equal to anything arriving from the States and showcased a band whose firm grasp on death/thrash was second to none.
It can’t be a coincidence that the arrival of ex-Obituary / ex-Death guitarist James Murphy saw Cancer taking huge strides forward from their rough and ready debut with opener “Hung, Drawn and Quartered” instantly heralding itself as an all time classic. Roping in Deicide‘s Glen Benton also lent them a certain cache but Cancer weren’t really in need of special guests to get their point across; the frenzied thrashing of “Burning Casket” and the no-nonsense onslaught of “Corpse Fire” was convincing enough!
The epitome of a cult classic.
Grave – Into The Grave [Sweden]
Agonisingly aggressive one minute, irresistibly groovy the next, Grave have always been the (relatively) unsung heroes of Swedish death metal’s pioneering generation, despite their initial contributions rivalling the early works of Unleashed, Edge Of Sanity and Cemetary!
As pure as they come – and stunningly effective without being labelled ‘simple – Into The Grave‘s ever-undulating, meaty grooves and guttural growls immediately had an impact, with the sheer commitment in which they were delivered indisputable and, often, unrivalled.
“Deformed” and the title track are the acknowledged classics, ably the supplying the well crafted, blue-collar-esque, foundations on which Swedish death metal was built.
Benediction – The Grand Leveller [UK]
Back in the early 90’s, the underground had already woken up to Benediction’s brutal output – the release of debut album Subconscious Terror took care of that – but it was only when Dave Ingram took the place of the Napalm Death bound Barney Greenway that Benedictionmoved swiftly up the ranks. Benediction had found their man and an iron-lunged performance from one of the busiest men in modern death metal elevated The Grand Levelleronto the same playing field as the likes of Obituary and Scream Bloody Gore era Death.
Channeling ominous mid-paced groove, manic tremolo riffing and Slayer-esque dynamics, Benediction stood out from an already overcrowded scene with their dark and twisted amalgamation of the work pioneered by their US counterparts and the boundary-shattering, extreme metal experiments associated with Sacrilege, Carcass and the aforementioned Napalm Death.
In Benediction, the UK finally had a death metal band who could deliver the kind of chugging riffs and satisfying crunch to rival their transatlantic cousins and The Grand Leveller remains an apocalyptically heavy and oppressive excursion into pure evil.
Broken Hope – Swamped In Gore [USA]
As early examples of brutal death metal go, you’d be hard pressed to find a more convincing album than Broken Hope‘s malformed debut, Swamped In Gore!
These pioneers of putridity out-growled, out-blasted and out-grooved the majority of their peers and with any essence of thrash all but jettisoned entirely, it was left to Joe Ptacek’s ultra-low vomitous gutturals and Broken Hope‘s focus on crushing breakdowns and gore-obsessed grooves to herald a new dawn in death metal extremity.
A superb companion piece to Suffocation‘s Effigy Of The Forgotten (released a month after Swamped In Gore!), Broken Hope‘s contribution to death metal should not be underestimated….just give the title track a spin and revel in its chugging brutality and often mid-paced morbidity.