Incredible records are released every year. Here we revisit ten crushing vinyl releases from the halcyon days of 1992, giving consideration as to what made each of them great.
10. Ancient Rites Evil Prevails Wild Rags Records
I expect that I’m not alone in identifying Gunther Theys as one of the great bastions of the underground during the early to mid 90s. His connection to the “ancient times” was unwavering, and he was a feverish correspondent with bands, traders and collectors from across the globe.
What I liked most about the compositions of Gunther’s band, Ancient Rites, was how they were steeped in 80s metal orthodoxy, possessing a stylistic affinity with the Greek Black Metal scene, which undoubtedly drew from the same current. Light years from the abrasive tones emanating from Scandinavia during this period – arguably divisible by their regressive vs progressive approach – Ancient Rites the more antiquated, when compared to Burzum (for example) who were effectively channelling a yet-to-be explored future.
And despite the negativity that surrounded the Wild Rags label, they released some of the greatest records of the underground – Stillbirth Machine, Fallen Angel of Doom, Bride of Insect and Requiem For Fools to name a few. Evil Prevails in esteemed company.
9. Various – Annihilation Of The Antichrist Witchhunt Records
While it’s not quite the calibre of the Wine Of Satan comp released by the Greek label, Spellbound Records, I’d argue that Annihilation of the Antichrist, with its unintentionally ambiguous, At War With Satan-esque title, remains a potent collection of early 90s underground Death and Black Metal.
Features luminaries such as Master’s Hammer, Agathocles, Rotting Christ, Exulceration and Sentenced, each offering up two tracks a piece, which for me is a more practical way to deliver a comp – especially in those days where one could reasonably expect a disparity in the levels of one track to the next.
Witchhunt was a funny label; starting out with some noteworthy 7” releases from Sinister and Anathema, before winding out with Belial’s grunge album and the full length from the Swiss Amon – not to be confused with Glen Benton’s inaugural diabolical force.
8. Obituary The End Complete Roadrunner Records
The band’s last great record. An unintentionally ironic title? You decide. In addition to the unrelenting heaviness of this LP, I’m also enamoured with the cover art. For early 90s Death Metal this couldn’t have been more fitting. Andreas Marschall also illustrated classics such as Agent Orange, Coma Of Souls, Dawn Of Possession, as well legions of Nuclear Blast bands I could care less about. The tones are heavy as fuck, those solos pierce the fleshy anatomy of the songs, and if you get a rush from a noble double-kick performance that doesn’t mutate into something akin to an electric typewriter, this is where you’ll get it.
7. Marduk Dark Endless No Fashion
One of the most Death Metal, Black Metal records you’ll find. It’s a recording that’s trapped between two worlds, and may have more readily arrived into their rapidly advancing realm had they Bathorized their approach more intently. The cover art, envisioned by Obscurity vocalist, Dani Vala, completely surreal and unique to a band of this nature – inadvertently articulating their transition from present dimension into the next.
And though Marduk would kick out a couple of Bathorian jams as the years wound on, it never felt to me like it was in their DNA. Having said that, an overt Bathorian influence shouldn’t suggest a lack of malignant intent or a pestilential vibe – evil unquestionably lurks within these grooves. Darkthrone made a noteworthy Death Metal record. I reckon Marduk’s is better.
6. Napalm Death Utopia Banished Earache Records
Relative to their mind-melting Scum release, Napalm Death managed to refine and, for lack of a better word, streamline their grind offensive, making for a heavy, sizzling and catchier-than-thou attack. They took a razor to the oft-blurry grindcore sound, maintained the assault they had arguably given to contemporary Death Metal, via the Mick Harris blueprint. One of the details I admire most about this record is how proximate it feels to World Downfall. Purveyors of sublime grind? A definite maybe.
5. Monstrosity Imperial Doom Nuclear Blast
The Floridian Death Metal band’s debut was special for a couple of reasons. I’ll stop at five.
- It was their strongest record, no question.
- It featured George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher before he went on to Cannibal Corpse, and George’s vocals are heavy as fuck. Heavy vocals are important as fuck.
- It’s an exceptionally crafted Death Metal record, with crushing riffs, excellent musicianship and arrangements. I’m surprised they didn’t become a bigger deal on the world Death Metal stage.
- Application of that revered Morrisound Studios production really sees these songs in their most essential form.
- Dan Seagrave’s artwork… I know people love to bump on about “the music” being all that matters. And when you present to me a record like None Shall Defy, I agree 1000%. On this occasion however, visionary artwork, that taps into the band’s message and amplifies the sonic and ocular experience provides a more holistic vision of infinite horror.
4. Profanatica …Tormenting Holy Flesh… Osmose Productions
It’s difficult for me to anoint one specific act as the true progenitor of USBM, but it has to be either Profanatica or VON. And while I acknowledge there were other entities that contributed to the force of American Black Metal, Profanatica’s primeval expulsions are the most readily recognisable. I am also drawn to this record as it represents the most evolved offering from the band – during the time most proximate to what would have been their feted debut record. A record that was, as the more thrilling story goes, lost to a studio fire; the more mundane, that the tapes were simply wiped as the band’s ranks crumbled. And while the Havohej record from 1994 communicates more or less the same fanaticism, we still lament for that which is lost.
Without disrespecting the Masacre contribution or legacy, my intention is to focus on Profanatica exclusively here.
3. Immortal Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism Osmose Productions
A Bathorian masterpiece. While they managed to reframe their own burgeoning legacy with the excoriating blizzard that was Pure Holocaust in 1993, Diabolical… was the correct musical expression from Immortal at that time. People often mock the Call of the Wintermoon video, but I think that Immortal’s showcasing of Scandinavian Black Metal of the early 90s was on point. It pulled together the environment, the bleak aura of the music, the seriousness with which their hostility was channeled, and really dialed up how volatile Black Metal should be.
There were tape traders circulating versions of Pure Holocaust and Battles In The North, that were slowed by 12% or something proximate to that. The claim that each was sped up. Beneath the reverby atmosphere of Diabolical… is a fierce enough record – that they usurped all comers with their increased intensity of 1993 and 1995 is a natural progression, that not all could make.
2. Deicide Legion Roadrunner Records
If Deicide’s debut was a fist in the face of god, then this, their follow up from two years later would no doubt reaffirm the Deicide crusade was as visceral as ever. People were listening to Deicide – both through their music, as well as their message, which was elaborated on by the band’s rambunctious and belligerent frontman – Glen Benton – who knew how to rile up pretty much anyone, sensitive to his sense of priority.
Razor sharp, catchy, violent and merciless; Deicide had the sound, the chops and the attitude. They were at the height of their powers on this occasion. American Death Metal perfection.
1. Darkthrone A Blaze In The Northern Sky Peaceville
It’s kind of surreal when you consider it was only four years between Bathory’s Under The Sign of the Black Mark and the recording of Darkthrone’s Black Metal debut. The way people would talk about it, it seemed as though Black Metal was an ancient medium that hadn’t been practiced in aeons.
A decade seemed like a long time back then, especially if considering Venom’s second opus as the genesis of the genre (at least in name), was only nine years prior to A Blaze…, a record widely perceived as unexpected and left of centre. The mid 80s allowed Black Metal to blossom, its tentacles spanning the globe and spawning a host of disparate bands who collectively aspired to transcend the underground in which they dwelt. Never actually dying, by the turn of the decade, Black Metal was certainly obscured by the potency of Death Metal and its stranglehold over the ubiquity of what extreme metal became viewed as. Black Metal, in a sense, suffered the same fate as Thrash Metal – it was still played, but it wasn’t seen as a scalable or viable creative force, irrespective of how innovative the artists who orbited its malignant core clearly were.
And Darkthrone, who had established themselves with a series of demos and a full length LP steeped in Death Metal orthodoxy, had the most to gain, and to lose by pivoting to a grim, Bathorian style that drank deep from the wells of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. Their Return…, was indeed something.
And I know you’re supposed to say that Under A Funeral Moon was the greatest of the Peaceville trilogy – the most pure Black Metal expression. For me, that’s incorrect. The correct sequence being A Blaze…, Transilvanian Hunger, Panzerfaust (an outlier) and Under A Funeral Moon rounding out the four.