Music Article

Death Metal

Death Metal releases -- Carcass, Entombed, Godflesh, Morbid Angel, and Napalm Death are the bands with new albums

Death Metal new releases

Some mornings you awake with only one thought: The world is a godless, pus-filled dustball headed straight for Satan's jaws. When that feeling strikes, there is only one music of choice: death metal. Spewn from the heavy-metal womb in the mid-'80s, death metal (also known as hardgore) is lurid and disfigured, the rock & roll equivalent of low-budget 8 mm horror flicks like Redneck Zombies, with a little pulp sci-fi added. The lyrics are twisted tirades involving mangled flesh and corrupted minds. The music is a dank, smelly smorgasbord of bludgeoning riffs; guitars that sound as if they're being strangled, not played; relentless double-time drumming that fights for control over those guitars; songs that cast a scornful eye on melody; and garbled vocals that out-spook Linda Blair's croaking in The Exorcist. The bands that play this music often come from England and have names like Obituary, Autopsy, Suffocation, Immolation, and Radiation Sickness. Despite the commercial success of Slayer, their American brothers-in-blood, most death-metal groups are relegated to the likes of the appropriately named British independent label Earache, home of Carcass, Entombed, Godflesh, Morbid Angel, and Napalm Death. Ranging from the good and the bad to the truly ugly, the new albums by these five bands — released simultaneously for maximum impact — provide the best overview yet of this uncompromising genre. Napalm Death invest their tunes from the dark side with a martial, Teutonic feel, but Harmony Corruption, their third album, is undone by sluggish rhythms and a generally sludgy sound. Entombed, from Sweden, have songs with vivid titles (''Revel in Flesh,'' ''Abnormally Deceased''), a tough two-guitar attack, and a singer, Lars-Göran Petrov, with a throat-slashed style that outdoes even Stevie Nicks. But Entombed's debut, Left Hand Path, still sounds drab. Not so with Morbid Angel, whose first album, Altars of Madness, merges pulverizing speed-metal frenzy with such downcast thoughts as ''Come to me, lord of filth/Hear my cries, princes of nightmares/Touch us with your morbid lips/Let us taste your foulness.'' The machine-gun drumming alone will give you an instant headache, which in the world of death metal is the highest of compliments.

When it come to lyrics, the gore's the limit for Carcass, whose sublimely named sophomore album, Symphonies of Sickness, revels in inspired snuff-film lyrics and song titles (''Embryonic Necropsy and Devourment,'' ''Exhume to Consume''); it's like Gray's Anatomy set to music. Artistic growth is heard in the band's touches of '70s art-rock noodling, while the ultra-creepy vocals are pitched so low they sound as if they were recorded at the wrong speed.

Representing the next phase of death metal is Godflesh's Streetcleaner, which dispenses with standard headbanger rhythms in favor of an industrial-noise collage that's almost arty. Sounding like a visit to an out-of-control crackhouse that sits next to a train station, ''Streetcleaner'' should make Stephen King think twice about calling the comparatively tame AC/DC his favorite band. Carcass: B+
Godflesh: B+
Morbid Angel: B
Entombed: C
Napalm Death: C

Originally posted Jan 25, 1991 Published in issue #50 Jan 25, 1991 Order article reprints
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