The topic of staggeringly prolific yet relatively unknown Mexican metal band Transmetal recently came up in a series of back-and-forth emails with a friend of mine. Apparently they recorded a couple of albums at Tampa, FL's legendary Morrisound Recording in the '90s, which got me thinking: what other lesser-known gems might said death metal mecca's impressive résumé reveal from that time period?
So, here are some highlights, in alphabetical order…
Blood Runs Black, Cast Into Eternity Within Duration of a Moment (Harvest, 1995)
I've owned this unsung classic from the '90s metalcore hotbed of Syracuse, NY for many, many years, but I'm not sure I ever realized that the best four of its six tracks were recorded at Morrisound with Judd Packer (and assistance from Assück's Steve Heritage). Opener, "Introduction to New Blood," is a flawless slab of absurdly thick and meaty rhythms packed with dark atmosphere—completely badass on every level, and it still gives me chills with each listen. The entire EP—the band's lone non-demo release—just rules. Blood Runs Black should have done so much more, but members would later go on to perform with Godbelow, Unholy, Devil His Due, Brand New Sin, and numerous others…
Degradation, Revelation in Blood (D.E.G., 1994)
Ever heard of this band? Neither had I. But why!? Be not misled by the somewhat silly album cover, 'cause this is some raging technical thrash—especially for 1994—reminiscent of Sadus meets Forced Entry. Degradation was located in Morrisound's home base of Tampa, FL, and tracked their only self-released full-length there with the help of Tom Morris. It's a rare one, too: physical copies are scarce, and the cheapest I've seen on CD is currently going for $70!? Ouch!
Epitaph, Demos (Self-Released, 1991/1992)
Not an album, but… fuck it, it still applies! Also from Tampa, FL, this inexplicably lesser-known group featured future Cynic member (turned self-help mentor) Tony Teegarden on guitar and vocals. Epitaph recorded a mere five songs across two demos—both at Morrisound—the first with Tom Morris, the second with Scott Burns. How this band never got signed is beyond me, 'cause they were cranking out a fantastic blend of most everything the Florida death metal scene had to offer at the time: brutality, technicality, melody, slickly prominent bass runs, progressive-tinged elements as well as slower, gloomier riffing… and intelligent lyrics, too! Had they received the opportunity to release a full-length, they may well have been heralded right alongside Cynic and Atheist!
Havoc Mass, Killing the Future (Massacre, 1993)
I was introduced to Tampa, FL's Havoc Mass years ago by a blog whose name escapes me, and their sole album, Killing the Future, was indeed recorded at Morrisound—though I don't know by whom, as I still don't own a physical copy of the CD. But it's a great offering of chugging, midpaced death/thrash with just the right pinch of added atmosphere. For some reason, the band rechristened itself Inhuman in 1994, and recorded another (even more obscure) full-length at Morrisound in 1995.
Lowbrow, Victims at Play (Crook'd, 1999)
This Floridian outfit was formed in the late-'90s by former Obituary and Six Feet Under guitarist Allen West—alongside members having performed with Nasty Savage, Havoc Mass, and many more—and their debut album was recorded at Morrisound with Obituary's Donald Tardy producing (as was 2001's Sex. Violence. Death.). I (foolishly, in retrospect) overlooked Lowbrow in their day because Victims at Play's cover art was a hideous piece of shit, but it's actually a killer disc of vicious, borderline hardcore-inflected death metal that definitely has some slammin', Obituary-esque rhythms happening.
Overthrow, Within Suffering (Epidemic, 1990)
Though it has been reissued twice since 2008, the lone full-length from Canadian act Overthrow still feels fairly unknown. Laid down at Morrisound with Scott Burns and Tom Morris, Within Suffering is a perfectly competent slab of early-'90s thrash metal, at times reminiscent of Demolition Hammer. It's also among the only items on this list that's readily available today.
Slap of Reality, Three Lefts Make a Right (Headhunter, 1991)
Closing out with a significant change of pace, the debut full-length from—yet again—Tampa, FL's Slap of Reality was recorded at Morrisound with Judd Packer. While it features another misleadingly weak album cover, it's an excellent dose of melodic hardcore/punk reminiscent of contemporaries such as Big Drill Car. I've encountered Three Lefts Make a Right on a handful of blogs over the years—enough to pique my interest—but it's only now that I'm realizing just how strong an album it really is. (Slap of Reality later reunited with an altered lineup for a second, more Samiam-ish album in 1996.)