Disharmonic Orchestra, "Like Madness From Above," from Not to be Undimensional Conscious (Nuclear Blast, 1992)
I've always wanted to like Austria's Disharmonic Orchestra—interesting band name, weird album titles (though not-so-great-looking album covers)—but could never quite get there. Crossing paths with their music in bits and pieces in recent years, however, got me thinking that now could be the time, so I decided to start with something from their second album, Not to be Undimensional Conscious.
See, I dunno, though... there's definitely a "disharmonic" vibe to the intro, and I really dig the bass tone/presence, but once they speed up and the vocals kick in, I kinda lose interest. It's not bad, but it's nothing to write home about, you know? The main thing that stands out to me is that the mix is pretty cool in the way it separates the bass from the guitars. The wacky changes and timing shifts are a little haphazard, but not jarring. They're not one-sided or generic, but the general vibe of the approach just doesn't hit me very much. If I saw a cheap used copy of this CD out in the world, I'd buy it just to have it, but Disharmonic Orchestra is still not winning me over the way I'd hoped.
YouTube's algorithm is already posing problems, too, because I'm mostly seeing stuff I'm already familiar with like Morgoth, Cancer, etc.—but then totally random shit that's completely unrelated such as Rodney Dangerfield or videos about astronauts. I mean... what the fuck!?
Excruciate, Passage of Life (Thrash Records, 1993)
I don't like clicking on full-album videos in these pieces, but all-too-often that's the only choice. This is third-rate but perfectly solid Swedish death metal with subtle undercurrents of doom. Recorded at Sunlight Studio, but with only a slight edge of the "Sunlight sound." Passage of Life looks to have been reissued several times on several formats over the years, which is nice to see. Again, I could see myself buying a copy one day, it's not too shabby, but on the scale of masterful death metal to come out of Sweden, it's probably no huge surprise that Excruciate isn't amongst the most common names bandied about
Purtenance, Member of Immortal Damnation (Drowned Productions, 1992)
Not too far off from Excruciate here, except that Purtenance is from Finland and leans more obviously toward the slower and doomier side of things. Production's a little muddy and the songwriting can take too long to get moving, but I can sit and enjoy this well enough. Member of Immortal Damnation has also been reissued on both LP and CD, and the band even reunited and released new material as recently as two years ago. I chose this one because the logo and cover art looked pretty cool, but overall the "not bad, but not great" pattern continues here.
I'd rather not get stuck in a rut of slightly mediocre Scandinavian death metal (which is not gonna be easy considering that 70% of my options right now are either obscure or big name acts out of Sweden or Finland), so I'm trying to make a wise decision here...
Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin, 2018)
This may have been a mistake, 'cause now I'll likely get thrown into the endless pool of contemporary death metal bands I've heard of but never actually heard—all of which are probably quite strong, but I have a hard time diving into too much of this stuff when the death metal portion of my music collection already lacks too many classic-era albums that would be higher-priority purchases for an old fart like me.
This is fine, though. Great vocals, cool riffs, forceful production (though I personally find the guitar tone to be somewhat lacking), not too dirty, not so constantly fast that it's boring, etc. I can totally see why Tomb Mold is fairly well-known and death metal aficionados are all over 'em, that makes perfect sense. They've already released a new album this year, so I should probably give that one a spin as well.
Phrenelith, Desolate Endscape (Dark Descent, 2017)
The video title mentioning that the band was from Denmark is what sold me on this one, because I definitely have a soft spot for Danish death/thrash. I'm hoping for some riffing excellence here. Ultra guttural vocals and dense rhythms with a good balance of tempos so far. Occasionally they veer toward some warped dissonance and a beefy feel that brings to mind Morbid Angel circa Covenant, and I'm totally on board with that. Good, powerful recording with a mix that lets you make out just a smidge of the bass behind the density of the guitars/vocals, too. It doesn't quite smack me in the face and make me stand up, but this is more energetic and "my kind of thing" than Tomb Mold was. This is the coolest thing I've heard in this batch so far. I'm only about five minutes in and this is pretty damn good. Will I end up buying Phrenelith's complete discography? Decisions, decisions...
Ossuarium, Living Tomb (20 Buck Spin, 2018)
Nice, this is quite in line with what Phrenelith was doing. Less dissonant, but with a little more atmosphere at times. Nasty, doom-tinged brutal death metal with crisp, warm production. As with most of this list, it's not the kind of thing that makes me jump out of my chair or anything, but this is—yet again—quite good. At some point in the next decade, I'll probably get a bug up my ass and decide to catch up on a bunch of this contemporary (for now) death metal that I've obviously been sleeping on, in which case I would definitely buy some Ossuarium. I actually don't think I own a single release from 20 Buck Spin, because I'm just that out of touch, ha! (Of course, I've heard of and am vaguely familiar with the label, though, I don't live under a rock!)
Despite things taking a turn for the better, I'd still like to get out of this death metal cycle, but the YouTube algorithm is so goofy now that I'm mostly seeing more of the same or—inexplicably—Deadmau5, "Relaxing Jazz for Work," etc. Again I say: what the fuck!?
Room 101, The Burden (Self-Released, 2019)
Almost a minute in and it's been nothing but ambient tones and samples from the movie 1984, so I'm starting to wonder if this is an experimental type of release. Oooh, wait, nope! Some guitars are finally coming in and it kinda sounds like Mindrot, so I'm getting quite curious now... The lead melodies are a little rough around the edges, but the overall vibe is heading in a nice direction. Yeah, I'm kinda diggin' this. The first two tracks were instrumental, though—I'll be kinda bummed if there are no vocals, to be honest...
And just like that, vocals appear! Damn, this is almost like total Mindrot worship to me, and I'm a fan! Hard-hitting and doomy, but emotionally melodic in a way that checks off some important boxes for me. I think this is Room 101's debut, and I'm impressed/intrigued. I hear a huge amount of potential here. Very cool.
Crumb, Jinx (Self-Released, 2019)
Great cover art, and the typeface on the cover looks kinda metal, but holy shit, I have definitely hopped off the death metal train, for sure! I'm super into this, though. Very Portishead-ish. Lush and chilled out—would this be called "trip-hop"? I don't know, that's what comes to mind. There's a weird sort of '70s jazz warmth goin' on. I only have two or three bands of this nature in my collection, but this shit is pretty slick and well done. I've never heard of Crumb, but I may well considering picking this up. This is what I came for! I'm getting excited now that this round has finally taken a more diverse turn!
Of course, this means that with my next click, there's a 50/50 chance that I'll hate what I land on...
Lost Under Heaven, "Come," from Love Hates What You Become (Mute, 2019)
Oops. Self-fulfilling prophecy. No clue what you'd call this. I was hoping it'd be some obscure old post-punk band, but it's brand new glitchy electronic pop with vocals that are so overdramatic I can barely deal with 'em. Sitting here trying to force my way through the entire song, I must admit there are some cool little elements that I can appreciate, but... this just isn't for me.
What a devastating pick, too, because my options for the final selection are abysmally depressing. For some twisted reason it's just a mish-mash of country music and, like, Disturbed and shit. Why!? What the hell is the deal with this fuckin' algorithm!?
Steve Earle, "Copperhead Road," from Copperhead Road (Uni Records, 1988)
Faced with a no-win situation, I absolutely picked this for the cover art alone. It was literally the only thumbnail image that seemed even mildly curious. I hate 99.9% of country music and can't really get into this, but it does possess a weird mix of folksy/alt.-rock influences that are semi-interesting. The lyrics make me think of that TV show, Justified. That's about all I've got here. Game over.