We've all been there, right? And for me personally, the most wondrous YouTube rabbit holes tend to open when I'm looking up a relatively obscure band that I'm not terribly familiar with. Having recently discovered that after decades of unfairly holding Krabathor's goofy band name against them, the Czech death metallers are—in fact—quite good, I decided to begin this excursion with a track from their second album, 1993's Cool Mortification, because the album title is hilariously awesome and its cover art is, well—as the title states—pretty fuckin' cool. Beyond that, I'll isolate my navigation to YouTube's recommendations, only clicking on videos from artists that don't yet reside in my collection…
Krabathor, "Forget the Gods," from Cool Mortification (Monitor, 1993)
Even with its seven-plus-minute running time, this song is darker and more groove-laden than I would have anticipated. I dig the meaty vocals and pinch harmonics during the verses—man, what a lost art pinch harmonics have become. Damn, this entire track is mostly pounding midpaced rhythms and oddly chaotic blasts of lead work. Not bad at all. Quite badass, to be honest. A damn shame that even the Russian bootlegs of this CD seem to run about $25. Ugh.
I do not intend for this to be a Krabathor-only piece, they were only supposed to kick open the gate, but YouTube's subsequent recommendations are almost entirely Krabathor, and I'm not loving my other options: an extremely small, random smattering of well-known bands such as The Haunted, Dream Theater, and… "Dee Snider's Emotional Stripped Down Version of 'We're Not Gonna Take It'."
More Krabathor it is, then…
Krabathor, "Killing My Wrath," from Only Our Death is Welcome… (Monitor, 1992)
This tune from Krabathor's debut album is once again more midpaced and moshy than expected, though it does take a thrashy turn prior to the vocals kicking in around two minutes. I miss the days when a lot of death metal was just slightly heavier thrash with more aggressive vocals, you know? Anyway, another damn solid outing here. I need some Krabathor in my collection, indeed.
YouTube really wants me to listen to more Krabathor, but I'm moving on…
Sadistic Intent, Resurrection (Gothic, 1994)
I'd love to believe that I've heard Sadistic Intent at some point—always loved their logo—but if so, I've certainly never dug in. I never would've expected that they're from Los Angeles either. For some reason, I would've guessed Greece or some shit. I'm not gonna jam the whole 24-minute EP right now, but I was surprised when that slow, melodic, doomy intro suddenly gave way to breakneck blasting death metal mayhem. This is a fuckin' great fusion of grimy, midpaced, doom-tinged riffing and straight death metal with harshly guttural vocals. And—of course—it looks like their early work is highly collectible, so this little experiment is not doing my Discogs wantlist any favors…
Phantasm, The Abominable (Death Trap, 1995)
Another death metal rarity, apparently, this time from Milwaukee, WI. A 1995 CD release of their 1992 demo, plus two bonus tracks. I love classic death metal, but I must admit that my collection and awareness of such is certainly lacking beyond the standard essentials. Phantasm strikes me as fine, but isn't really doing much for me. I don't really need 53 minutes of this. Sorry!
Banished, Deliver Me Unto Pain (Deaf, 1994)
I couldn't pass up that album title, but it seems I've found myself in a "perfectly acceptable but not exactly exciting (though collectible nonetheless)" death metal rut here. Perhaps that statement is a sin, however, as this is the Buffalo, NY outfit formerly known as Baphomet, whose 1992 album, The Dead Shall Inherit, I have heard in the past. It doesn't give me goosebumps or whatever, but this is generally good. Beefy death metal with proto-slam breaks, perhaps derived from what could be perceived as the slightest touch of a hardcore influence? A little one-sided, but certainly better than Phantasm. Strong riffs and I definitely love the bass presence. It's growing on me.
Delirium, Zzooouhh (Prophecy, 1990)
The "adequate" trend continues with the lone 1990 full-length from this Dutch act. Cool logo, weak cover art, silly album title. Not so bad an album, though. Doomy, Obituary-esque death metal, but without the top-shelf riffs or badass songwriting. I appreciate what they do, though. Seeing that this has been reissued as a double-CD, I'm tempted, but I'm trying to scale back some of my purchasing because I often scoop up all these re-releases only to look back like, "Eh, I don't know that I really need to listen to this more than once or twice…" That being said, I've bought worse, so… hmmm. Damn, I don't know, those punk-ish Celtic Frost thrusts are kinda winning me over!
Blasphereion, Rest in Peace (Osmose, 1991)
I was hoping for the best here, but no, these Belgians have failed to lift the fog of adequacy. This rugged death metal with ultra guttural vocals is acceptable at best. There are some cool moments, but despite offering slight bits of variety and atmosphere, there's just not enough feeling for me. Listenable, but probably the most disappointing selection thus far.
Pentacrostic, The Pain Tears (Hellion, 1992)
São Paulo, Brazil, 1992. Killer logo. And yet… another dose of lightly atmospheric doom/death that doesn't particularly grip me. Forceful vocals and some mildly interesting discordance here and there, but… I've gotta pass. You can probably tell I'm losing some steam here…
I just love that—in addition to loads of presumably tolerable-yet-mediocre death metal—YouTube is also offering me the option of R.E.M.'s "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"
Varathron, Walpurgisnacht (Unisound, 1995)
Greek black metal from 1995. Middle-of-the-road, I suppose? Raw but not exceedingly abrasive, keyboards but not "symphonic" keyboards (thankfully), fast but not without variation, melodic and well-composed, etc. As with some of the aforementioned picks: very listenable, it just lacks that certain spark for my ears.
I'll also confess that I'm an absolute amateur when it comes to Greek black metal. I never even got into Rotting Christ or anything. Maybe one day?
Rotting Christ, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (Century Media, 1996)
Maybe today! I mean, it's fucking shameful that I didn't buy this album in the '90s for the Stephen Kasner cover art alone. I don't know what my problem is. It happens when it happens, that's all I can say. This is hitting me, though. I'm in. Rotting Christ must have already been transitioning away from black metal at this point. Vocally you can still pick up on it, but the writing is much more energetic and rooted in sort of a flowing, trad metal-leaning melodic Swedish style or something. Cool chord phrasings, great riffs with loads of guitar harmonies… wow.
This is kinda fuckin' great. And there's no way my OCD will allow me to procure album #3 without eventually buying albums #1 and #2 (at least), so… okay, yeah. I'm gonna be a Rotting Christ fan now. Cool. Done!