Withstanding the March of Time: 1991
Like a bottle of fine port, these only get better with age.
by: Aly Hassab El Naby
There comes a day in the early teens of every young man and woman in modern times when we come across a type of music that's completely alien to our ears. Metal music, with all its illustrious variety, is quite baffling to the virgin ear. In most cases, we would have heard about it from classmates that were thought to be the weird kids of our school. The average student dismisses it as the new "in" thing, and for some kids it really is. But in every city on this earth, there roams an eternal weird kid, the one who didn't stop listening to metal. He could be sitting behind you on the train or in the office next to you, and it doesn't look like he's going to stop listening anytime soon. This article is compiled by a small group of these guys, and is dedicated to these guys: the ones who are serious about their metal and care about it; whether old or new.

In this article, the Chronicles of Chaos staff presents to you a modern look on ten of the most pivotal metal albums that were released in 1991. We take a closer look at the level of musicianship on these albums, lyrical content, production and other parameters. All of us stumble across scores of impressive albums each year, but only a select few can stand the test time. Here's to metal, in all its glory.

Atheist - _Unquestionable Presence_ (by: Jonathan Carbon)

Florida, as a metal landscape, was massive in the late 1980's. The pioneers of death metal, including Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide, all produced albums which would later gain immortal status. There was also this group of weirdos. I discussed Nocturnus' _The Key_ last year in "Withstanding the March of Time". Nocturnus, along with Cynic and Atheist, became Florida's most beloved progressive death oddballs. To the delight of future music majors, technical death metal would expand and produce some outstanding records in the late '90s. But before they were prog demi-gods, Atheist was just a weird yet brutal band with a double major in death metal and jazz.

It takes less than five seconds into _Unquestionable Presence_ to get a feeling for the rest of the album. Without sacrificing intensity, Atheist takes death metal and gives it the gift of fluid mobility, thus making everything ten times more terrifying. In terms of the band's discography, it was this album which not only brought the band its legacy but would radically change the makeup for future progressive metal. Everything regarding _Unquestionable Presence_ is now iconic. Its style continues to entertain and delight. This is a record of unquestionable presence and undeniable merit.

Cannibal Corpse - _Butchered At Birth_ (by: Aaron McKay)

Ragingly violent. Excessive. Brutal. Sadistically vicious. Powerful and influential. Cannibal Corpse has been called all these things and, in fact, much, much more (and a lot worse).

What nature of DNA contains the essence of such a prominent outfit like Cannibal Corpse to spew forth an effort like _Butchered at Birth_? The early '90s, as this cascade of reviews comprising this round of "Withstanding the March of Time" demonstrates, was full of authoritative classics: the indelible _Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious_ by Carcass, Death's preeminent _Human_, _The Ten Commandments_ from Florida's killing machine, Malevolent Creation, and the mighty Dark Angel's piece de resistance _Time Does Not Heal_. An abbreviated list to be certain, but nonetheless a barrage of lethal releases so early on in the 1990s.

Where does this leave Cannibal Corpse and _Butchered at Birth_ other than in obviously superior company, of course? Unlike Canada's Gorguts with _Considered Dead_ or even Morbid Angel's _Blessed Are the Sick_ (elsewhere in the article), Cannibal Corpse had a more extreme, overtly savage and masochistic axe to grind. Having acquired the desired shock-value attention from their ravenous full-length debut, _Eaten Back to Life_, Cannibal Corpse faced the necessary challenge of volleying back a sophomore release that dispelled any notion that their initial success as a fluke and, what's more, further entrenched their rage and vicious style in the entirety of the death metal loving psyche.

Clearly an improvement in instrumental acuity, Paul Mazurkiewicz, Bob Rusay, Jack Owen, Chris Barnes and Alex Webster doubled-down on their stylistic technique with even faster hyper-driven beats, scorching riffs, blistering segues and Chris Barnes' guttural delivery, unbelievably, more menacing. Upping the ante on the "extreme" side of things naturally drew some criticism for _Butchered at Birth_. Not so much the subject matter or lyrical content -- since not expecting, even by this point, Cannibal Corpse to explore the profane and gruesome would be like asking a ten dollar hooker for a list of references -- but rather the tempo and perceived lack of particularly focused change-ups caused some critics to disparage _BaB_ as shapeless, excessive and repetitive.

Within the nine tracks of determinative death metal on this album, Cannibal Corpse forcibly shoved their particular brand and style to blistering new heights with _Butchered at Birth_. From the aptitude initially displayed from _Eaten Back to Life_ to the insatiable viciousness of _Butchered at Birth_, Cannibal Corpse conceivably would not have so cleverly carved their niche as definitively were it not for their approach so grounded and honed on _Butchered at Birth_ -- truly one of the greater death metal releases of modern time.

Carcass - _Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious_ (by: Gino Filicetti)

Literally titled but a fact lost on the legions of metal fans too lazy to pick up the Oxford English Dictionary. "Descanting the insalubrious" is exactly what Carcass does on this album to such a degree of perfection that even after 20 years it remains as hauntingly sick as ever.

My introduction to Carcass actually came during the _Heartwork_ release two years after this one. As per usual for me back then; it was during an interview on Much Music's Power 30 with the beautiful, yet dim witted Theresa Roncon who introduced Bill Steer and Jeff Walker as "two halves of Carcass". Of course that elicited a good chuckle from the two Brits who would never think of showing mercy on such an egregious grammatical slip, but I digress.

Being won over by _Heartwork_, I immediately set to the task of researching Carcass' entire back catalog (a much more time consuming and expensive proposition in those days). It didn't take long to settle on _Necroticism_ as the masterpiece of the bunch.

Quite a departure from the brutal disemboweling "goregrind" of _Reek of Putrefaction_ and _Symphonies of Sickness_, _Necroticism_ showed a maturing of the Carcass sound that some would disparage as an attempt at commercializing and becoming more accessible, but that's not how I see it. Listening to the entire five release Carcass back catalog, at first blush it seems to be a gradual softening of their sound, but to look at it that way is to miss the point entirely. With each new album, the last thing Carcass can be accused of is self plagiarizing. Each album holds something new for the listener, each a pioneering classic in its own right (yes, even _Swansong_!).

One of the first things that stands out when listening to _Necroticism_ the old fashioned way, ie: with hi fi system blasting and album booklet in hand, are the utterly impenetrable lyrics. Rumor had it that Steer or Walker or both were med school drop outs and that they desperately wanted to put their new found vocabulary to some sort of productive use. Accusations of "thesaurusitical" abuse are well founded; you'll get no argument here.

Another stand out feature of this album is the distorted samples of coroners and pathologists that prefix most tracks. Always spoken with a calm, matter-of-fact-ness to them, classics such as these couldn't convey a more disturbing atmosphere of death and gore:

"If visible identification is not possible, the pathologist may be able to take fingerprints from the body until decaying sets in... things become more complicated..."

"Human remains in a beaker and tray and coffee pot. Bones which were being partly macerated, dissolved, in a margarine container which had engine coolant in it that smelt... very awful."

For me the clear masterpiece on _Necroticism_ -- were I forced at gunpoint to name one -- would have to be "Corporeal Jigsore Quandary". From the heart stopping double bass intro leading into an all out grind attack and culminating in the signature "dueling vocals" of early Carcass during the chorus. This track has it all, crushingly heavy guitars, a solid foundation of drum and bass and brain twisting vocals both shrieking and guttural.

Leads abound throughout this album, which is another way it differs from the first two. Transitions, tempo changes, there is loads on here that would have you believe Carcass left their goregrind roots in the dustbin. This perception is shattered when encountering tracks such as "Symposium of Sickness" or "Tools of the Trade", which could easily hold their own in the midst of _Reek..._ or _Symphonies..._.

Which brings us to "Incarnated Solvent Abuse", another contender for top track. This song again harkens back to earlier times with its vocal stylings: a spewage of pure vomit and bile that's never failed to impress me and perfectly complements the unrelenting grind of the rhythm section. It also doesn't hurt having one of the lowest budget music videos I've ever seen that makes the coolest use of latex outside of a porn flick.

No one can deny the genius of Carcass and in my mind, _Necroticism_ strikes the perfect balance between the unrelenting goregrind of the early albums and the melodic death that they were to morph into next.

Death - _Human_ (by: Dan Lake)

Is there any single musician in the extreme metal community so universally applauded as Evil Chuck Schuldiner? Has any other band progressed so admirably from album to album -- all the time shedding the players involved and reforming as a completely fresh entity -- without losing a single nanojoule of the rebellious energy and spirit that sparked the initial conflagration? Can any tale be more compelling than a continent-wanderer whose past accomplishments were only ever footholds he used to climb to the next great height, over and over right up to the tragically early end of his life? Aren't hyperbolic rhetorical questions totally annoying?

Hyperbole maybe, but it's hard to argue that Death's trajectory provided an accurate augury of extreme music's movements for the past 20 years. For certain, whenever CoC reflects on the most influential albums from a year containing a Death release, that record's getting a nod whether it was a good album or not. (Incidentally, they were basically all good albums.) From _Scream Bloody Gore_'s scene-breaking primal attack to the musically accomplished clarity of _The Sound of Perseverance_, Death represented the heart of all the myriad aspirations blossoming in the metal world. Schuldiner's ambitions consistently edged out the slavering death metal pack, and his restlessness and ideological stranglehold over the project certainly alienated his peers and associates; but two decades later, the results shriek for themselves.

While the lineups for previous Death albums hardly wanted for stone cold talent, _Human_'s contributors really get the scenesters' blood pumping. Two years before Cynic cyber-bitch-slapped all of metaldom with their head-scratchingly futuristic _Focus_, the core creators of that fantastic fusion filled out Death's post-_Spiritual Healing_ roster alongside veteran Death bassist Steve DiGiorgio. Not that _Human_ actually hints at the style of Paul Masvidal's and Sean Reinert's impending classic, but the record presents a version of Death that widened the musical possibilities of the genre. Truthfully, the era's sticky speed-thrash film still clings a bit too thickly for my personal tastes -- _Human_ is absolutely a product of its time, no matter how forward thinking it might have been -- but the clean guitar leads and solos, backbreaking time changes, and buoyant latecomers like "Lack of Comprehension" and "Cosmic Sea" prove that boundless aggression was never meant to be the album's sole purpose.

Might _Human_ disappoint new listeners drawn by Chuck Schuldiner's sensationalized legacy? Perhaps. Is that hype deserved, though, given the impeccable timing of his band's emergence and impulsive progressions? Likely. Have I exhausted my allowance of questions as a literary device? Unquestionably.

Dismember - _Like An Everflowing Stream_ (by: Mark Dolson)

_Like an Everflowing Stream_ was released on May 29th, 1991. That's almost 21 years ago, and I still can't believe the album is that old. My relationship with this album is an interesting one, and started one year after the album was released. I was 16, and it was early summer of 1992. I remember heading downtown with some friends to go on one of our weekend cassette purchasing forays. The ritual was always to run as fast as we could to the very back of HMV -- where the small but significant metal section was -- and pounce on anything we found interesting. The tapes were up top, and the CDs were below. Since I didn't have a CD player at that time, I was always limited to what they had on tape; which at the time was actually quite a bit, considering that tapes were definitely on their way out. I instantly grabbed Entombed's _Clandestine_ album, not knowing what they sounded like at all -- I just loved the cover artwork. I remember that it was a whopping $21.99 CAN! For a tape, too! One of my friends, Richard, started rummaging through the CDs, and pulled out Dismember's _Like an Everflowing Stream_, and all went blank.

We just stood there, muttering to ourselves, "holy shit", those guys look EVIL! I'm talking about the back-cover picture of the band on the original pressing of the CD through Nuclear Blast. If you are familiar with the CD, then you know what I'm talking about: Karki, Blomqvist, Senneback, Cabeza/Damon, and Estby, standing in the typical '90s death-metal pose, covered in blood. (You're probably familiar with this pose: chests puffed out, regardless of the absent pec-muscles, arms semi-outstretched as if they carry death metal suit-cases as heavy as they riffs they write, and down-turned faces.) I wasn't used to seeing band pictures like this at the time, actually, as I was just starting to transition from thrash to death metal, so the aesthetic was quite different. At any rate, though, I remember being bloody captivated -- pun intended. I picked it up, and just thought: whoa, I bet this sounds evil, heavy, and amazing. The next thing I remember was picking up Cemetary's _An Evil Shade of Grey_ on tape. My other friend came up to us, and mentioned that someone had taped him a copy of _Like an Everflowing Stream_, and that he'd pass a copy on to me (if I supplied the tape).

A couple of weeks later, I had it. And as soon as "Override the Overture" kicked in, I was hooked. The other songs, too, were just as great, and really kept my attention for months as I played this in the car over and over again (it was awesome in those days as I had just received my license to drive). Insofar as the task of this review is to comment on how this album has withstood the various assaults of time, I will say this: almost 21 years on, this album is still fresh, exciting, and heavy as hell. Aside from the countless retro-death bands out there, I would still prefer to put on _Like an Everflowing Stream_ just for its honesty, its intensity, and its viciousness (just listen to the sheer frenzy of tremolo picking all over the album). There are aspects of this album, then, that are timeless: the Sunlight Studio production -- you cannot imitate this today if you tried. Clear, sharp, and wild; and, unlike Anderson on Entombed's _Clandestine_ (who played on an electric kit with a real snare), Estby played real drums on _Like an Everflowing Stream_, and you can tell. To this end, it makes the production sound organic, analogue, and great. I miss those old Sunlight Studios productions; they had such distinctive sound -- the bass-drums, the toms, the guitars. Even Skogsberg's most recent death-metal production, that being Mandatory's _Adrift Beyond_,doesn't match this -- not even close.

When I listen to _Like an Everflowing Stream_ now, I can say that there's something definitely more savage about it compared to Entombed's aforementioned album; and, heck, compared to any contemporary retro-death album. The musicianship may not be as precise as modern bands, but, to me, that's what makes _Like an Everflowing Stream_ so original and frenetic. It's about energy, and there's plenty of it here. I'm not saying there's no energy on _Clandestine_; what I'm trying to say is that the energy is different. It's darker, more uncontrolled. And, with songs like "Dismembered", there's a strange, wandering melancholy that pervades the song. Listening to it now -- especially the beginning of the song -- just brings me right back to those feelings of directionless sorrow and angst I felt as a teenager.

To those of you just getting into classic European death metal, I would highly recommend bypassing any retro death band -- well, maybe not Entrails -- and going right for albums like _An Everflowing Stream_. Modern bands can attempt to emulate this kind of passion and energy, but they all seem to stop short for reasons mentioned above.

The one thing I didn't mention was the cover artwork. It features an amazing piece by the legendary Dan Seagrave. It's similar to the artwork that graced the cover of _Clandestine_, but different in that the colours are a little more vibrant; especially the lava and the water flowing from the main demon skull at the bottom centre of the painting. Back in the day, I had a subscription to SOD (Sounds of Death magazine) which had regular features by artists like Seagrave, Benscoter, etc., so I came to really love and appreciate real album cover artwork -- unlike the drivel we all see today, which, for the most part, is computer generated, lifeless, and, dare I say, boring.

As a post-script: I just found out that Dismember actually broke up last October. Now that's a shame.

Entombed - _Clandestine_ (by: Gino Filicetti)

Back when death metal was still about all things dead and dying, the band who it can be argued, coined the Swedish sound itself, came out with their first two releases, _Left Hand Path_ and _Clandestine_. To many fans of Entombed, _Clandestine_ was a poor successor to _Left Hand Path_, given the departure of Lars-Göran Petrov, but I've never been one to see it that way.

Perhaps the reason that _Clandestine_ holds such a lofty position atop the hallowed halls of fame in my mind is that "Stranger Aeons" is probably the one song that single-handedly turned me into a death metal fan, obsessed with the Swedish sound. I can still remember it clearly... watching Power 30 every afternoon on Much Music and then one day, a video arrives that was nothing like the rest. The crushing guitars, the double bass, the guttural vox all combining to form the perfect atmosphere of aggression and evil (the striking figure of Camilla Henemark didn't hurt either). I was sold from the first listen and just -had- to have more.

Now one song an album does not make, and if _Clandestine_ happened to be a pile of rubbish capped with a single shining jewel, neither I, nor anyone else, would be writing about it today. The fact of the matter is that this album grows from strength to strength during its course. Each track closely on par with the last, many leaving a haunted feeling that grips the heart and leaves you shuddering. Think of the slow intro to "Crawl", the samples and transition in the middle of "Sinners Bleed", the multi-layered growls on "Stranger Aeons". Even lo these 20 years of exposure to countless hours of the most extreme metal on earth, listening to this album always leaves me with a sort of "quickening" which, it can be argued, is the one and only reason we are all mad for metal.

The naysayers will of course point out the fact without LG, there is no Entombed. That the perfection of Left Hand Path could never be surpassed. That the vocals all had to be rerecorded by Nicke. None of that matters looking back after 20 years and nine full-length albums. What remains is the undeniable truth that _Clandestine_ is a more well-rounded and refined release than the chaos of _Left Hand Path_. A release that could go toe to toe with many death metal albums released since. I'd even venture to say that the haunting atmosphere and heart striking terror it induces could even hold its own against the best exemplars of black metal.

Regardless of what you think of latter day Entombed, it can never be forgotten that for a time, they were the quintessence of the Swedish scene. And the sound that was born with _Left Hand Path_ was crystallized to perfection in _Clandestine_.

Morbid Angel - _Blessed Are the Sick_ (by: Aaron McKay)

One of the most explicit examples of forward progress in the death metal genre, Morbid Angel's exemplary second offering after the incomparable _Altars of Madness_, _Blessed Are the Sick_ defined itself as nothing short of innovatively crushing while single-handedly redefining the scene as it was known at the time. Morbid Angel's first two full-length efforts are extremely well known and, in fact, infamous for adding more than just a scanty few (thousand) to the hordes of fans of the death metal legions.

Unlike some of their brethren, Morbid Angel pioneered not just their own incendiary brutality, but lyrically walked their own exploratory path canvassing the depths of, among other things, ancient Sumerian mythology. Unquestionably heavily devastating in sound, style and tempo, Morbid Angel mastered the elusive golden ring in their technique -- passionately wild yet infectious tempo changes with the insane riffing to match.

Trey Azagthoth, the band's guitar virtuoso extraordinaire, throughout Morbid Angel's mind-bending career, and expressly on _Blessed Are the Sick_, ostensibly creates another plane of existence, something like an alternate third void of the continuum, with his style of playing. Never in want for an infectious riff anywhere on _Blessed Are the Sick_, Trey's unduplicated, unorthodox soloing is nearly without compare; _Blessed Are the Sick_'s almighty and hailed track "The Ancient Ones" offers the perfect illustration of this self-evident truism. Trey's talents coupled with that of Richard Brunelle and, on tour, guitar prodigy Erik Rutan, all totaled summon an otherworldly contribution to death metal guitarists for ages to come.

Far too often overlooked, much to the listener's detriment, is the other-worldly, phenomenal drumming from Pete Sandoval. Keeping time for a creature like Morbid Angel is nearly inhuman, much less to effortlessly contribute to the structure musically created is damn close to preposterous, yet _Blessed Are the Sick_ is definitively proof of purchase of Pete's unquestionable ability.

David Vincent, Morbid Angel's front man and bassist, delivers his own distinctive stamp to the band's vivid originality -- that stamp being clarity. Understandable, articulate and comprehensible growling lyrical delivery in conjunctions with a verifiably solid, grounded but understated bass playing approach, Mr. Vincent's skills are absolutely vital in the emphasizing the scheme of things throughout _Blessed Are the Sick_.

"Fall From Grace", the unreal "Day of Suffering" and fervent "Unholy Blasphemies" capture some of the logic-defying snapshots contained with _Blessed Are the Sick_. Haunting, eerie and devastatingly beautiful, _Blessed Are the Sick_ is a chillingly interesting pilgrimage through the expanse of one of the world's more ineffable and authoritative death metal outfits.

Paradise Lost - _Gothic_ (by: Pedro Azevedo)

Sure, 1991 was the year that saw Carcass concoct _Necroticism_, Pestilence produce _Testimony of the Ancients_, and much more that probably tickles your death metal fancy to no end. It was a fine year for the death metal genre, I'll give you that. Meanwhile though, somewhere inside a cramped dark room with a single hole through which to peek at the stars, coiled the thing that would become known as doom/death metal; and it slowly grew.

Let's not argue about the absolute origin of death-infused doom metal; even Paradise Lost themselves had already released a debut in 1990 that might be considered to have elements from both genres. But 1991 saw a couple of significant facts in the history of this subgenre of doom. One was that a certain band called My Dying Bride debuted with an EP titled _Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium_, the opening melody and ensuing riff of which are still likely to be vivid in the heads of many doom fanatics. It was only a tentative effort, however; and Anathema, the last piece of this British doom triangle, would only appear with their _Crestfallen_ EP in 1992.

Paradise Lost had an earlier start, and their second effort _Gothic_ was a breakthrough album in its ability to combine not only death and doom metal, but on occasion also a considerable level of symphonic inspiration. Considering the scarcity of what had come before and the abundance of what has taken place since in related styles, the importance of an album like _Gothic_ in 1991 is still clear.

_Gothic_ is not a long album, nor is it without its weaker moments. At its best however, the result of those immense death growls, crystalline female vocals, powerful doom riffs and symphonic touches (which were often no more than smartly used guitars) remains impressive to this day. Such is the case on the unforgettable opener "Gothic", "Eternal" and "The Painless", despite the album retrospectively seeming a lot less polished and orchestral than it did at the time.

Paradise Lost's career took some considerable turns later on (particularly after _Draconian Times_ came out in 1995), at one point venturing quite far off track before reaching the very respectable path they currently tread after twelve full-length albums. The seeds of what still makes them relevant today can be found within _Gothic_, an album that has also had an important role in making many a doom/death outfit use symphonic elements or female vocals throughout the years. Indeed, for all its shortcomings, some truly outstanding songs ensure _Gothic_ still remains Paradise Lost's most influential album to date.

Pestilence - _Testimony of the Ancients_ (by: Chaim Drishner)

Pestilence for me marks the transitional phase between the Neanderthal era of death metal and the more intellectually-inclined, intelligent breed of musical assemblies whose goal was to deliver a package deal of quality music coupled with quality lyrics. In that regard, one could have noticed the evolution Pestilence themselves had undergone, from their simplistic, rather generic debut, continuing with their new approach of (yet again) rather simplistic, primitive death metal captured on their sophomore album, to the band's third and magnificent album, which was a quantum leap forward, musically, conceptually and lyrically, when compared both to _Malleus Maleficarum_ and _Consuming Impulse_: the band had slowed down and begun focusing on melody and atmosphere rather than on sheer maddening brutality.

Dusting off the veils of time from my old _Testimony of the Ancients_ vinyl, the music contained therein is so potent, tight, innovative, adventurous, venomous and intelligent -- it easily stands the test of time, and both the aural contents as well as the crisp production are as relevant today as they were twenty odd years ago, when this record stirred the underground so hard, everybody into metal felt the earthquake even without the Internet and fucking Facebook.

With the departure of Martin Van Drunen and his replacement by the excellent lead guitar player Patrick Mameli as the band's vocalist, not much had changed in that regard, mainly because Mameli's vocals were extremely reminiscent of Van Drunen's; the colors were almost identical, the narrating abilities, the presentation, the slight high-pitched inclination. However, Mameli's approach as a death metal vocalist was slightly softer in terms of coherence. In fact, if I remember correctly, this record was the first pure death metal album I could actually discern the words as they were being half-growled by the vocalist. It was a change; a definite change from the total obscurity death metal vocalists had chosen to dwell in, delivering their unintelligible roars and sounding pretty much like everybody else in the scene.

_Testimony of the Ancients_ is constructed in such a way that in between every couple of 'real' songs there is a short prologue connecting these two tracks, leading the listener smoothly from one track to its kin, injecting the scenery with the proper dose of atmospherics and that absurd enigma, an esoteric vibe that accompanies the listener throughout the recording, from beginning to the very last notes. These short episodes are mostly keyboard-laden pieces, some being extremely dark, some semi-symphonic, some abstract while other contain weird samples of moaning and groaning humans.

Pestilence have composed and written an album whose every faculty is perfect, but more so when all its faculties integrate and synergize. Being one of the first death metal bands to ever use keyboards as an indivisible part of the music, this album sounds even more ominous and dark thanks to those keys.

But what's really interesting about the music here, is its many facets and the many band names it spawns while listening to this record, without ever sounding like a blatant musical rip-off. It contains a jazzy vibe a la Atheist (of course, Cynic bass player Tony Choy participates in this recording, so it might not come as a surprise...); it contains NWOBHM riffs a la Iron Maiden (just listen to the opening riff on "Stigmatized"!); it mirrors death metal's antiquity but also progressive metal's innovation; it possesses thrashing guitars so hard-hitting many proper thrash metal bands could only dream of owning this hostile a sound; it's melodic; it's brutal; it's majestic and it is all the potential contained within death metal, exploited and taken to the very borders of the style; tainting death metal with so many sounds, colors, tastes; shamelessly experimenting with other styles and sub-genres, yet so enigmatically remaining death metal to the core, it is scary.

The dark, intelligent lyrics dealing with death worship, the occult and other bizarre philosophies were a treat to read and follow. The texts showcased, yet again, a smart group of musicians investing their intellect in their musical creation, making the album thematically on par with the band's clever form of death metal.

Dan Seagrave, whose metal cover artworks were among the best a band could ask for, had debuted his enigmatic ancient mechanical ball on the cover of the record. Get it? No more skulls, skeletons and bodily fluids, but rather something more abstract and magical; a perfect visual depiction of the dark philosophies this album so intimately flirts with.

_Testimony of the Ancients_, together with _Spheres_, is this writer's most cherished Pestilence album. It is intelligent metal, crafted by intelligent musicians and aimed at the intelligent metal crowds. It is timeless; therefore even at the age of almost forty your humble servant finds immense pleasure in listening to this album's wondrous sounds; today as it was when he had only bought the record at the age of nineteen.

Testimony of the Ancients is therefore the perfect, most unique, pure death metal album -- if there ever was one. This is Death Metal Supreme!

Sepultura - _Arise_ (by: Aly Hassab El Naby)

I would like to use this snippet in this collaborative article to rant a bit more about local thrash scenes. It's no secret that I like to analyze, examine and compare the American and German scenes, but I've always overlooked the Brazilian one. The Brazilian metal scene, as things stand today, forges lots of metallic deliverables that range from black to thrash to death metal, all with an extra flair that one simply doesn't find in Europe and North America. Sepultura are, in the eyes of many metal fans (myself included), the biggest name in Brazilian metal. Despite being among other impressive bands from the fifth largest country in the world (Krisiun and Sarcófago come to mind), Sepultura have always raised the Brazilian flag high in the international events.

Much like the Amazonian jaguars, Sepultura craft their attack with murderous precision, breakneck speed and animalistic force. Max Cavalera comes at you like a deep sub-equatorial forest carnivore hungry for a kill. Igor Cavalera pounds the drums with the intensity that would have your heart racing as if you really were the target of such an attack, while Paulo Jr and Andreas Kisser steer the pack with all eyes on the ultimate prize. _Arise_ came out in 1991 as their fourth studio album, and it was the culmination of all their hard work since the band's inception. It signaled that the hitherto impending metamorphosis in the Sepultura camp had finally been completed.

This album is indeed their crowning achievement due to many factors that were fine-tuned to perfection. Max's constantly improving barks and shouts, Igor reaching his prime as a drummer and really finding his own sound, and the heavy and catchy riffs from Andreas Kisser along with the intelligent arrangements with which they've been executed. The crisp and just gritty enough production job prevented it from being a cliché. _Arise_ was also quite technical, but it presented a lot more maturity and experimentation than any of its predecessors. Lead lines like the one near the end of "Desperate Cry" and the solo on "Arise" are some of the multiple guitar highlights of the album. Drumming highlights cannot be isolated because Igor was entirely on another level on _Arise_; an album through which he had inspired legions of young fans to pick up a couple of drum sticks and get thrashin'.

_Arise_ would later turn out to be the last, and truest, hard-line thrash album from Sepultura. They later released _Chaos AD_, which was a slight departure from the classical thrash sound and a lean towards the groovy one. _Arise_, for my money, had it all: the powerful pulsating bass, the earth-shattering drums, the rabid vocals and the flesh tearing guitars. In all their works that followed, none of them could ever match _Arise_. It was like that one alluring hunt by a pack of jaguars that asserted their dominion over the thrash plains and lifted them once and for all beyond the underdog rank of earlier days.

(article submitted 3/4/2012)


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