St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
(tl;dr: Century Media’s demo/discography releases are underground gifts and you should buy all of them.)
The last few weeks have brought a nice wave of the nitty-gritty, early 90s old-school rushing back to the forefront of consciousness here at Into the Void. Why not continue to ride it?
The catalyst was VANHELGD, who bring together the dusty sounds of true Swedish black/death metal rarely heard beyond 1996. Throwing fuel on the fire for me have been demo re-releases from DAWN and GOREMENT, both by Century Media (which may or may not be a surprising fact at this point — more on that later).
The GOREMENT release is somewhat old hat now, having been released originally in late 2012. One of the first in Century Media’s discography series (as I’m calling it), I only now came around to buying CM’s version (Within the Shadow of Darkness), having long owned the previous Necroharmonic version (Darkness of the Dead — OHH good for me right).
Clearly the idea of releasing everything from a fairly obscure band originated much further in the underground than Century Media, arguably the biggest label that can be called metal without raucous laughter from people who know better. So what’s the point of another version of GOREMENT’s now-twenty-year-old The Ending Quest album?
One reason would be that this one is truly, bestially complete. I’m the total opposite of a packaging fetishist and even In couldn’t stop gushing about it on first sight: you get quality new artwork, two 180g LPs, a full-color, multi-page booklet, printed LP sleeves, poster AND BOTH CDs for a price that rivals the cost of mere CDs and a two-page booklet alone in the not-too-distant past. Amazing. Throw in the cost of the (perhaps unnecessary) re-master and this is a ludicrous deal for anybody who worships the old Swedeath scene.
Are GOREMENT worth the minimal hassle of this dirt-cheap point of entry? Yes, many times over: The Ending Quest, the band’s sole full-length, is essentially a compilation of the band’s work to that time. The journey moves back and forth between the sloppy, grinding death metal of their 1991 Human Relic demo up to and through the somber and cautious work that defined their Obsequies… and Into Shadow EPs. Picture PARADISE LOST’s Gothic in a drunken fight with the CARBONIZED For the Security album. Blasting in one song careens off the slowly developing harmonies of another while the whole sad scene plays on unimpeded, leaving you feeling totally desperate for having paid witness to it. If you (like me) get nothing like this from the recent Swedish output, CM has made the price of a little nostalgia undeniable here.
DAWN is a slightly different story. Everybody seems to know their name and have given to studied patience in waiting for the eventual return of their recorded output. Thanks to Century Media again, DAWN’s complete works have escaped the necropolis to live another day in a brave new world.
To be consistent with my GOREMENT-gushing, though, I’d like to focus on the lesser-known demo side of DAWN’s recent catalog resurrection. In my mind these defined the band long before they look their left turn to black metal aesthetics, the Swedish language and long-form melodic riffing. For what it’s worth these may be some of the best early demos of all time which, if anybody remembers what this is like, used to mean something in the days when recording metal actually cost money and before record contracts were passed around like feculent bacteria.
The Apparation/The Eternal Forest demo (1992), which starts the CD, really stands out here. Instead of the typical Swedish blushing melody, we get muscular death metal that is staggeringly well produced. Henke Forss delivers a fantastic gory performance a few registers removed from his signature rasps, while a bass-heavy and blasting attack nimbly executes some very memorable songcraft that falls somewhere between early HYPOCRISY and MORBID ANGEL. The Promo ’93 that follows runs closer (and indeed shares tracks with) the debut album, while the final tracks from the first demo show an even rawer side to the tracks on the Apparition masterpiece. If you’re going whole hog on the DAWN catalog these gems should not be ignored.
I touched on this in my post about the reissue of SACRAMENTUM’s classic Far Away from the Sun over a year ago, but I’d like to make it explicit again: Century Media is turning out some wonderful material these days. It may be no coincidence that most of it hearkens back to the label’s formative years when vintage ASPHYX, GRAVE, MORGOTH, SAMAEL and countless others were at their best. It may also be no coincidence that I’m old as fuck. Perhaps some collective or institutional memory is afoot? They’re developing street cred instead of money, and although they’re basically buying their way into it, I’m glad to know they still have a capable soul to even consider such a shrewd move. Well done.
Outside of Sweden there are also a few others, and hopefully more to come, from CM’s wicked scheme for our old-school dollars. All have managed to hit the sweet spot between creative and overlooked contenders and forgettable but popular also-rans. So far we have the brutal and high energy death/thrash of France’s MASSACRA, the stylized brutal death metal of ABRAMELIN from Australia and the complete recordings of suffocating Finnish death metallers NECROPSY’s long demo career. All have come in great and complete packages for great prices and represent true capstones to these band’s respective careers. Starting a death metal library for your grandchildren has never been easier or more affordable!
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