It is fitting that 2024 finds the resurgence of death metal gathering even more momentum as death spreads across the globe. Death is a logical progression to the cycle of life, so death metal should be a celebration of this. Paul Speckmann has shown up to this celebration with this 14th album as Master. At sixty, he shows little sign of slowing down. Is it more deliberate than their 1990 album? Yes, but the songwriting is more polished. This album is a study on the roots of death metal, so prepare to take notes, there will be a quiz.Continue reading
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GMP continues our series on Cannibal Corpse with “The Bleeding!” A concept album that leaves nothing to the imagination. It’s also a farewell to Chris Barnes and hello to riff machine Rob Barrett!
Released twelve years ago, Albert Mudrian’s anthology of Death Metal has stood the test of time; an engaging read taking you on a loose zig-zag through the birth and, um, death of Death Metal. Unveiled through the eyes of its’ progenitors, there is method to the tale that begins in England, moves to Tampa, takes in Entombed and Scandinavia and reserves a special mention for the oft overlooked Dutch input of Gorefest and Pestilence.
Undertaking a task as complicated as trying to find the true source of the Nile (Karl Sanders – badoom tish!), Mudrian begins his tale by trying to uncover the birth of what became known as Death Metal, settling on Napalm Death and their 1985 era hybrid (Siege meets Discharge meets Celtic Frost) of hardcore punk, thrash and a desire to be harder, faster, sicker than everyone else. The book then focuses on the influence of their Scum release (Earache) on other vital artists, like Morbid Angel (via Pete Sandoval, then in Terrorizer) and the incestuous, small nature of the scene where, due to tape trading and pen palling, most of Death Metal’s predominant protagonists all knew and inspired each other.
As the tales unfurl, you find yourself swept up and wanting to revisiting all the classic albums that are mentioned – Possessed ‘s Seven Churches (Combat), Pestilence Consvming Impvlse (Roadrunner), Massacre From Beyond (the story of Massacre’s signing to Earache being another fun aside revealed in the book) and Master Master (Displeased) forming part of my own soundtrack while reading.
The re-issue picks things up as the roots of recovery were just sprouting through the top soil at the tail end of the 90’s, highlighting the rise of a new DM general in Nile. After touching on the diversification of Death Metal of this millennium, including the mind-sucking brilliance of Portal and their focus on eldritch, dark atmospheres, Mudrian covers the popularity of technical Death Metal (a section that introduced me to Necrophagist and Obscura as you can’t help but be enthused to check all the recommends as you go) over the last decade. The tome now concludes by covering the return to the scene of the apex predators with Carcass, At The Gates, Death (DTA) and others reforming to reap the benefits of their respective legacies and the rewards of the now lucrative and high profile festival market, and to satisfy an urge that, in the case of Bill Steer, they didn’t even know they had. If you read the original, the added content is an agreeable appendix.
Peppered with short anecdotes, but above all an informative and enjoyable potted history of Death Metal, all imparted with the enthusiastic love that a doting parent has for a child, Choosing Death is an affectionate, if whistlestop, walk through of the story of Death Metal to date. In the authors’ own words, he is “Just a fan. Just like you.” He just happens to be a damn good writer who has written The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore. And updated it.
01: Days Of Ignorance
03: The Tree Of Zaqqum
04: The Field Of Mahsyar
05: Genocide, Torture, Rapture…
06: Crossing The Bridge Of Siraat
07: The Pharaoh System
08: Inspiration From The Dark
09: Heathen (Master cover)
Following the darkened path chosen on 2013’s The Great Architect Of Nothing, Oshiego are even more devastating than ever before. Merciless riffs, Middle-Eastern stylings, groove and melody combine with an uncompromising old school approach resulting in total sonic torment! Eleven years of Death Thrashing madness culminate in the 8 ripping tracks that make up Crossing The Bridge Of Siraat plus a cover of Heathen, originally recorded by Death Metal legends Master.
1. Days Of Ignorance
3. The Tree Of Zaqqum
4. The Field Of Mahsyar
5. Genocide, Torture, Rapture…
6. Crossing The Bridge Of Siraat
7. The Pharaoh System
8. Inspiration From The Dark
9. Heathen (Master cover)
Like any established genre of music, giving an objective answer to the question of who started playing Death Metal first is pretty much impossible, but anyone who knows what they’re talking about would put Paul Speckmann right at the top of any list. Death Metal fans have acknowledged Speckmann’s work with Master and Deathstrike – amongst many others – as being absolutely crucial to the development of the genre, and yet he has largely remained a background figure, his opinion never sought as widely as those of his peers and the musicians who followed him.
Consider what Speckmann has to say about the state of modern Death Metal! Think of the wealth of stories he has to share about the 80’s and 90’s Metal Underground! Imagine the light he can shed on the mindset of young musicians desperate to take Thrash Metal even further into extremity!
Now keep imagining, because sadly this book isn’t going to provide any of that. As the sub-heading suggests, Underground Survivor is primarily a book of pictures, both original photographs and photoshopped “concept” pieces, interspersed with occasional written comments by Speckmann in both German and English.
Dealing with the writing first, the main criticism is that there is so little of it. Clearly that isn’t the point – this is a pictorial study of Speckmann’s life and career, not a book of interviews, but it seems like a wasted opportunity to hear what he has to say, especially when the quality of what is written is so low. The English text is blighted by sloppy punctuation, poor grammar and some unfortunate typos (my own favourite being a full-page call to rational atheism which asks “what kind of God could we put our thrust in?” and misspelling the name of Speckmann’s own Krabathor), but the actual content of the text is little better. Simple descriptions of Speckmann’s activities in the scene – mostly of the “I met Dave from Rectal Blasphemer and then we got drunk” variety are offered without context or appraisal, with no attempt to draw any meaning or value. The few moments of insight he offers, such as his experiences of extreme poverty touring LEDC’s, are allowed to pass without comment. He clearly has interesting things to say, and a good editor could have drawn them out with skilfully questions, but that’s not the point here. THIS IS ABOUT THE PICTURES.
There are – let’s be fair here – a lot of them. Ignoring the photo-manipulations and concept pieces, which is the best thing to do with them, this is an exhaustive visual record of Speckmann’s life from early childhood to the modern day, showing us his family life, hobbies and musical career. Some of the personal photographs are genuinely charming – and the keen spotter of 80’s and 90’s Thrash and Death Metal luminaries will see Speckmann standing alongside pretty much everyone of note in those scenes – but by presenting them without context or development they never really have the chance to mean anything.
Ultimately, how much you value Underground Survivor will depend on your tolerance for pictures of hairy men standing around in black t-shirts looking awkward, interspersed with shallow descriptions of gigs and bands. As a visual account of the development of Death Metal, and a tribute to one of the most important of the genre’s founders, it’s not without its charm – but it’s hard to see it as anything other than a wasted opportunity.