The Golden Era, Part 4As '93 rolled around, death metal was becoming more and more diverse. Progressive and technical elements were slowly becoming more common, and melody was just then becoming more acceptable.
At the time of its release, nobody knew what to make of Cynic's Focus. Highly technical, progressive death metal? Yes, that had been done before, but it was misunderstood when Atheist did it, too. If that wasn't enough to throw everyone off, undistorted jazz fusion interludes appear everywhere in the album. "Textures" is almost entirely jazz. Today, jazz fusion peeks into plenty of progressive metal albums, but in 1993 that was revolutionary. Add to those oddities the weird, clean vocal with a computer effect, and there just wasn't a box to put this in. Hence, the band broke up after just one album, and it eventually became a cult classic, culminating in the band's reformation in 2006. The album does have a few weaker tracks, like "Sentiment", but there are several absolute monsters, especially closer "How Could I". I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Hypocrisy: Osculum Obscenum
Sweden's Hypocrisy was, in its early years, a strange beast. Frontman Peter Tägtgren spent several years in the United States, becoming influenced by the American death metal scene. As a result, the music of Hypocrisy doesn't sound like other Swedish death metal. Then again, it doesn't sound exactly like American death, either. The cover of Venom's "Black Metal" isn't the best fit (it should have been a b-side), but throw it out and you're left with great riff-writing, excellent production (with audible bass), and one of the best death growls out there. Osculum Obscenum is a must-have for any fan of old-school death metal. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Not content to be one of the founders of deathgrind, the UK's Carcass used their fourth full-length, Heartwork, to found another important subgenre: melodic death metal. The style is most closely associated with the scene in Gothenburg, Sweden, so it's no surprise a Swede (Michael Amott) is on lead guitar for this album. As the genre name implies, the style takes the elements of death metal and adds more melody to the formula. A great deal of the melody and rhythm here is borrowed from good old rock 'n' roll, but unlike others who have tried to combine death and rock (e.g. Entombed) it actually comes out extremely well. So well, in fact, that this is widely considered one of the best metal albums of all time. I give Heartwork 5 out of 5 stars.