Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Metal Briefs: Death Metal 1990

The Golden Era, Part 1

The 80's were basically a formative time in death metal, with only a small handful of bands practicing the style--and nearly all of them in the US. But 1990 is the beginning of what I consider the golden era of the genre, which lasted until about 1994.

Entombed: Left Hand Path

Left Hand PathSweden absolutely stormed the death metal scene in 1990, with the likes of Tiamat and Carnage both releasing notable debut albums that year. But none were more important than Entombed. Their debut Left Hand Path is the quintessential Swe-death album: riffs over atmosphere, a crushingly heavy production, hoarse death growls, and that trademark buzzsaw guitar tone. There's a reason bands are still copying the sound today. The songs on the album are great enough to live up to the legendary sound as well, with memorable riffs and engaging skin-work. Plus, each track has a distinct solo style, from the more traditional to the Slayer-esque. The title track is the highlight, featuring a curveball eerie synth section that would make John Carpenter proud. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Cancer: To the Gory End

To the Gory EndSweden wasn't the only European country getting in on the death. The UK's Cancer is a much lesser-known band (resulting in physical copies being priced through the roof, so look on Youtube instead), but they had some excellent tracks on their sophomore album To the Gory End. There is a strong thrash resemblance on much of their music, particularly in the drumming, and most of it's mid- to fast-paced. Some of their rhythms are striking (see "Into the Acid"), but most worthy of note is the weird, atmospheric guitar solos. It's definitely not a burner from start to finish, though, and the production isn't the strongest, so I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Obituary: Cause of Death

Cause of DeathYou didn't think Florida was out of the game, did you? Not by a long shot. Also a sophomore effort, Cause of Death is held by many to be Obituary's best. They clearly take a great deal of influence from Celtic Frost, which can be heard in the guitar tone as well as some of the riffs. They don't hide it either, putting their spin on the classic "Circle of the Tyrants". Fairly straight-forward solos punctuate slow- to mid-paced tracks firmly in the camp of doomy death (but not full-on death/doom). It may be the heaviest thing to come out of America's Wang up to that time. The riffs are catchy and everything about it works. Another 5 out of 5 star album.


  1. For the origin of Left Hand Path's title track outro, see the horror film Phantasm.

    I loved that outro for years before discovering it while watching that film for the first time just last year.

  2. I had seen Phantasm before hearing that intro, so it was pretty cool.

    I am not terribly familiar with Cancer yet. I've heard of them, just not been able to check them out.

  3. I've only heard a little bit of Cancer, but it was from a different album.

  4. Entombed and Obituary were my bread and butter at university in 1990.....never did hear of Cancer much...which is weird as I am in UK....