Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bathory - Blood Fire Death (1988)

Blood Fire Death is the fourth full-length album from Bathory. Recorded in Heavenshore Studios, in early 1988, this album marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. The last strains of Black Metal were heard on this record, as a new sound emerged from the mind of Quorthon. Further loosening his grip on Satanic and occult themes, he chose to explore the rich history and culture of his forefathers, taking a great deal of inspiration from Norse mythology. In reality, only the first and last songs exemplified this change, while many of the others seem to have lacked focus, at times. Released in October 1988, Blood Fire Death began the transition that would spawn the sub-genre of Viking Metal.

The record begins with "Odens Ride Over Nordland", which is a very good aural depiction of the cover art. Among the various ominous sounds, the call of Sleipnir is very clear. The atmosphere is somber and sets the tone for something truly epic. Words fail to describe the feeling of this intro.

"A Fine Day To Die" picks up from the introduction, beginning with a serene acoustic melody and faint chanting. It slowly builds until the song, finally, unleashes all of its power. With blood-curdling screams, Quorthon's voice calls out from the darkness, accompanied by heavy, mid-paced riffs. The epic atmosphere is ever-present. The vocals sound more tortured than on any of the previous Bathory albums, yet intelligible.

"Along the black mountainside scattered
By the campfires awaiting the dawn
Two times a hundred men in battles
Tried by the steel in the arrow, axe and the sword"

The production is loud and clear, while still being distorted and harsh. Most of all, it is very powerful. The pace slows down, even more, near the end, building to a lead solo that pierces your brain and destroys your feeble mind. The main riff returns, as do the anguished screams of Quorthon. As the final notes fade out, you realize that you have experienced something incredible and draining.

There is little time to regain your composure, as "The Golden Walls of Heaven" bursts forth with intensity and speed. Interesting to note is that the first letter of each line goes together to create a 'hidden' message, repeating the name 'Satan', several times. Quorthon's raspy vocals are still as forceful as on the last track, but the music possesses a completely different feeling. This isn't too far from the material from the first record, consisting of pure Speed/Thrash Metal riffs.

"Pace 'Till Death" begins with a strange doom riff, as well as a humourous lead bit that is tossed in. After less than a minute, the song hits full throttle, but the sound isn't all that good. There seems to be some unwanted distortion on this one, as if it was taken from a demo. The song is fairly adequate, yet it doesn't quite hold up to the classic opener.

This continues on "Holocaust". This is another fast song that sounds like it could have been featured on any of the first four albums. As the track progresses, you can hear a countdown and an explosion, in the background. There isn't much to say about this one. It is very solid Black/Speed Metal, with nothing to complain about. It's the shortest one on here, being the most straight-forward as well.

"For All Those Who Died" is a little slower, being more mid-paced than the last few songs. The atmosphere is very harsh and it is similar to the opener in that is is somewhat draining. It has a pretty unique sound, while Quorthon's vocals are very strained and tortured.

"Burning naked but smiling
Not full of fear but pride
Knowing death alone could cleanse them
Of the reasons for which they all die"

This one features some of the most memorable riffs of the album, outside of the first and last songs. There's a lengthy solo, near the end, and the bass is a little more audible on this track, giving an added dimension of doom. The song ends with the song fading into the sound of raging flames. Presumably, this is supposed to represent those who were burned as witches by the Christian scum that was dominating Europe in the middle ages.

"Dies Irae" is next, being very fast and intense. The lead solo, early on, is enough to melt the flesh right from your face. Like the earlier song, this one has a message in the first letter of each line, reading "Christ the Bastard, son of Heaven". The vocal lines are incredibly fast, keeping pace with the speed of the riffs, for the first part of the song. The tempo slows down, near the middle, unleashing very memorable riffs and vocal lines.

"Hear our master calling us his children
Eternal life is given death withdrawn
As wolves among sheep we have wandered
Victory lies beyond their spit and scorn
Even the heavens shall burn when we are gathered
Now when the flames reach for the sky"

There is a great deal of conviction in the delivery of these lyrics. Quorthon's voice sounds very strained and tortured, conveying a lot of feeling. This track has an epic feeling, especially in the closing moments, and ranks among the best on the whole album.

This monumental record comes to a close with the lengthy title track, "Blood Fire Death". This one begins with an acoustic intro, before the powerful guitar riffs explode, keeping a pace reminiscent of "Enter the Eternal Fire", from Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Everything about this is perfect in conveying the intended feeling. The epic atmosphere grows as the song progresses, building to great peaks, descending into dismal valleys, and then back up again. To listen to this piece is to take a journey into a land forlorn; a time long-forgotten by most and kept alive only in the tales told by the aged and withered. Words cannot properly articulate the brilliance of this song, which is the highlight of the record (along with the first track). Slightly beyond the mid-way point, everything becomes fairly silent, leaving only the acoustic guitar and some keyboard effects. As the electric guitar and drums return, the aura is drenched in tension, as a galloping riff builds in slow anticipation of the main theme's return.

"A chariot of thunder and gold
Will come loud
And a warrior of thunder and rain

With hair as white as snow
Hammer of steel
To set you free of your chains

And to lead you all
Where horses run free
And the souls of the ancient ones reign"

Blood Fire Death is the last of the records from Bathory's classic era, for some. It is also the beginning of the middle part of Quorthon's career; the Viking Metal era. As a whole album, it is a step down from the previous release. A couple of the songs seem like filler; however, this album contains some of the most powerful and epic songs in Bathory's entire catalogue. This is essential for any Bathory fan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pestilence - Consuming Impulse (1989)

Consuming Impulse is the second L.P. from Pestilence. Their first record had more of a Thrash Metal sound but, with their sophomore effort, they created a classic piece of old school Death Metal. Released in December 1989, the original cover featured a group of people eating one another. At the last minute, without the band's approval, Roadrunner replaced that image. Naturally, neither the band nor the fans cared much for this inferior replacement, which does no justice to the masterpiece that it represents.

I discovered Pestilence, thanks to some long-forgotten 'zine, around the same time that I was exploring the old albums from Sepultura, Dark Angel and Death Angel. Malleus Malificarum didn't do a whole lot for me, to be honest. However, upon hearing Consuming Impulse, for the first time, I was very impressed. This was a release that belonged alongside Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy, Altars of Madness, Slowly We Rot, etc.

It all begins with "Dehydrated", which immediately reminds me of the old Death albums, just in the style and production. Martin van Drunen's vocals sound like someone that has crawled out of a grave, possessed by a madness one could only attain by having died and returned to the surface. His is a decaying, yet anguished, sound that is quite distinctive. It is guttural, in a sense, while being far raspier than those who would come later. There is a slow and morbid section, featuring some eerie whispers, after a minute or so. Riff-wise, there are still bits of thrash remaining in the sound, though completely encompassed by death. There are several tempo changes, though the feeling being conveyed is very coherent. There are even a couple of decent lead solos, before the end.

"The Process of Suffocation" begins with a subdued pace, though there is nothing restrained about van Drunen's psychotically possessed vocals. The majority of the song is dominated by riffs that owe more to Thrash than to Death Metal. This continues, with a faster pace, on "Suspended Animation". By the middle of this song, the atmosphere becomes far more horrifying, yet morbid, as the pace slows down and faint traces of keyboards infiltrate the sound, giving the feeling of a horror movie. The guitar solos are far superior to most Death Metal solos, as they still retain some importance, rather than being thrown out in a near-obligatory manner.

A feeling of morbid graveyards and rising corpses, screaming in agony, is present during the opening moments of "The Trauma". The speed increases, slowly, as the song progresses. There are a lot of power chords and thrash riffs, rather than intense speed-picking. This helps in maintaining and older feeling. The sound is really primitive for Death Metal, compared to all the technical bands that came later. Not that there isn't a lot of skill in Pestilence, because there certainly was. All of the components were merged together, seamlessly, to create something beautifully grotesque.

"Chronic Infection" features some fairly catchy riffs, still immersed in an aesthetic of decomposition and rot. After about a minute or so, the pace slows down and there is something to give the effect of a funeral bell, joined with Martin's tortured vocals, spawning a true sense of morbidity and unease. The style that he utilizes is something that seemed to be lost in later bands of this sub-genre. As more and more vocalists jumped on the extremely deep and guttural bandwagon, they missed the opportunity to truly add something to the experience, by becoming so generic and typical. On Consuming Impulse, Martin van Drunen proves that a Death Metal vocalist can still convey some sort of feeling, which he does very well.

This is followed by "Out of the Body", which begins with a mid-paced thrash riff and a drum roll (a song that was later plagiarized, to an extent, by Broken Hope). This is one of the most memorable tracks on here, speeding up quite a bit, before returning to the opening riff. On this one, the lyrics tell a horrifying tale, while not falling into the realm of self-parody, as many others do. They deal with terrifying and grotesque subjects, yet they do so without draining the effectiveness from such ideas. Mid-way through, there's a very nice guitar solo, completely suiting the atmosphere.

"Echoes of Death" is almost reminiscent of Slayer, in the early moments. The song is filled with riffs that wouldn't be out of place on a release such as Leprosy. A couple minutes in, there's a brief keyboard bit that adds to the aura, again, much like the score of a horror movie. This one is competent, yet pales a little by comparison to what follows.

The next song is "Deify Thy Master", which is another one of the most recognizable songs on the album. Very twisted melodies start things out, creating a sense of tension. Everything about this is done to perfection. The macabre harmonies coincide with screams of pure, terrified insanity. The tempo of the song speeds up at just the right moments, causing your heart to race and adrenaline to begin pumping. This is one of the most intense songs of the entire record, just from the feeling being conveyed.

"Proliferous Souls" is next. This instrumental is very calm and serene, something very much needed after the previous song, as your heart is dangerously close to bursting out of your chest, at this point. It serves well to slow your pulse, while allowing your mind to drift through the utter blackness that surrounds.

The album reaches its conclusion with "Reduced To Ashes". Slower, doom-filled riffs begin this dismal song. After a funereal build-up, the speed increases. This one features a decent amount of tempo changes, as well as interesting riffs and lyrics that tell the tale of witches being burned at the stake, during medieval times. After a few minutes, a mid-paced thrash riff dominates the sound, joined by a bit of double-bass. This ends, suddenly, with a return to the faster riffs and a brief lead solo. It is an interesting song, but you may feel drained after the previous couple songs. By this point, you are simply ready to collapse.

Consuming Impulse is, probably, the only essential Pestilence album. The one before is nothing like this, really, and the ones that follow take more of a progressive approach. Of course, the most important factor is that Martin van Drunen is replaced on vocals by lead guitarist, Patrick Mameli. His successor takes a far less original approach, opting to emulate John Tardy, of Obituary. Regardless of this, Consuming Impulse stands as a monument to a once-great band; one of the true classic masterpieces of 80s Death Metal and something your collection needs in order to be complete.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nihilist - Premature Autopsy (1988)

Nihilist was formed in 1987, under the short-lived name Brainwarp. It was the brainchild of drummer Nicke Andersson, who was joined by Alex Hellid on guitars and Leif Cuzner on bass and vocals. After being influenced by hardcore and so on, Nihilist were soon introduced to the likes of Death and Kreator and the mixture of influences would soon breed something unique. For their earliest rehearsals and shows, they mixed a repertoire of cover songs and originals. Nihilist found two fortuitous additions when they went into the studio in March of 1988 to record their first demo tape. Mutual friend Mattias "Buffla" Boström had rehearsed a few times as a singer with the other three. As they were eager to find a standalone vocalist, but for the recording session the band drafted in session vocalist Lars-Göran Petrov, who was then the drummer for cult Black/Death Metal band Morbid. Also joining as a session musician was L.G.'s band mate in Morbid, Ulf "Uffe" Cederlund on second guitar. It was these five members that the three-song Premature Autopsy was recorded.

The demo begins with "Sentenced To Death". This begins with lethal thrash riffs, before speeding up to the typical Death Metal pace. The sound isn't the greatest, but it's clear enough for the listener to get a good sense of what is going on. The style here hints at what would come, especially with the brief tremolo section, played with the open power chords. Petrov's vocals are higher-pitched than what would be heard on Left Hand Path, reminiscent of Mille Petrozza. Uffe's guitar playing does a lot to salvage this, as well. Nihilist was quite fortunate to borrow these two from Morbid, as they were obviously more experienced than the full-time members.

"Supposed To Rot" follows a similar pattern as the first, starting out with a nice thrash riff before the pace picks up. This is the shortest song on here, but it is quite memorable. For a song that lasts less than two minutes, there are a lot of tempo changes. One can also detect a hint of the rock sound that the band would move toward, later in their career, in the first riffs of the song.

It all ends with "Carnal Leftovers". This one opens with some interesting riffs, almost reminding me of Dark Angel, without the lethality. There seems to be an odd reverb on the vocals, but it still works well enough. The timing is off, for a few seconds, later in the song. Still, they manage to recover rather quickly.

Premature Autopsy is a fairly adequate demo, now hailed as a significant piece of Death Metal history. It is light years behind earlier demos from Morbid and Mefisto, but it was a good start for a band that would go on to cement its legacy as one of the most influential in the Swedish Death Metal scene.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Testament - The Legacy (1987)

Testament formed in 1983, under the name Legacy. While some make the common mistake of assuming that this band arrived on the scene a little late, they were there when the whole Thrash Metal scene began to explode. One listen to their 1985 demo will be enough to prove that the band had already composed brilliant songs, yet it seemed to take them a bit longer to get signed and to record a full-length. In 1986, Chuck Billy replaced Steve Souza, on vocals, and the band changed their name to Testament. After spending a couple years, perfecting all of these songs, they finally recorded their debut album. The Legacy was released in July 1987.

I discovered this album back in high school. There was a shop that bought and sold used records, tapes, books, etc. and I found myself selling a lot of old tapes and movies to fund my music addiction. It was during the middle of summer vacation and I had a lot of time on my hands. I sold everything that I could possibly part with, only to spend every last dime (and then some) before I left the shop. While I was scanning through the cassettes, I ran across The Legacy and Live at Eindhoven. I was already, somewhat, familiar with Testament, but I had never heard this album. I tossed it in to one of the broken-down radios that they had out to preview things and it took me all of two seconds to realize that these tapes were coming home with me. Being quite fond of the old albums from Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, this was exactly the kind of thing that I was looking for. This album is a timeless classic; one that I haven't grown tired of in all these years.

"Over the Wall" begins with an intense explosion of thrash riffs. This is very fast-paced and energetic. The vocal patterns that Souza created were perfected by Chuck Billy, who has a much more powerful delivery. A few wild screams lead into the middle section, which slows things down a bit. This is accompanied by an incredibly memorable lead solo by Alex Skolnik. This is something he really excels at and it is one of the most notable characteristics of Testament's old records. The drumming has a good, old school feel, though it's nothing technical or complicated. There is an epic aura about these melodies. All in all, this is a killer song to begin an album.

Dark and foreboding riffs introduce "The Haunting". This title is quite appropriate, as this possesses a feeling that is more in line with Slayer than Metallica (who Testament were often compared to). Once it gets going, the pace is fairly fast, though there are plenty of changes. The introductory riff returns and leads into a mid-paced thrash section. Another amazing solo appears, near the middle of the song. Skolnik's solos are much lengthier than those of Jeff Hanneman or Kerry King and they certainly bear more feeling, which adds depth to the songs. The vocals are impressive as well. I don't think Chuck Billy ever matched this performance.

A somber acoustic guitar is accompanied by a haunting solo to begin "Burnt Offerings". This one builds up, slowly, before raging forth from the darkness. The vocals go well with the main guitar harmony to create something of a dark atmosphere. The lyrics are far better here than they would be on later albums.

"The spirits of anger come up from the gallows
Conjured my demons appear
Summoned to my cast, prey this deadly mass
Taken by the fire you fail"

The more serious approach to the songwriting and execution, found on this album, suits the band's abilities far more than anything they'd attempt, later on.

"Raging Waters" starts out, almost like an extension of the previous song. It is drenched in the same atmosphere. It's a shame that Souza didn't remain associated with Testament to write all of the vocal lines, as his ideas, coupled with Billy's delivery and improvisation, work very well with this music. As with most of the songs on here, this one is aggressive and yet captures an epic feeling in the guitar melodies, accentuated by the solos.

Side A ends with "C.O.T.L.O.D." Naturally, this stands for 'Curse of the Legions of Death'. As the shortest song, it is no surprise that this is the most straight-forward track to be found. Of course, with a song this intense, the lyrics must be equally as aggressive.

"Attacking with force as we show no remorse
Obstructing our victims fate
The blood in the chalice saluting the fight
All virgins must die this night"

One might expect a song that only lasts for two and a half minutes to be filler, but this holds its own against the rest of the material on The Legacy.

Side B opens with "First Strike Is Deadly". It starts out with a strange intro that leads into more killer thrash riffs. Clemente's double-bass work is done pretty well, especially considering that he was never given much credit as a drummer. Some of Chuck Billy's screams are insane, as he really displays a lot of power and versatility on this record. This song features the kind of sweeping arpeggios that Testament is well known for, as well as one of the best lead solos on the album.

"Do or Die" arrives at a point where one would surely expect filler. Quite the contrary, this song bring yet more elements to the table. The riffs are quite unique, among those that populate this album. The vocal lines are brilliant as well, being very memorable and matching the music, perfectly. This particular song seems to utilize more Speed Metal riffs, as opposed to pure Thrash.

The epic feeling that flows throughout this classic album is present from the opening solo of "Alone in the Dark". After this brief intro, a haunting guitar harmony plays over a vicious thrash riff. This repeats during the chorus. The story told in the lyrics is far more interesting than most anything they came up with in later years.

"Faustus prepares the legions of the night
Diviners from the far north arrive
Aimlessly people there huddled in a pack
Wreaking deadly havoc on mankind"

Late in the song, the pace slows down for another solo, before returning to the main riff. As with all of the songs, the placement of this one is just right.

This masterpiece concludes with "Apocalyptic City". A somber acoustic melody is joined by a depressive lead solo and bass line to introduce this epic song. As things get going, there is a sense of tension in the riffs; somehow, it is easy to detect that the end is near. The riffs are bloody impressive and the solo is as epic as it gets. There are some nice lead harmonies as well, before the main riff returns. Of course, the tale of mass murder, by incineration, is quite interesting as well. As the final notes fade out, you can't help but feel that you have experienced something very significant.

Simply put, The Legacy is an essential classic of Thrash Metal. The songwriting is vastly superior to Reign In Blood, though it doesn't quite compare to the early Slayer records. Still, this destroys anything ever released by Anthrax and nearly rivals albums such as Ride the Lightning and Peace Sells... While it is nowhere near as violent as Darkness Descends, it features a sense of melody and an epic atmosphere that Dark Angel would never be able to achieve while standing tall over Pleasures of the Flesh or Beyond the Gates. Unfortunately, Testament would never match this masterpiece of Bay Area Thrash Metal. At any rate, any fan of this style is absolutely required to pick this up.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Treblinka - Crawling In Vomits (1988)

Treblinka was a Swedish Black Metal band that formed in 1987. The members took the names of Lucifer Hellslaughter (vocals and guitar), Emetic (guitar), Juck the Ripper (bass) and Auschwitzer (drums). These four entered Sunlight Studio, in November 1988, to record their first demo, Crawling In Vomits. What Treblinka created was something interesting and unique; worthy of setting them apart from various other underground bands.

The demo begins with "Crawling In Vomits". One might expect an atrocious sound from a demo recorded in 1988, but the sound is remarkably clear. There exists a noticeable low end that adds a bit of depth to the songs, rather than consisting of pure treble. The opening riff is slow and somber, imbuing the listener with a sense of doom. In no time, the pace picks up and the sound is dominated by the tremolo riffs and evil vocals. Hellslaughter had a darker approach than many of his Swedish peers. Around the midway point, the tempo slows down a bit, going into some old school riffs that wouldn't be out of place on a NWOBHM release from a decade prior. By the end of the song, it returns to the same melody that was present at the start. All in all, this is a very memorable and well-executed track.

Next up is "Earwings In Your Veins". I don't know what an 'earwing' is, but an earwig is a type of insect. Perhaps this is what Emetic was referring to when he wrote the lyrics. At any rate, this one commences with another NWOBHM-styled riff. Even early on, Treblinka displayed a sense of melody that many other bands lacked. After a minute or so, the speed increases to a more typical Black Metal pace. The hellish vocals, the tremolo riffs and the primitive drums all come together in a very suitable manner. More old melodies bleed in, making the song quite memorable.

"Hail To Cruelty" lurks in the shadowy depths, carried forward by mid-paced riffs that convey a feeling of doom. After this dismal introduction, the song speeds up. Hellslaughter utilizes a little more variation with the vocals, emitting several higher-pitched screams, here and there. Halfway through, things change as a mid-paced thrash riff flows underneath a couple chaotic lead solos.

The demo approaches the end with "Cadaverous Odour". This one opens with a fairly catchy thrash riff. After a brief intro, a wicked tremolo melody is joined by the hellish vocals to create an atmosphere of murky funeral mist, hovering over old and forgotten graves. Near the middle of the song, a mid-paced thrash riff serves as an interlude before the tremolo riff returns from the blackened sky. Another thrash riff carries the song to its conclusion. This is then followed by the sounds of someone vomiting. It is actually pretty sickening to hear.

Crawling In Vomits is essential for any fan of Treblinka / early Tiamat and is one of the better demos to come out of Sweden, around this time. This is highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Infernal Death - Incantations of the Gates (1989)

Forming in 1988 and taking their name from the legendary Scream Bloody Gore album, Infernal Death was an obscure Black/Thrash Metal band from Texas, of all places. Hailing from El Paso, this band had quite a following in their area. They recorded and released their first demo in March 1989, titled Incantations of the Gates. Sounding nothing like other American underground bands, such as Morbid Saint, Necrovore or Preacher, this had a demonic quality that hearkened back to the blackness of the ancients, such as Bathory, Sodom and Possessed.

The demo begins with "The Rites of the Ensnarer", the title sounding very similar to a line from an old Morbid Angel song. It starts with a somber acoustic melody, accompanied by drums. The repetitions of this melody serve to lull the listener into a trance. After about a minute, Slayer-esque thrash riffs explode from the serene atmosphere, with the supremely demonic voice of Paul Russ. The song is short, yet memorable.

"Incantations of the Gates" opens with a mid-paced build up, before launching into another diabolical assault of Black/Thrash. There is a pretty decent solo, near the beginning of this instrumental. The pace changes enough to keep things interesting. The riffs, near the end, take things to a darker place, while still remaining quite memorable. Rumour has it that this whole demo was recorded in one take and then mixed in about half an hour.

"Take Me To Hell" wastes no time in going on the attack. The vocals are pure evil, spewing forth blasphemy at a frenzied speed, keeping up with the intense riffs. No lyrics are included, but a keen ear will pick up all the conventional themes of early Black Metal. At just over two and a half minutes, this is the shortest song on here.

This demo concludes with "Satan's Metal". It begins with more intense thrash riffs that seem almost familiar. The vocals are really up front, in the mix, as Russ screams, "Satan's metal!" As with the rest of the demo, vocals and guitars dominate the sound, as the drums are more of an afterthought, as with most Black Metal. There are some mid-paced thrash riffs, near the middle, that precede a twisted and hellish guitar solo. The lyrics aren't particularly brilliant, but they suit this music, perfectly.

"Fighting angels
Demons winning
Killing christians
Church is bleeding"

Incantations of the Gates displays a simplistic approach to Black/Thrash Metal, retaining the primitive sound of the earlier bands, despite being created during a time when most of their peers were enamored with the technical Thrash Metal style. With only 50 copies made, this one is about as rare as it gets. If you can get your hands on it, in some manner, it is well worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Morbid Saint - Spectrum of Death (1988)

Spectrum of Death is the first full-length album from Morbid Saint. This is Teutonic Thrash Metal, yet the band hails from the US; albeit, a region filled with people of German ancestry. At any rate, this forgotten classic was released in September 1988, just two years after the band's formation. It seems to be a fairly underrated album, as few people seem to speak of it, or Morbid Saint.

The character from the front cover may look like Eddie, from the Iron Maiden albums, but this record bears no similarities to Killers or The Number of the Beast. The first time I heard Spectrum of Death, I was floored. I found it difficult to believe that this was American Thrash Metal. It reminded me far more of German bands, such as Kreator, Sodom and Exumer, rather than Megadeth or Testament. Even bands like Possessed has already run out of steam, by 1988. To hear Thrash that still retained the extremity and pure evil feeling that this had... it was an eye-opening experience.

This album wastes no time in unleashing its violent assault, as "Lock Up Your Children" completely kills any other Thrash Metal song released in the US, during this time. The vocals are surprisingly raw and evil; reminiscent of Mille Petrozza on the early Kreator albums, but done in a raspier way. This is as intense as anything from Dark Angel or Slayer.

The next song manages to create a hellish and evil atmosphere, through the sheer brutality of the riffs and vocals. "Burned at the Stake" is so violent, yet brief, that it has kind of an early Death Metal feeling. Lyrically, this is darker than what most of their fellow Americans were writing about at the time.

"Satan is calling
From the crypts of hell
Blood is boiling
Body starts to swell
End is near, is no other way
Call to Satan
He'll take your life away"

"Assassin" bursts forth with the same speed and intensity as the previous songs. The vocals have quite a maniacal effect on them and the guitar riffs are heavy enough to crush skulls. How the Hell this band didn't manage to amass a large following and go on to release several more albums, I'll never know. This is vastly superior to a great number of bands that were around at the time, as a lot of Thrash bands were going soft and writing politically-conscious lyrics. As far as production goes, the focus is on the guitars, above all else. The bass and drums are there, kept at the appropriate levels, giving support to the killer riffs but never taking over. Of course, the vocals stand out, for their sheer wickedness. Everything here is done quite well.

Another short track follows, in the form of "Damien". This one, as one may have guessed, is inspired by "The Omen". Fast-paced and energetic, this possesses an evil feeling and is much like an axe severing your skull from your body. Piss on all of the sub-par Death Metal bands that go out of their way to sound tough; this is brutality at its finest. The middle of the song features a slower, mid-paced section, before returning to the furious main riff.

"Crying For Death" maintains the ferocity of the previous song, while containing very memorable riffs. That is one thing Morbid Saint manages to do very well; they keep things violent and fast, yet it's all memorable. This is raw and aggressive, giving albums like Pleasure To Kill and Darkness Descends some serious competition. If one word could sum up the feeling this conveys, it would be 'lethal'.

Just when you think you have this band figured out, the title track comes along to add some depth to the sound. This brief instrumental has a somber tone and serves as an intro to the following song.

"Scars" has a strong Dark Angel feel, for the first few moments. This is the longest track on the album, and bears sort of an epic feeling. The pace is a little slower, during some sections, allowing the riffs more room to breathe. This is filled with so many intense riffs, your head might explode trying to keep up with all of it. A couple of the riffs seem to have been borrowed, a couple years later, on Cannibal Corpse's debut album. The vocals, which are a highlight of the record, truly take on a bloody insane sound on this one. The lead solos aren't too melodic, being short bursts of energy that tear at your flesh and then disappear as quickly as they appeared. The only complaint about this song is that it becomes a little repetitive; the last couple minutes aren't quite necessary, as they only repeat what has already been heard in the song.

The album concludes with "Beyond the Gates of Hell". The song opens with more vicious riffs and searing lead solos that melt the flesh from your bones. After a minute or so, the pace changes and slows down a bit. The riffs sound far more evil than most others found on the album, suiting the subject matter well. There's a very memorable riff during the chorus; one that won't soon leave your brain. As the song nears its end, you can hear the tormented cries of the damned, wailing from the pits of Hell.

Spectrum of Death is a must-have for any fan of the darker side of Thrash Metal, particularly the German sound. With such raw and evil vocals, as well as the lyrical content, this should satisfy any follower of blackened Thrash. Seek this out, at any cost.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sepultura - Schizophrenia (1987)

In early 1987, Sepultura lost their lead guitarist, Jairo T. He was replaced by Andreas Kisser, who brought with him a style much more based in Thrash Metal. Around this time, the members of Sepultura were getting into bands such as Metallica, Exciter, Slayer and Kreator. All of this led to a shift in the band's sound, one that gained them much more attention and resulted in a record contract with Roadrunner. Their last album to be recorded in Brazil, Schizophrenia was released in October 1987.

Whereas Morbid Visions was a Black Metal album that contained some Thrash as well, consumed by an evil atmosphere, Schizophrenia is something entirely different; however, it still retains a dark feeling. The style on their second L.P. is best described as Death/Thrash, and they do it very well.

An ominous intro begins the album, sounding like something from an old horror film. It ends with a possessed, backmasked, scream.

"From the Past Comes the Storms" opens with a riff that owes a lot to Slayer's "Chemical Warfare". Right away, one notices that the sound is a bit thicker than on the previous record. The feeling is somewhat claustrophobic and oppressive, as opposed to the eerie fog that surrounded Morbid Visions. The songwriting is a lot more complex, featuring plenty of riff changes and so on. This is the doing of Andreas, more than likely. The lead solo is brilliant, showing great skill in execution as well as a good ear. In a strange sense, the aura created on here seems much older than it is.

The next song is "To the Wall", maintaining the intensity from the first track, as well as the dark and suffocating feeling. The overall pace is fast, though there are several tempo changes. This is certainly not the straight-forward Black Metal approach from the previous release. Another difference between this album and the last is that the vocals are pushed back a bit and utilized in a different manner. Max doesn't sound as demonic here, he is simply a vocalist. Around the 2:00 mark, there is an interesting series of drum rolls that sound very similar to something found on Kreator's Pleasure To Kill. Beyond this, the sense of melody that Andreas brought into the band, and the way in which they managed to merge this into the Sepultura sound, is excellent.

"Escape to the Void" opens with a lead solo that melts the flesh from your bones. The initial moments seem more subdued, yet the level of intensity, quickly, increases as things progress. Another thing to note, here, is the completely different lyrical approach. Gone are the evil and Satanic lyrics from the past. This is much different.

"I look at my face on the other side of the mirror
My face falls down in pieces full of worms
I burst my rotten heart with my own hands
I am dying and I can't help myself"

The solos and guitar harmonies on this song are genius. This possesses all the speed and violence of Kreator, while keeping an even darker feeling present, throughout.

It is followed by the bleak and abysmal instrumental, "Inquisition Symphony". This composition further demonstrates the new level of musical maturity that Sepultura had arrived at. If anything rivals Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu", this is it. It begins with synth and an acoustic guitar. The synth is simplistic, being very similar to something out of a horror movie. It doesn't take long for the guitars and drums to take over. What follows in an epic musical journey that can hardly be described. There are moments of serene peace, utterly thrashed by dark and dismal guitar riffs. This song is filled with an old school sensibility, regarding riffs and even drum patterns. Later on, the acoustic guitar returns, though briefly, just before another brilliant lead solo is unleashed. This instrumental consists of many peaks and valleys, speeding you listener to grand heights, only to drag back down into the murky depths. The last moments convey a hellish feeling of soul-death.

"Screams Behind the Shadows" prolongs this somber, funereal spirit. It slowly builds up, as a threatening tension fills the air. The pace isn't quite as fast as earlier songs, which works perfectly in the context of the album, as a whole. There are tempo changes, even including a very nice tremolo riff, but this velocity is not static. Again, the guitar riffs, as well as the solos, are incredibly well done. Despite being a little shorter than the track that preceded it, this one bears much the same imposing ambience.

The record continues on with "Septic Schizo", which takes some time to build up to full speed. The thrash riffs alternate with power chords, in the opening moments. This utilizes the sort of intensity reminiscent of Haunting the Chapel, at times. The pace varies and the vocals have a decent amount of reverb, giving a wicked touch.

As Schizophrenia nears its end, another instrumental track sets a gloomy tone. "The Abyss" is fairly brief, consisting of simple, yet evocative, acoustic guitars. The melody is like the emaciated hand reaching up from the darkness within, gripping your heart in its cold hand as a cryptic reminder that the end is near. For something so ephemeral and minimalist, the sentiment of dread is conveyed adequately enough.

"R.I.P. (Rest In Pain)" erupts from the silence, like a black tank rolling over a lone white flower, growing in total solitude, erasing it from existence. There is a stark contrast between the serenity of the previous piece and the sheer violence of the album closer. The manner in which it begins is fast-paced, brutal and uncompromising. There are some tempo changes, yet it returns to this furious approach. As the song ends, things seem to fall apart. A brief bit of circus music intrudes, soon sounding as if it has been consumed in flames, as the record grinds to a halt.

While Schizophrenia lacks the evil atmosphere present on Morbid Visions, it still succeeds in creating something dark and intense. Few other Death/Thrash albums managed to create such an obscure, yet violent, aura. This is the last essential album from this band, so be sure to pick it up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sodom - Obsessed By Cruelty (1986)

Sodom's debut L.P. took some time to appear. Two years after the release of In the Sign of Evil, in May 1986, Obsessed By Cruelty was finally unleashed upon the Metal underground. During those two years, some things changed for this German band. The primal Black Metal that was found on the E.P. had transformed. Though the sound was not so distant from what it had once been, there was a significant difference in the music and its execution. The vocals weren't as evil and possessed; the atmosphere wasn't as dark and wicked.

The intro may have had some people expecting more of what was heard on In the Sign of Evil. The funeral organ and demonic voices work well to set the tone for unholy Black Metal. Yet, instead of that, there exists something more related to Thrash Metal. "Deathlike Silence" erupts from the graveyard, punishing the listener with a violent pace not far removed from "Blasphemer" or "Burst Command 'Til War". The lyrics are dark, but not Satanic. Aside from the different style that is employed, one may also notice that the guitars struggle with the percussion, in vain, as the latter maintains aural dominance. This is a major complaint against the entire record, really, as drums should never overpower the music like this. Despite such grievances, the first song is still memorable, energetic and one of Sodom's best-known for a reason.

"Brandish the Scepter" bears the same anti-Christian sentiment from before, though it is bereft of any mention of Satan or Hell. It begins with a blinding flurry of riffs and vocals, but manages to slow down for a bit. It is during these slower sections that the album is most enjoyable, as there is less percussion for the guitars to contend with. The drumming on this one is, more or less, a primitive blast beat.

"Proselytism Real" begins with a slower riff that hearkens back to the E.P. The lyrical theme is still, somewhat, cryptic and occult, though not making a great deal of sense. Though the song does speed up, it never seems to reach the frenzied pace of the earlier songs. This means that the percussion is a little easier to digest, giving the guitars more room to breathe. Musically, this track wouldn't have been out of place on In the Sign of Evil, but the vocals aren't evil enough, nor are the lyrics. Nonetheless, it remains one of the better songs on this album.

A brief drum solo opens "Equinox", a straight-forward Thrash Metal song which owes quite a bit to Venom's "Witching Hour". Of course, bands like Venom and Motorhead were an influence to Sodom, so it is not surprising to hear this come through in their music. As with the rest of the album, the vocals seem to be buried a bit more than on their previous release.

"Volcanic Slut", like the last track, begins with only the drums. The bass and guitar come in to create a hellish feeling of death slowly creeping toward you. This is quickly abandoned as the song goes full blast into pure Black/Thrash.

The next song is "Obsessed By Cruelty". This one starts with an eerie intro, with twisted guitar notes giving the impression that the band is burning in the flames of the Kingdom Below. This is accentuated by the demonic vocals of Angelripper. After a couple minutes, Sodom trades a dark atmosphere for intense speed. Around this time, a lot of bands seemed overly concerned with some non-existent contest to see who could play the fastest, often sacrificing brilliant ideas for the sake of an increased velocity. There are some decent riffs and leads, but one gets the impression that the song could have been something more. Some of the riffs are quite memorable, but where the band really shines is the slower section, near the end.

"Fall of Majesty Town" begins with a nice thrash riff and a, somewhat, subdued pace. Unfortunately, within about a minute, it returns to the same generic Sodom riffs that are found all over this album. Not that the riffs are even that audible, buried so far beneath the pounding drums.

Another killer thrash riff introduces "Nectemeron", though the bloody drums overpower it once they arrive. It sounds as if this would be a passable song, if the production wasn't so atrocious. As the pace slows down, one can get more of a feel for what is going on, until the drums ruin it, once more. Really, Obsessed By Cruelty has to be one of the most abrasive albums recorded. It's difficult to sit through, with the cursed percussion drilling into your brain.

"Pretenders to the Throne" seems reminiscent of "Burst Command 'Til War". This one is fast-paced and straight-forward. It is fairly simplistic, while still retaining a good amount of energy. Much like the final song, "Witchhammer", it is more in line with the Black Metal approach of the previous release. The latter more so than the former.

Obsessed By Cruelty is adequate enough, when it comes to songwriting. Though the departure from the early Black Metal sound, in favour of Thrash Metal, is disappointing, is kind of a let down, the real problem here is the awful production. It's not that it sounds too primitive, for that would be just right for this type of music. The main complaint, to reiterate this, is that the drums are far too high in the mix and make this an annoying listening experience, at time. Obsessed By Cruelty has a lot of potential and it would be interesting to hear this in a remixed form. While this is superior to what many of their peers were putting out, Sodom was capable of much better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Slaughter - Strappado (1987)

Slaughter was one of the first Canadian Thrash Metal bands, formed in August of 1984 by Terry Sadler, Dave Hewson and Ron Sumners. The band recorded a handful of demos, as well as the Nocturnal Hell E.P., between 1984 and 1986. By early February 1986, Slaughter entered the studio to record their debut L.P. Strappado. Due to delays, the album wasn't released until 1987.

I discovered Slaughter through the song "The Fourth Dimension", which was featured on the Metal Massacre X compilation. After going back and listening to that song (just before writing this), I must say that it's not as far behind the material of their debut as I imagined. It's definitely more complex. At any rate, it was enough to get me into this band. This album was obtained around the same time as Tales of Terror from Hallows Eve, Torment in Fire from Sacrifice and Dark Angel's We Have Arrived. As a result, they are forever linked in my head.

The album begins with the title track, which is very short. The first thing that this made me think of was Slayer's Reign In Blood. Even some of the vocal patterns are similar, in a sense. The production is kind of fuzzy, which suits this style just fine. The vocals are kind of harsh but not completely. There still remains some semblance of humanity in his voice, with some of the screams being similar to Rob Urbinati, of Sacrifice.

With no time to gather your thoughts, "The Curse" blasts forth. As with the previous song, there is something very familiar about the vocal pattern. This time, it seems very close to something from Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion. The song is very brief and maintains the same pace, throughout. Despite its brevity, it possesses a great deal of power. The lyrics are suited to this sound, well enough.

"To summon up the gods of wrath
Into forests, Satanists chant
To bring forth the beast in flesh
To spread the curse is our quest"

"Disintegrator" is the shortest song, at only one minute long. This one is a bit more intense than the last one, still keeping with the frenetic pace that has been established thus far. Unfortunately, it's too brief to really get into. It bleeds right into the next track.

"Incinerator" is the longest song, up until this point, yet it is my least favorite. The vocals are cleaner and the vocal pattern isn't very pleasant, for some reason. It sounds like something from a Belladonna-era Anthrax album, which doesn't fit in too well with this album. The song isn't bad, especially during the sections bereft of vocals.

This is followed by "Parasites". Again, there is no pause between the songs. This one is dominated by a mid-paced thrash riff and a return to the harsher vocal style. The tempo picks up during the chorus, but this is rather brief.

"F.O.D. (Fuck of Death)" begins with a riff that is very similar to the one from the previous song. It is mid-paced as well, remaining primitive and simplistic, while adding Slayer-esque lead solos to give a more hellish effect. Clocking in at just under four minutes, this is the second longest track on here.

The next song is "Tortured Souls", with an opening riff that sounds like a sped-up version of something from Kill 'Em All. As the song slows down, a demonic voice says: "We are the tortured souls!" The track alternates between fast and mid-paced riffs, with a brief solo thrown in.

"Nocturnal Hell" is my favorite song on here. This is one of the more memorable slabs of Death/Thrash on here, and may have served the album better by being positioned earlier on the record. The main riff is certain to remain in your skull. One even might detect some hint of influence from Hellhammer, as this song progresses.

Strappado concludes with the longest song to be found here; "Tales of the Macabre". It begins with the drums and then a heavy bass sound that follows. The guitars then rise from the crypt, possessing kind of a twisted feeling. There is a definite Hellhammer feeling on here. The vocals are cleaner on this one, but it works better this time. They are kind of weak, but it matters little. The ending of the song is interesting enough, as it borrows heavily from an old Slayer song, in the manner that is builds up to the final moments.

Slaughter is one of the better bands to emerge from the Great White North, so it is recommended for all fans of old school 80s Death and Thrash Metal. This isn't quite on the level of Sacrifice's Torment In Fire, but it is essential for any fan of Canadian Death/Thrash Metal.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Samael - Medieval Prophecy (1988)

Samael was founded in April 1987 by Vorphalack. In 1988 at the beginning of the summer, Pat (the first drummer) left Samael to form another band. He was replaced by Xytraguptor, from the same blood as Vorphalack. Their first demos presented a slow, doomy style of thrash metal with raw vocals, similar to that of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. In October they recorded their 7" E.P. Medieval Prophecy.

The E.P. begins with "Into the Pentagram". The sound is about as raw and necro as it gets, with a slow, doom-filled pace and an inhuman voice screaming in the distance. The production is pretty horrible, being quite reminiscent of the Hellhammer demos. Of course, this only adds to the dark feeling created by this Swiss Black Metal band. The tempo picks up a bit, going into more of a mid-paced thrash riff, but never exceeding this. The atmosphere is evil and dark, with a somber touch. Several minutes into the song, everything fades out and the haunting melodies are replaced by hellish and tormented sounds. These create a very uneasy feeling. Slowly, a dark harmony bleeds through and takes hold of your mind. All goes quiet again as you hear a demonic voice cry out.

"Into the pentagram!"

The Hellhammer influences are obvious, yet Samael manages to surpass what they had accomplished, for the most part, creating a much darker aura than the majority of the songs on Satanic Rites or Apocalyptic Raids.

The next song is "The Dark". This instrumental maintains the hauntingly dark and bleak atmosphere of the previous song. The intro features only an acoustic guitar and the bass, working together to create something truly sinister. As the guitars rise up and rage forward, another influence becomes apparent in the guitar harmonies. It seems to have some influence from the NWOBHM bands. The song isn't entirely bereft of any vocals, but they seem to take on the form of background screams and whispers, appearing for but a few brief moments. Though the approach is different from the previous song, it shares the same dark and epic feeling.

The E.P. concludes with a cover of Hellhammer's "The Third of the Storms". The execution isn't as tight as the versions on Satanic Rites or Apocalyptic Raids (as difficult as that is to comprehend), but the vocals are much more fitting for the song. For one reason or another, Samael opted to skip the lead solo, taking something away from the song. It is alright, but not as good as the original. The only improvement would be the harsher vocal style.

Medieval Prophecy is an impressive E.P. At a time when Black Metal still dwelled farther beneath the surface than it would a few years later, this cemented Samael as a band to contend with and lead them on the path to releasing a full-length album. Pick this up if possible, as it is a highly recommended piece of 80s Black Metal history.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obscurity - Damnation's Pride (1987)

A short time after releasing their first demo in 1986, Sweden's Obscurity returned in 1987 with yet another slab of underground Black/Death Metal known as Damnation's Pride. This recording showed improvement in the overall sound, as the production allowed for a much more powerful representation of the band. The songwriting was a bit more varied as well, with the band experimenting with a few things. It was recorded in the same studio as Ovations To Death, which had been rebuilt into a 16-track studio. The Satanic lyrical theme was now absent, except for the title track. Upon releasing this, the band members found themselves a bit more satisfied with their efforts.

"Graves of Rebirth" emerges from the shadows with a slow doom riff and ghoulish hissing, before demonic cries and pounding drums build a bit of tension before the song truly explodes from the darkness to rip your face right off. The riffs and solos still owe a great deal to Speed and Thrash Metal. The pace is relentless and the vocals are still possessed by a deep hatred, as on the previous release.

The title track continues this onslaught, with one curious difference. For the vocals, they chose to use some sort of effect. Not being an expert on studio trickery, it's difficult to say it the vocalist used a harmonizer of some sort or if the effect is caused by a lot of reverb. At any rate, it seems to be utilized for the purpose of adding more of a demonic sound. It works well enough, though it wasn't entirely necessary as it results in a loss of the raw hatred. That isn't a complaint so much as a simple observation.

"Mortal Remains" makes use of more of some mid-paced thrash riffs. This is good, as it displays a little variety in the sound, allowing for the songs to be more easily distinguished. The same vocal effect from the previous track is also present here. The tempo remains consistent throughout the course of the song. It all ends with a very nice lead solo that is played over slow doom riffs.

The demo closes in a furious manner, as "Demented" rushes forward at a frantic pace. The vocals are back to the normal, hate-filled sound and he even lets out a quick high-pitched scream. This song is pretty intense, despite its ephemeral nature, and serves well to bring things to an end.

Damnation's Pride showed that Obscurity had improved in a short amount of time. Judging from this recording, one would think that the band would have put out an L.P. at some point. Unfortunately, it never came to pass. Two brief demos are all that remain of this band. The band name, then, becomes all the more appropriate when thinking of this. This demo is highly recommended. Perhaps, for a glimpse of what an Obscurity L.P. may have sounded like, I would suggest picking up the first Merciless album.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Obscurity - Ovations To Death (1986)

Ovations To Death is the first demo from Obscurity, an old Black/Death Metal band from Malmö, Sweden. Influenced by the likes of Motorhead, Slayer and Bathory, the band's initial demo was released in 1986, not long after they formed. This was recorded in an 8-track analog studio and featured an aggressive sound and Satanic lyrics.

"Across the Holocaust" begins with a somber atmosphere, as Chopin's Funeral March serves as the intro. This is then interrupted by a hellish blast of guitars and explosive drums, accompanied by a sinister hissing. The song is driven by the pulsing drums and sped-up thrash riffs. The vocals are somewhat unique, as they aren't quite as harsh sounding as one might expect. The vocalist sounds possessed by madness. The sound is not entirely one-dimensional, as the tempo changes and a mid-paced thrash riff appears, briefly.

"Excursion To Eternity" continues the fast-paced assault. The production isn't great, but it's adequate enough for a demo. The style is very reminiscent of The Awakening, from Merciless, though that album wouldn't be recorded until three years later. Oddly, this bears little (if any) semblance to other Swedish bands such as Bathory, Mefisto or Morbid. As on the previous song, the bass is quite audible and the lead solo is well-placed.

The longest song on the demo is "Spiritual Entity". The opening riffs of this song are slower, with the doom-filled bass lines adding to the ominous feeling of dread. The track takes a minute or so to really build-up, finally resulting in a violent outburst of sound. Surprisingly, the vocalist throws in a high-pitched scream, which definitely dates the recording. It's a nice touch. After a bit of a bass solo, the fury resumes, pounding relentlessly. The music is intense and the vocals are filled with hatred.

"Celestial Conquest" is next, beginning with fast-picked bass lines and guitar riffs that soon join. This is another song possessed of a furious tempo, more high-pitched wails thrown in and brief guitar solos. This one is raw and straight-forward, being very primitive in its approach.

This is followed by the shortest track on here, "The Condemnation". This song is pretty fast-paced as well, but it seems a little more subdued in its execution. This is, probably, more a result of the production than anything else. However, it features some really nice tremolo riffs, briefly emerging from the chaos. All of this sounds quite good, expecially for a demo. In actuality, the quality is equal (or superior) to some of the full-length albums being released in Brazil, around this time.

"Unblessed Domain" brings the demo to its conclusion, maintaining the merciless bludgeoning of your skull. The pace doesn't really change, throughout the song. During the chorus, the vocalist injects a bit of melody, matching the rhythm of the guitar riffs. There are also a couple lead solos that add to the sound, though not being particularly special.

Ovations To Death was another hidden treasure that I recently discovered, feeling great shame in possessing no knowledge of this forgotten Black/Death Metal band from Sweden. Then again, there is a part of me that is grateful that some things have been missed, as it provides more mystery in this music; it is pleasant to think that there may still be gems such as this, waiting to be discovered. The closest thing that I would compare this to is early Merciless, so any fan of that (or other underground 80s bands) should seek this out.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mefisto - The Puzzle (1986)

The Puzzle is the second demo from Sweden's Mefisto. It emerged from the obscure funeral fog a mere six months after their first demo, Megalomania. This one shows a bit of a different approach; what some would call more sophisticated, maybe.

"Hunting High, Die" starts out with an acoustic intro that nearly lulls you into a trance. It creates a rather tranquil atmosphere, almost similar to the intro to Blood Fire Death, which would appear a couple years later. Once the guitars, drums and bass all appear, a sense of tension and dread is built. The sound is remarkably clean for a demo, but it's not slick, by any means. The vocals seem to be buried in the mix, a bit, and the approach is more subdued and parts seem a little reminiscent of Destruction or Kreator. There are some faster parts, but the tempo is mostly mid-paced. The solos are executed well enough and the snare drum has quite a distinctive punch to it. The songwriting is a little more complex than the previous demo, but not by a wide margin.

The next song is "The Puzzle", begins with more of the pounding drums, which sort of equal the guitars, in terms of power. After a few moments, they settle down a bit so that the focus can go where it belongs; naturally, that would be on the guitar riffs and the vocals. There are several tempo changes here. Despite the harsh vocals and the morbid funeral bells, this recording is bereft of the Black Metal feeling of Megalomania. It seems that they took the slower sections and certain melodies and decided to expand upon those. This isn't a bad thing, but it does represent a clear progression in the band's sound. There is even a duel guitar harmony, near the end, that plays underneath a lead solo.

"Os Liberty" begins with some odd acoustic part, joined by the distant wailing of an electric guitar. This leads into a somber guitar solo and depressing bass lines that add to the despair. After a minute or so, this stops and the guitarist spends some time to show off his skills. The feeling created on this instrumental isn't so far off from a Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu", though not nearly as epic.

The final song is "Underground Circus". It's the longest track on here, clocking in at over eight minutes. It begins with the feeling of doom, as slow riffs are joined by a funeral bell. This almost sounds like it could fit on a Candlemass album. More melodic solos flow throughout the song. This piece consists, mostly, of mid-paced thrash riffs and slower doom riffs, as well. The vocals aren't as varied as on Megalomania, but Sandro does unleash some hellish screams, though they are used sparingly. The bass becomes much more prominent, later in the song, as the speed increases. It all builds to a hellish conclusion, ending with a lot of insane soloing, similar to the end of a Slayer record.

The Puzzle features quality befitting a full-length album, despite the fact that it is merely a demo. The sound is on par with many records of its day and the songwriting is, easily, on the same level as many of their peers. It isn't as raw as the previous release, which I missed, but that is simply a matter of personal preference. That these Swedes never managed to get signed and release an L.P. is a crime.