Album Of The Week – February 20, 2023

Two weeks in a row for debut albums – this week it’s a first offering from a band that would cast a wide influence on what would come to be known as extreme metal. While much of early 1980’s England was in the midst of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, one band would take noise, speed and Satan to a different level.

Venom – Welcome To Hell

Released December 1981 via Neat and Combat Records

My Favorite Tracks – In League With Satan, Live Like An Angel, Welcome To Hell

Venom was formed when the three core members eventually came together out of the ashes of other bands. Conrad Lant would handle bass and vocals, Jeff Dunn tackled guitar and Tony Bray sat on the drum throne. The three would choose stage names – Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon, and be more known by those names in the pre-Internet era. Much of this first album was composed of tunes that Cronos and Mantas each had worked up in some stage and brought to their new band’s sessions.

There were two other members of Venom early on, but both Alan Winston and Clive Archer would leave the group before the recording of the album.

Venom would record their early demos at Impulse Studios in the Newcastle area, where Cronos had a job and traded work for Venom’s studio time. They would land a record deal with Neat, a British label who also happened to own Impulse Studio. Venom recorded the album proper in a few days, and Neat released the record after a few more days and not much in the way of mixing and mastering. This raw, unpolished sound was not entirely intentional on the band’s part but would wind up being a key point of influence on the later black metal movement.

Venom would use overt Satanic imagery and lyrical fare as an attention getter, but would also fully commit to the gag in a way that pushed beyond the “quasi-satanism” of Black Sabbath and earlier acts. The band’s interest in Satanism and the occult would play into the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s and even later land the group a coveted spot on the PMRC’s Filthy Fifteen list. (I’ve covered the list in the past here).

Today’s album holds 11 tracks with a running time near 40 minutes. There won’t be much in the way of technical proficiency to discuss, but a lot of ripping through songs about evil and lust and the influence many would bear later on the metal scene.

Sons Of Satan

It’s fair to call this a collision of musical parts being played together at once as opposed to a cohesive song. The lyrics implore the righteous youth to abandon their path and join the satanic Venom legions. And perhaps against the odds, Venom would succeed in their dark recruiting mission.

Welcome To Hell

The title track is a much more put-together affair than the opener, though still swamped in the lo-fi buzz that would come to be a defining point of the band. The lyrics are a crude pounding through the glorification of Hell and the end of the world, with a spoken word portion of Psalm 23 from the Bible thrown in because why not.


While the title implies a mental disorder of some kind, the song is about a serial killer. It’s a pretty good song though it’s hard to ignore the awful drum sound here, certainly a case of something that would have sounded better with more work in the studio.

Mayhem With Mercy

A brief instrumental that isn’t of note itself. The Norwegian black metal band Mayhem would name themselves from this track and then go on to live in infamy in the 1990’s.


A nice song about a girl who entices the song’s narrator, though the girl is of course evil and all that. The lo-fi production works pretty well here. It is worth mentioning that hair metal act Poison did NOT name themselves after this track.

Live Like An Angel

A very nice song here that would be an early influence on thrash metal. This song would be bundled with In League With Satan for release as a double A-side single. This did illustrate that Venom’s primitive sound was down more to studio limitations than musical effort.

Witching Hour

All hell breaks loose on this, one of the most celebrated tracks from the album. So lo-fi it can almost hurt to listen to, but also a fantastic slab of sick heavy metal. It’s pretty easy to find a cover version of this song on any number of underground metal bands’ albums.

One Thousand Days In Sodom

Bit of a concept piece here, I guess, as Venom explores the sin and decay of the city of Sodom, as told in the Bible. It should be no shock that Venom’s recounting of the story does not align with Christian teachings. A very nice riff here and some pretty well-done songcraft. It is widely reported that the German thrash band Sodom named themselves from this song, though I can’t locate actual confirmation of that tidbit.

Angel Dust

In keeping with the lyrical themes that piss off the “moral majority,” we now have a song about drug use. Angel dust is the common street name for PCP, which is honestly a pretty messed up drug. While the song is clearly glorifying drug use, I don’t recall that the members of Venom were particularly taken with drugs, this is just another character piece.

In League With Satan

We are now at what is largely considered the highlight of the record. In keeping with actually doing everything that other bands were incorrectly accused of, the beginning features a backwards-recorded Satanic message. And the main lyrics of the song have the similar Satanic messages said normally. This is a very nice and evil sounding song that hypnotically marches through its dark message and generates the kind of sound that other metal bands would strive for.

Red Light Fever

The album closes with a savage rip through a song that is not about running red lights in traffic, but rather the seedy red light districts of infamy. While Cronos finds himself a good time gal, he realizes that she’s just doing her job and his moment of glory is just a moment.

Welcome To Hell was the start of a sound and scene that would not light up mainstream sales charts but would spread a wide influence across what would become new strains of heavy metal – not only ignoring the criticisms of theme and imagery, but embracing those themes. Venom’s second album Black Metal would give a name to the most infamous of these subgenres of extreme metal, and Venom’s honestly unintentional lo-fi sound would shape the early recordings of that movement.

Venom would gain notoriety for their sound and antics, but were outpaced by the movements of other metal bands. By the end of the 1980’s thrash metal was king and several versions of extreme metal were entering their prime years. Venom themselves would go through a series of line-up changes and dramas, though they are still active with Cronos being the sole original member and have released 15 studio albums with a variety of line-ups over the years.

Venom and Welcome To Hell are viewed in a positive light in terms of influence and legacy, though in the realm of sound they aren’t particularly noteworthy among critics. Yes, the album does sound like shit. Listening closely today it’s a bit of a slog to get through, though for me personally there are worthy songs under the layers of badly done studio work. But I imagine this was a different thing to hear in the early 80’s when the average listener didn’t have the context to understand recording techniques – this sounded pure evil.

At the end of the day, even if it sounds like a bad attempt at recording, the influence of Welcome To Hell far exceeds any technical limitations. For all of the finger wagging at heavy metal and its supposed immorality, Venom were actually providing that unironically. In the family tree of extreme metal, this is the trunk.

Album Rankings – Celtic Frost

I’m doing another album ranking today. This one wasn’t something I had planned but the gears started grinding on it when 80’s Metal Man did a post recently on one of the band’s albums. Cheers to him for that post and the inspiration to start thinking about this band’s albums.

It’s also a very, very easy album ranking – in the on-again, off-again course of the band’s history, they only had five proper studio albums and one EP that’s long enough to include. This isn’t a scholarly effort like that of ranking Iron Maiden or Saxon records, it doesn’t take a great deal of time or energy to rank the Celtic Frost albums.

For the purposes of this ranking I will include Morbid Tales as a full-length album. The US release was eight songs, which is essentially a full album anyway. I’m not normally a fan of including things that aren’t full-length releases on these rankings but in this case I think the length and the impact of the work are both warranted.

Celtic Frost were a unique entity in heavy metal – their work was along the lines of thrash, though so dirty that it’d help give birth to entire new subgenres. The band never stuck with one sound for very long and they would become a contributor to the emerging doom scene. Avant garde is a term often used to describe some of their music. There was always something more artistic to what Celtic Frost were doing, it was never just a day at the office.

Time to get down to business – ranking the six Celtic Frost albums.

6 – Cold Lake (1988)

The bottom slot, somewhat unfortunately, goes to the album that 80sMetalMan did his retrospective on. Cold Lake is a very complicated album in the Celtic Frost pantheon, being one often viewed with scorn and contempt. Said contempt comes from none other than the band’s main man himself, Tom G. Warrior.

Celtic Frost were derided for going “glam” in this era, though honestly that was far more in pics and videos rather than the music. The tunes themselves are fairly straightforward sort-of thrashy numbers. There are a few false starts and missteps among these songs, which is why I rank it at the bottom. But, the album does have its highlights, like Cherry Orchards, and is far from the disasterpiece it was made out to be. While the album isn’t necessarily a credit to the grim presentation Celtic Frost have in their defining moments, it’s not the boogeyman it’s been made out to be either. And it seems plenty of people have warmed up to it in recent years.

5 – Vanity/Nemesis (1990)

After Cold Lake and its disastrous reception, CF reconvened with founding bassist Martin Eric Ain and offered up this slab of thrashy, goth-rock inspired tunes. It was initially hailed as a “return to form,” but the truth is that it wasn’t really that. It was a different direction for the group, though in reality it isn’t that far removed from its immediate predecessor.

The songs here play out fine enough, but the album isn’t all that exciting. It’s one of those that, for me, is fine to listen to but also doesn’t really move the needle. While Celtic Frost were often a shape-shifting group in their time, this record didn’t necessarily shift into something terribly essential.

4 – Into The Pandemonium (1987)

Speaking of shape-shifting, Celtic Frost did it on this album and did it very well. This was a more refined approach to songwriting, leaving behind the rough and tumble nature of the early albums and investing more atmosphere into the proceedings. It still links to the early records but shifts its leanings to the doom and goth realms, areas where the band also had great influence. Songs like Inner Sanctum and Babylon Fell still offer that classic CF feel, though.

3 – Morbid Tales (1984)

CF’s debut effort was recorded less than a year after Warrior and Ain abandoned their Hellhammer project. This EP/album/what have you would go on to be massively influential in the metal world, and even beyond. Songs like Into The Crypt Of Rays and Procreation Of The Wicked have gone on to be covered by countless metal acts and are in rotation across “best of metal” playlists all over. This is a piece of metal history that is widely responsible for a lot of that godawful noise people are still listening to today.

2 – To Mega Therion (1985)

The first true proper full-length from Celtic Frost shares the influential lineage spawned by Morbid Tales. This album was a blueprint for death metal, black metal and doom metal. It is one of the most important releases to extreme metal as a whole, joining with Venom and Bathory in that regard. It’s really impossible to overstate the influence of this album.

And what an album it is. Songs like The Usurper and Circle Of The Tyrants are masterpieces. The entire album is a great marriage of savage noisemaking and creepy atmosphere. It’s weird to think what kind of place metal would be in without this offering.

1 – Monotheist (2006)

With all that said, my favorite Celtic Frost album was their final one, released after a 16 year gap between albums. The return was highly anticipated and the resulting album delivered in a way that exceeded notions.

Monotheist sees CF lean heavily on the doom side of things and is a presentation even darker than their pioneering early works. Tom Warrior’s voice added qualities with age (not that he was that old, early 40’s at this point) – his delivery is very fitting for the music. And the riffs and arrangements found here are unrivaled. This was a majestic offering from the band, who looked poised to perhaps lead a charge for a new decade but split up again instead.

That does it for the Celtic Frost rankings and, sadly, this is certainly the final, definitive ranking. The band split up in 2008 due to seemingly perpetual tensions between Tom Warrior and Martin Eric Ain, and in 2017 Ain died at only 50 years old. Warrior has proposed a show or two comprised of former CF members purely as a tribute to Ain, but the book on Celtic Frost’s recording career is long closed.

Even with the long layoffs and a discography on the shorter end, Celtic Frost hold an undeniable legacy in the world of metal. They were one of the most important bands to the formation of the extreme metal scene and their influence is responsible for literal decades of music since.

Album Of The Week – April 11, 2022

Thrash metal was in a bad way during the 1990’s. The twin killings of grunge and Metallica’s style shift left the thrash movement clawing for any shred of relevance through the decade. Many bands broke up, went on hiatus or explored various other musical styles with varying results, none of which were commercially viable. Extreme metal ruled the underground and by the end of the decade it was black metal that captured imaginations – even thrash-centric scenes like death metal had a lull through the end of the century.

Leave it to Sweden to fix things. Not only was the pioneering Gothenburg Sound responsible for giving new life to thrash metal, but another Swedish group would enter the new millennium and release a melodic death/thrash offering that served as a signpost for the coming revival of many forms of metal.

The Crown – Deathrace King

Released May 3, 2000 via Metal Blade Records

My Favorite Tracks – Rebel Angel, I Won’t Follow, Death Explosion

Deathrace King is not an album with ebbs and flows or peaks and valleys. It is an intense, fast-paced assault through all of its 50 minutes. It’s a collection of songs that lives up to the album’s title and puts thrash front and center at a time when thrash was a discarded relic of the past.

Death Explosion

A very fitting title for the opener. This is an absolute barn burner that sets the tone for what the album is all about. The music flies at a breakneck tempo that couples perfectly with singer Johan Lindstrand’s hoarse growl of “It’s a death explosion.” The end of the song offers a reprieve from the headbanging with a slower passage that lets everyone catch their breath before the rest of the album flies off the track.

Executioner: Slayer Of The Light

It’s all out from start to finish here as the band goes on a neck-snapping attack and Lindstrand offers up a smorgasbord of Satan and death references. I could lament never having seen The Crown live but with stuff like this I’m not sure I would have survived the pit.

Back From The Grave

Another high octane thrasher that actually gets a bit philosophical in the chorus. I recall first hearing this song and wondering why I was pondering existential questions on a thrash song but the Swedish get pretty deep sometimes. It’s hard to read a philosophy textbook while headbanging but here we are.

Devil Gate Ride

A song kept on the album’s theme of racing that also features a special guest – Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates, which in 2000 was a defunct band. Lindberg’s guest turn would serve as foreshadowing – two years later, Tomas was in The Crown as their new singer.

This song hits all the right notes and perfectly illustrates the deathrace in full glory. It’s not a race to avoid Hell – this car is heading straight into it at full speed.


The tempo chills just a hair on this but the brutality is still present. The theme of revenge is well-worn in metal and it’s not served cold here – this dish is red hot.

Rebel Angel

The Crown go 666% fast on their ode to the Devil. Good old meat and potatoes, devil horn’s-raising heavy metal is back.

I Won’t Follow

Another whiplash-inducing tune that is cut from the “I stand alone and against society” cloth. It is the rebellion and individuality that stand’s at metal’s epicenter. It’s not a path for the faint of heart or ear.

Blitzkrieg Witchcraft

Now we’re just throwing words together and thrashing along to the end of the world. It features the old traditional thrash gang chorus and adds a bit of fun to the apocalyptic mix.

Dead Man’s Song

The band slows it down for the one and only time on the album. It’s as much of a ballad as can be possible in extreme metal I suppose. This dirge laments the ultimate inevitability in life and provides a nice soundtrack for it.

Total Satan

We’re back on the track and racing at full pace to the finish. There is another guest on this song – Mika Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene joins in on the fun here. And this guest would not later join the band.

Total Satan is a thrash banger that sounds exactly like the title implies. No curveballs here.

Killing Star

The album closes with an 8-minute opus. It opens with a nearly 2-minute intro and then launches into the same thrash attack everyone has come to expect at this point. The song combines all of the album’s themes into a potent mish-mash of Satanic war-fueled orgy.

Deathrace King opened the new millennium with something that had been rare for the years prior – a heavy-hitting thrash record, informed with the masterful touch of Swedish melodic death. After several years in the wilderness, thrash and death were set to return in the 2000’s in a big way and The Crown led the charge.

The Crown would go on a winding path after Deathrace King – Johan Lindstrand would depart the group and the aforementioned Tomas Lindberg would briefly serve as his replacement. A few lineup changes and one hiatus later, the band were back at it through the 2010’s, eventually rejoined by Lindstrand.

However it all played out, Deathrace King serves as The Crown’s magnum opus and a monolith of an album that cut against the grain of the styles at the time. The album’s reputation has only grown in time as people have traced back to hear hidden gems they may have missed in metal’s lull of the late 90’s. The Crown’s deathrace ended after 49 minutes but heavy metal’s is still going 22 years after the fact.

Memories – Straight To Hell

I’m winding down the main crux of my Memories series now. There is only really one more part to go after this one. This page recounts my older posts about what I’ve listened to over the years. This time I’m going to get into the years 2006-2010, which brought a very radical series of changes in my life that would reflect in what I chose to listen to during that time.

In the summer of 2006 I endured a few severe blows in life that left me regrouping. I relocated to where I am now, in the southwest of Missouri. I was more or less starting all over in every aspect of existence. Thankfully I still had plenty of friends from my last time living here, after all I’d only been gone about 18 months.

Everything that had happened left me clawing back toward that which was comforting and familiar, and few things were as much that to me as heavy metal. It did help that my network of friends in the area were also into the same thing. People had huge collections, played in bands and it was that community that I returned to that year.

“Metal” meant, by and large, the extreme side of things. The early 2000’s saw death metal return in a big way to prominence and black metal was mostly past its 90’s drama and about the music itself. A host of bands old and new were blazing paths in every different direction.

For me it was a bit more than just picking up the music again. It became more of an identity thing. I wasn’t just into harsh music, it was an embodiment of what I thought about society and people. All of the music’s yelling about war, death, Satan and how fucked humanity is wasn’t just there because it suited the music, it was in step with what I thought and how I felt. Perhaps not a good thing, I don’t know, but it was what it was at that time.

I didn’t just listen to the music – I wore the shirts, I went to the shows, I lived and breathed it. I can’t even count the number of friends I had who were in death metal bands at the time. I pretty well gave up on being a “normal” member of society and chose to exist in a counterculture pocket instead. Sure I worked like everyone else, but my spare time was focused on the music. I embraced the identity fully, both to express myself and to keep people the hell away from me.

I wouldn’t rest long just in one pocket of heavy metal. I would soon pick up far more on the doom subgenre around this time. I hadn’t previously been exposed to much of it beyond the obvious Black Sabbath, but in the late 00’s I went all in on doom. Old, new, it didn’t matter. The music suited my obviously not great mental state at the time and was a comforting presence during those years. I am far “better” now by most metrics than I was back then but doom metal is still a good part of what I enjoy these days even if I don’t explore the area as intently as I did back then.

As 2007 came around I would find myself exploring an unlikely genre, though it was entirely fitting for me at the time. A friend lent me a CD he’d picked up not long before and thought I should give it a spin. I’d heard the name for years and knew he’d been a bit different from his namesake and his chosen genre but I never took the time before to give his music a spin. The artist was Hank Williams III and the album was Straight To Hell. The results would kick me off into a new appreciation for country music.

I spun the Hank III album time and time again. While the genre was something I avoided up to that point, this rough and tumble outlaw tear was right up my alley at the time. There was obvious crossover between the outlaw country movement of the late 00’s and the heavy metal scene. But I didn’t just stop with Hank III, himself a metalhead with his own bands. I jumped in to country as a whole, visiting legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings along with artists of the day like Wayne Hancock and Lucky Tubb.

As luck would have it, my area was a good place to be for that country scene. Both Wayne and Lucky played shows at least once a year in my town and I was a fixture at their shows. Hank III also came through for one of the craziest, longest and booze-soaked concerts I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t alone in my newfound love of the music – many of my friends were also picking up on Hank III.

Country would last with me even after that insurgent movement of the late 00’s slid away and became something else that would eventually find its place in mainstream music. But that outlaw scene of the time hit home with me, a thread I’ll pick up another time in another fashion.

As the decade wore down I was pretty entrenched in the sounds of underground and independent movements. I had anchored my identity to them, after all. After a bit of a struggle through 2008 I entered 2009 in a more stable place though still fully vested in these counterculture leanings. I wanted to yell at the world how messed up I thought it was and I did so through the many songs around that echoed the same sentiment. It was angst that perhaps mutated into true misanthropy, at least to a degree. If anything, I didn’t realize how much of that time would just be a pregame for society’s shitshow to come.

That is where I was as 2010 came about. I had fashioned myself as some uncaring, hateful outlaw, sick of it all and armed with the tunes to prove it. I entered a bit of a different headspace around this time as my station in life slowly improved, caring less and less about what image I projected onto society and just enjoying whatever I wanted to enjoy. And it was around this time I noticed them slinking around the same corners of the record store where I was at – the metal, the independent country and roots music. Who were these man-bun wearing, beard-clad, craft beer swilling people and why were they into the same shit I was? What did it make them, or perhaps more interestingly, what did it make me?

Questions for the next time, of course.

To The Extreme

I’ve worked through a fair bit of my earlier memories in terms of music in earlier posts. These “memories” posts are piling up now so I won’t back-reference every one, but the “Memories” tab in Categories on the sidebar will direct you to any older ones you may wish to peruse. For today, I’ll pick back up in the early 1990’s and get into the really heavy shit, as the title suggests.

Even as I was taking in everything in 1991 I was presented with even heavier sounds. I first hit on Sepultura back then and also picked up Slayer right around that time. As my classmates and friends were pouring obsessively over the Black Album day and night I was discovering German thrash like Kreator and Destruction.

I kept wanting to push the envelope. I got bored shitless with the Black Album and with Metallica in general after 1991. All of my friends were still playing it over and over again. They released a live box set in late 1993 and everyone would play it, even skipping over the older songs to hear the same selection of Black Album tracks. Like come on, man.

Well, all of my friends except one. One dude, a few years older than me, had a monstrous CD and tape collection. His coffers were stuffed to the brim with every kind of rock and metal you can think of, including a fair bit of stuff a lot of people had never heard of. Finally one day I left his house with a selection of tapes to check out and see if I was ready for the heaviest of the heavy.

The stuff I borrowed was a who’s who of early 90’s death metal – Morbid Angel, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide. It all hit like a ton of bricks for me. It was a whole other level from what I’d been listening to – this was heavy as literal Hell, aggressive, mean, blasphemous, evil, the whole nine yards.

I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with this stuff. Like I said, I’d heard Sepultura, which were not far removed from many of their Roadrunner label-mates. I also very vaguely remember Kurt Loder reporting on MTV News that a Florida band named Obituary had won a battle of the bands thing, probably just before they hit with their debut Slowly We Rot. But that was before I took the plunge – it was just a tidbit I have this recollection of when I was still forming my musical tastes.

I copied off all the tapes my buddy had given me and I went quickly further underground. I didn’t stop with the top-shelf of death metal. I found mail-order forms for Relapse Records, Nuclear Blast and other underground distributors and I went whole hog into it.

My first order from Relapse was for two bands – Incantation and Amorphis. I got Incantation’s debut album Onward To Golgotha and from Amorphis The Karelian Isthmus. I also ordered a few 7-inch records of each band as well as an Amorphis EP on tape. Those two albums would have a huge impact on me and are still massively important to me to this day. Incantation would remain a staple of my death metal diet while Amorphis would move in directions beyond the scope of my taste, but both were huge parts of my early days of this extreme metal exploration.

Other stuff would come. Pungent Stench was a favorite of all of us dumb, bored teenage boys. Hypocrisy would capture our attention. They would be one of the few to endure into the late 90’s, when many of these bands would fall by the wayside. But many others were abundant – Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Vader, Kataklysm, Pestilence, Asphyx, Gorefest … shit, this list could go on for hours. There were so many worthy bands cranking out badass shit in the early ’90’s underground scene. I was in hook, line and sinker.

One that really stood out to me was Suffocation. There’s a joke about the -tion bands, one that Carcass even clowned on in a song off their 2013 reunion album Surgical Steel in the song Thrasher’s Abbatior.

But Suffocation? That shit was real. This intersection between brutality and technicality was unparalleled at a time when bands were often finding their sound in one space or another. Their influence on death metal afterwards was as sweeping as their arpeggios. Brutal death metal, technical death metal, slam, core, whatever you do today – your ass owes a debt to Suffocation. For me, and for many others, they stand as the masters of the craft.

Death metal would come quickly and not always from the U.S. Sweden got into the game in a big way, leading a few charges that would shape the extreme metal landscape forever. The first wave would emerge from Stockholm, with Grave, Dismember and Entombed providing headache-inducing soundtracks shaped in large part by the Boss HM2 guitar pedal. That disgusting tone coupled with nihilistic lyrics and a buzzsaw edge would have its own profound mark on the scene as a whole and especially on my ears.

Then the second Swedish wave came from their second biggest city. The Gothenburg Sound pioneered by At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, The Crown and … yes, Great Britain’s Carcass, would lay a foundation used to this day by kids who weren’t even alive when we were listening to this shit. A more melodic, thrash-based approach that owed equally to Slayer and Iron Maiden would give younger metalheads plenty of homework to do in the coming decades.

This is where I was in the early and mid 1990’s. I was on the vanguard of heavy metal’s most extreme movement to date. But just as I found all of this, something else was going on.

It wasn’t just the music – we had to find this shit through the underground. Tape trading was big, but who did you trade tapes with? You had to find people to do that with. And I quickly got into more stuff from Europe, the American scene was pretty easy to buy at a music store. Even the piss ant “metropolis” of Rolla, Missouri had a CD shop in 1994 and they would gladly order me whatever I wanted. But getting a hold of some stuff wasn’t possible through conventional music distribution means.

The information currency just before the advent of the Internet was called the ‘zine. It was a magazine, just in a Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) mass-printed form. Most ‘zines were truly passion projects copied off in office stores and mailed to rabid metal fans.

I got a bit lucky, though. I grew up not far from St. Louis and a very professional ‘zine came from a die-hard metalhead in the area. Sounds Of Death was published for a few years in the mid-90’s , at the exact same time I was getting into this scene. SOD was a far superior publication to the Kinko’s-printed staple-in-the-top-left ‘zine – it was a full magazine, with a brutal cover and a ton of content within.

I remember that the main honcho of SOD had a huge hate hard-on for My Dying Bride. I would crack up when he would review them. Years later I would get into MDB’s stuff but back then that caustic kind of review struck a chord with me. But the content wasn’t all negative – he had plenty good to say about the most brutal offerings of the day.

I’d end my high school “career” still being very hard into death metal, even as I still entertained other scenes, like the burgeoning alternative radio rock that came of age in 1995. My musical adventures would go in a whole other direction, a much more tourist-oriented state as I grew into adulthood and cared about a lot of things other than having some diehard metal collection. I’d develop this recurring theme of watching what I got into being left behind, just as I watched hair metal perish in 1991 and as I watched death metal suffer in the late 1990’s. A future post about my forays into alternative rock and being more of a music tourist, which thankfully covers an 11-year period of my musical formation and can be summed up rather briefly, is on the horizon.

But there is one other strain of extreme metal to talk about. It’s one that jumps years for me and one I didn’t initially take to. It, for me and many like me, started with the crazy story of betrayal and murder I first saw covered in the pages of Sounds Of Death and elsewhere in 1994. And it is also another story for another time.

I remember when I first got into metal in 1990 – more like Ozzy, Megadeth, Metallica, and the like – my family would go on about how it was “just a phase.” I think that’s been a theme with more than one person in my life over the decades since. It’s something that would go away, to be replaced by figuring out how to put meals on the table for kids, family functions, the mundane yet profound aspects of life that would come as people truly grew up. What I found in extreme metal was just a thing to fill a hole – other stuff would supersede it as time wore on, at least in the eyes of others.

Well folks, this phase is now almost 30 years strong. And, just like many who put food on tables, who go to piano recitals and soccer games, Carcass and Morbid Angel are the soundtrack along the way. I myself may not have kids and other grandiose stuff to do, which just gave me more time to explore the various strains of underground metal that would come.

But I know plenty of people who do have families, businesses and careers, and many of these people would be the same people I’d see at death metal shows and other extreme metal shows over the ensuing decades. I know me and many like me who have lived this phase for 30 years, 40 years. And today it keeps going – kids are still throwing down, looking for the heaviest, harshest sounds they can find. It doesn’t end. Metal just keeps going, and still keeps mutating into new forms. It often now joins with other lesser explored genres of rock to shape new sounds for the coming age.

I’ll see this phase through to my end complete. Extreme metal was, and is, something that could be shared between the few – it turns off the normies, the Karens, the suburban couples walking their dogs on multi-use trails as I fly by them on my bicycle with Bolt Thrower blaring from my Bluetooth speaker. But those of us who get it? Yeah, this shit is for life. And it isn’t to be explained – you either get it, or you don’t. And I think plenty of people today still get it just fine.