EARACHE RECORDS: A GRINDCORE POST-MORTEM
By Carlos M. Pozo
MOSH 29 Bolt Thrower War Master (1991)
A massive lumbering behemoth of an album, this is perhaps their finest hour, although as a blithering idiot fan I like them all. The cover says it all- if you can stomach a Conan-type barbarian warrior kicking butt with a giant broadsword in his hands, you may enter the world of Bolt Thrower. Claustrophobic sound- this album exemplifies their stuttering attack to best effect.
MOSH 36 Fudge Tunnel Hate Songs In E Minor (1991)
In concert they were pretty good, I thought, but everyone else in the audience seemed to be asleep. They cleverly claimed to be influenced only by Black Sabbath, Big Black and Black Flag. Those darned smart English kids. On record they just don't have anything to offer. Somehow reminiscent of a heavier Fugazi, their only noteworthy aspect is that they are a heavy death-obsessed metallic band on Earache that doesn't really sound like your typical heavy death-obsessed metallic band on Earache. Their music gets slightly better after this as they head for Killing Joke territory, then they broke up. Huh.
MOSH 37 Entombed Clandestine (1991)
Pure and simple the best non-ironic (except perhaps for the lyrics-they're Swedes after all) Death Metal album of all time. Having seen this band live I can vouch for their ability to pull this grind shit off in concert. Death Metal, after all, comes down to riffs and timing-both in the stop/start rhythm and the duelling leads- and these guys were (and are) unstoppable as a live unit. Every track smokes, and it came as a total shock to me when I heard they personally consider this their weakest album. Once again proves something about Metal-heads I suppose, but I'm not sure what. Much less spastic than their debut, and more like Celtic Frost and Venom (with added blast beats and super production) than anything they would later attempt.
MOSH 40 Cathedral Soul Sacrifice (1992)
Lee Dorrian, voice of the earliest recorded incarnation of Napalm Death, doing the Rock and Roll thing Earache style- Sabbath riffs and gothic melodies. This EP was actually released after their debut album (Mosh 43-Forest of Equlibrium) and juices up the fastest song on that release and adds 3 new tracks that also pick up the grooves, setting the stage for their next album, the masterful Ethereal Mirror with a hippie flair for dippynes that would later overwhelm their recent material. The sound here is indeed headed for Obsessed or Saint Vitus territory by way of late 70's Rainbow, U.F.O. and Thin Lizzy, but the vocal is still closer to N.D. type vomiting than the clean styles of those bands. Speaker rattling bass heavy production from Paul Johnson who would also lend his talents to Cathedral's next few recording sessions. Actually, what this reminds me of most is Nemesis, the pre-Candlemass band Leif Edling led in the early Eighties: prog stylings and basic late seventies English metal broken down to their headbanging riffing basics and overdiven with power.
MOSH 42 Carcass Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious (1992)
Endless power riffing as the songs get slower and longer. Like their tamer predecessors Diamondhead and Budgie they just riff and riff till the songs become just giant mazes of churning, spiralling riffage. "Spooky" samples of stolen voices introduce several songs. Sweeping wide screen Colin Richardson production- one of his best, and all told, the EXACT midpoint of their gore-grind splattered (charming) incompetence and their later "Hard Rawk" mis-steps. Whatever, it adds up to a grand thing- dare I say one of my top 10 grindcore albums? I can't resist quoting this unbeatable sing-along "chorus":
Exanguinating - you're totally parched,
Exenterating - removing body parts,
Wholly abraded - Surgically maimed,
Decortication - Medically slain
MOSH 43 Cathedral Forest Of Equilibrium (1991)
They called it Doom- but this has little in common with the hippy christian metal of Trouble or Solitude Aeternus- we're still in the "hardcore" derived world of Earache- this time the reference points are Swans, the first Saint Vitus album, late-period Black Flag when they slowed up to a crawl and maybe even Godflesh's slo-mo pummeling. Low-end punishing time-lapse riff-mongering with endless crashing slow-motion drums stretching into nine-plus minute song lengths. Plenty of seventies prog rock referencing in the liner notes- but not in the tunes. Cover artwork introduces the stunning paintings of Dave Patchett whose Bosch-like genius would also grace the next two Cathedral LP's.
MOSH 44 Confessor Condemned (1992)
Screechy North Carolina "Doom" metal of the highest caliber. The singer sounds like a pre-pubescent screaming Geddy Lee with his balls in a clamp and they sport NFL jerseys and dashikis and look like clean-cut long haired christian rockers. By far the healthiest looking bunch on the Earache roster. The sound on this is really clean and sharp, like nothing else on the label. These guys were fairly unique in their choice of rhythms, being "technical" without the excessive speed or wanking that term implies when applied to Metal. All their anal retentive stop-start turn-on-a-dime moves are played at a leisurely (but not always slow) pace. The singer is a bit much- so approach with caution, unless the vocal antics of King Diamond don't make you flinch.
MOSH 45 Painkiller Guts Of A Virgin (1992)
The most purposely offensive album title for an Earache release and it comes from Bill Laswell and John Zorn. Yes, Mick's here too, with some temper-tantrum toy drum bashing. Touching on the turf of bands like Boredoms and Ruins, and free jazz, this adds nothing that hasn't been done better by any of those groups, except the heavy concept of a spastic jazz-grindcore mutation. One of the many releases that makes me run from any recording having a Bill Laswell connection as far back as Material and Fred Frith's Massacre.
MOSH 52 Entombed Stranger Aeons EP (1992)
Available now as the bonus tracks on the CD reissue of Clandestine this very brief EP is some pretty heavy shit. The two amazing non-LP cuts "Shreds of Flesh" and "Dusk" are pretty difficult to fit into the great scheme of Entombed's evolution- structurally they harken back to the earliest days of death metal- very brief all-out hardcore influenced drums with a Celtic Frost feel on the riffs but speedier and much better produced.
MOSH 55 Nocturnus Thresholds (1992)
More convoluted spaced out sci-fi Death Metal with satanic lyrical content. Sonically this is "better" than their debut. Mostly it is just as perplexing- what is going on here anyways? Convoluted Florida death metal, synths so tinnny and laughable they make early eighties Hawkwind sound like high-tech innovators in soundscaping. You want lyrical damage? How about this little invocation:
LORD ADDU, MASTER OF THE EARTH AND SKY
I CALL TO THEE, HEARKEN AND REMEMBER
BRING FORTH THE MIGHTY STORM THAT THIS WORLD SHALL TASTE YOUR FURY
LORD GIBIL, KEEPER OF THE FIRE AND FORGE
I CALL TO THEE, HEARKEN AND REMEMBER
MAKE THE SWORDS APPEAR IN THE SKY THAT ALL SHALL FEEL YOUR MIGHT
Cheese cheese and yet more cheese. Science Fiction Satanism. Astounding.
MOSH 58 Confessor Condemned EP (1992)
Fairly pointless release worthy of note only for the nicely executed version of Trouble's instrumental "Endtime" and the nice black and white (and red) band logo CD cover.
MOSH 59 Vader The Ultimate Incantation
Competent straight-ahead Death Metal from Poland. Vaguely Teutonic sounding with some Florida flourishes, they are much too serious for discussion.
MOSH 69 Brutal Truth Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses (1992)
Veterans of various '80's speed metal units do the Napalm Death grindcore thing, complete with political slogans and epic length thank-you lists. Production by Colin Richardson is outstanding, and this just obliterates every Napalm Death record ever made. Simultaneously bottom heavy and screechy, this is a pretty amazing record that still sounds extreme today. Later records by this band are just as good in differing ways.
MOSH 70 Bolt Thrower The IV Crusade (1992)
Epic album. Marching music for crusading mammoths. Some of their best tunes as the beats acquire a nice "groovy" swing. Somewhat atypical non-fantasy artwork sets the stage for a concept album about war. Nice.
MOSH 74 Clutch Passive Restraints EP
Short pant "funky" baseball cap metallic rap-quoting hardcore. Faceless, harmless, and completely unremarkable.
MOSH 75 Pitch Shifter Desensitized
Ocasionally interesting "industrial rock" of the Godflesh/Ministry variety. Nice cryptic booklet.
MOSH 77 Cathedral The Ethereal Mirror (1993)
A metal orgy of groovy rhythms and distorted caucasian blues riffs played by pasty white Englishmen wearing Afghan coats and Bell-Bottoms. Vocals rise in pitch and gain a humorous edge that may be only partly intentional. I vaguely recall seeing a video for "Midnight Mountain" on MTV- Lee Dorrian's 'Volume 4' style shirt/dashiki definitely made me spit up my dinner. Musically this is their finest hour. Starts off with a nice instrumental intro then takes off with three of their best ever songs, "Ride," "Enter the Worms," and "Midnight Mountain." All of these are outstanding up-beat and (dare I say it) danceable rock reminiscent most of Budgie's In for the Kill LP, especially that album's title song and "Zoom club." Add to that some long tracks of melodramatic power metal played at speeds no slower than "Iron Man" and no faster than "Hole in the Sky" and you get one of the best on the label. Great artwork too- a tremendous foldout from Dave Patchett well worth framing.
MOSH 79 Sleep Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992)
Stoner Slo-Core slackers overselling themselves to the Sabbath crowd by aping just about every Iommi riff they could manage to remember through that reefer haze that clouds their brains. More metallic than the smart-guy conceptual Melvins/Swans hybrid of their debut (not on Earache) this is one of the better one-shot Earache releases. Their conceptual edge remains in their deja vu-inducing note-by-note appropriation of Sabbath riffs and melodies. That punk/whatever ironic edge is the only thing that separates them from similarly conceived Ozzy worshipping "Doom" acts on the Hellhound label. But unlike many of those acts, this is actually pretty listenable and competently produced and recorded, with the guitar sounding especially tasty.
MOSH 81 Morbid Angel Covenant
Notable for two things: the video for "God of Emptyness" provided Beavis and Butthead with some nice material, and perhaps not totally unrelated to this, creepy euro-trash pretentious outfit Laibach remixed this very same song for an EP also on Earache. The ending chant of "God of Emptyness" already sounded like a Laibach song to begin with, so there's some major redundancy going on here. Laibach has also covered Europe's (the band) immortal cheese-metal epic "The Final Countdown." Eventually they'll get around to an all-metal covers album, I'm sure. Maybe Earache should look into this... Regardless, this is a fine death metal album- with confused leads and massive spastic drumming that sounds like a continuous atonal solo and those stop-start "technical" song structures the High School kids (used to) find so appealing. This is one of those albums that makes death metal so mind boggling: I can't imagine what someone who has never heard of the genre would make of the mix of those cookie monster vocalizations, beyond anal-retentive 100 m.p.h. arrangements, genuinely (?) satanic demon worship, and studded leather rock star appearance. Cheesy cover photo looks like the background image for the opening credits of a TV special about satanism.
MOSH 82 Entombed Wolverine Blues (1994)
Released after the Hollowman EP (at least in the U.S.) this doesn't even attempt to top Clandestine. Grungier, and at the time seen as hopping on the duelling band wagons of Seattle grunge and Pantera-style power metal this is actually better than both. A bluesy vibe is in the air, leading me to think of Johny Winter weaned on Slayer or Blue Cheer on a metal death-trip. Which adds up to the swagger of In for the Kill-era Budgie. Slightly cleaner vocals and shorter songs mean this could have appealed to a wide range of people, but the underground turned their back on them and their viciousness was still too much for White Zombie fans to handle. So, at least in the US, they canceled their potential audience out. Marvel Comics character Wolverine somehow became the cover star on this. Strange world.
MOSH 85 Godflesh Selfless
More rock sounding than anything since their first LP especially in the singing, this is fairly OK, though perhaps too melodic and generic grungy-contemporary "rock." Interestingly they went back to their mechanical drum machine and power drill hate-rock after this. Beautiful cover artwork though. The basic sound is Killing Joke hard "new-wave" rock and atmospheric Joy Division mope-rock with synth and sample touches- something they could have developed more but gave up on too easily. Opening track has a vocal chorus (no distorted demon barf-voice here, either) that sounds like, I don't know, A Flock of Seagulls? Modern English? Psychedelic Furs?. There are indeed some heavy parts and an interesting 20 minute plus opus, but on the whole, this would be Godflesh's lightweight pop LP.
MOSH 86 OLD The Musical Dimensions Of Sleastak (1993)
James Plotkin's grindcore group moves into some odd and original but not necessarily great territory, adding synths (and guitar synths) that recall (in sound if not intent) Rush circa Moving Pictures or O.M.D.'s Architecture and Morality and the songs unbelievably sound like a jam between those two outfits with the addition of some fairly unique munchkin vocalizations and excessive slick studio trickery. Next time you're at a music equipment shop, ask the local guitar-tech loser to show you a guitar synth or an e-bow and it'll sound just as inventive as this. Pretty funny meandering very long tracks, atypical for the label, and worthy of at least one listen. Play it between the Orb's Pomme Fritz and Klaus Schulze's X for a fine evening of swooshy sonic entertainment. Great artwork, also in an atypical for Earache style.
MOSH 88 Meathook Seed Embedded (1993)
This may be the best side project from any one-time member of Napalm Death who didn't play on Scum. Mitch 'not Mick' Harris, proud American, ensures a more death reverential sound by recruiting some Obituary guys to play on this project, but the rhythms, like other Earache product released at this time (mainly MOSH 86,88,89 and 91), are synthetic. On this release however they are produced very well and expertly placed in some pretty varied song structures roughly somewhere between Florida grindcore, Skinny Puppy, Ministry and Godflesh. Better than contemporary Napalm Death, and maybe even Obituary also. Live drums are used, sometimes alongside drum machines- very nicely and creatively done might I add. This is a sound that could have been explored further, melding technology with extreme guitar power and should have been the sound Earache shifted to instead of the shitty "Industrial Strength" gabber techno they have ended up championing. Very nice vellum-translucent CD booklet.
MOSH 89 Blood From The Soul To Spite The Gland That Bleeds (1993)
A companion piece to the Meathook Seed CD, this is N.D.'s Shane Embury's side project. Played in comparison to Embedded, this just fades away into the background. Shane goes it alone mostly, and despite his Young Gods awareness as far back as the Harmony Corruption LP this is fairly unremarkable heavy grind music that doesn't use technology in a good way. Meaning that unlike Godflesh, Young Gods, or Ministry, the samplers and drum machines make music that seems to want to be heavy as fuck sound tinny and lightweight- artificial in the worst way.
MOSH 91 Scorn Colossus (1994)
"Industrial music" from the ever-expanding mind of Mick Harris and original Napalm Death'ster Nik Bullen. The dubbed out spirit of Adrian Sherwood hovers over this one, as well as various other worthy names- Metal Box-era P.I.L., Cabaret Voltaire, Ministry circa (the Sherwood produced) Twitch and of course Godflesh. The smooth cover graphics signify the changing face of Earache- slicker, techno-derived and mainstream. Vast echoing drums, distant voices, cavernous drones. Better than their awkward debut, and not as dance floor trend-following monotonous as they would later become, this is a pretty fine album from what is probably Earache's most widely respected band.
MOSH 94 Entombed Hollowman (1993)
The "new" post-death Entombed make their first appearance on this- a warmup to Wolverine Blues. They slow down considerably to a Rock and Roll pace sending a shudder down the soft spine of every respectable pimple faced satanist in the Death Metal underground. Heavy Death Rock and Roll boogie and speed metal that references Chuck Berry (and the uncredited use of a piece from James Ellroy's Big Nowhere on the narration on Wolverine Blues) as much as it does Sabbath. But don't let that fool you- this is as brutal as their first album, perhaps even more so with the added dimension of varied song structure. Real songs too! Like the opening title track, a menacing low velocity bluesy bottom heavy dirge you could actually hum along to. Other tracks pick up speed but always remain in control. Compact and concise (only twelve minutes shorter than the LP it previews) this might better show off the live prowess and variable speed jamming talents they possess.
MOSH 97 Carcass Heartwork (1994)
Transformation complete on this release, as the former kings of gore switch all their allegiances to British Steel and turn up a winner. They could have rescued metal with this album if the cards weren't so stacked against a comeback for this vanishing genre. Recognizable songs, with memorable riffs, pristine production from Colin Richardson and melodies that wouldn't be that out of place in a late seventies Whitesnake or UFO album all played at speeds no faster than the Ramones. Vocals still ache, though now they are less effects-processed, and that's the only link to their past. Cover art by H.R Giger, but its one of his "serious" sculptures, not his regular gynecological demons, fittingly enough, signifying the departure from the death genre for Carcass. Note: For those who whine about the slickness of this LP and their recent output, if a merging of speed and Black Sabbath riffs with gurgling sick vocals (and a gore fixation) are all you desire, Autopsy did it better (and possibly before) Carcass. And I think they're still around as the band Abscess, on Relapse.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Accused were a long-hair/short-pant American funny-gore speed metal unit- their one Earache release has been reissued on another label. Heresy and Concrete Sox were two classic English speedy 'crust' punk bands, whose split LP has not been reissued by Earache. Intense Degree were contemporaries of Napalm Death and played a similar style. Spazztic Blur, Sore Throat and Filthy Christians were side projects of various other bands- approach with extreme caution. Lawnmower Deth were a horrible (but absolutely necessary) parody of Napalm Death, and released several pointless albums, and may still be around for all I know (or care). Sweet Tooth shared some personnel and sound with Godflesh. Hellbastard were an English rough-edged speed metal unit- the closest to Metallica an Earache act ever got. Mighty Force did the sampled guitar thing. Cadaver were a fairly original Norwegian grind outfit- worth seeking out. Naked City was John Zorn's free-jazz-grind-whatnot big band- CD reissue not on Earache. Massacre (not to be confused with the Frith/Laswell "power-trio") are generic Florida Death Metal with some nice confused/rock-dunce moves and nicely executed spooky cover artwork. Terrorizer featured past/present/future members of Napalm Death and Morbid Angel, and their sole LP is a politically themed N.D. style assault (recorded in Florida) that naturally kicks ass on N.D. but (arguably) not Brutal Truth. Naive and Six Yard Box I know nothing of. Additionally there is at least one CD by the band Carnage, which featured one member of Carcass plus some Swedes who would go on to form Dismember. This CD was issued in the US as licensed through Earache but does not appear as a "MOSH" album in the official discography. It's a pretty excellent Sunlight Studio Swedish-styled grindcore LP.
Band bios, discographies, etc.
Merely one of several fine fan-produced web-sites. Original LP artwork reproduced on this one.
Does an excellent job documenting the fragmented Godflesh (and beyond) family tree.
Rock Stars for the Devil. Includes a link to Morrisound Studios
Dark Legions Archive
Attempts to define various Metal sub-genres; good links, reviews, etc.
Grindcore Band Links
Links to the home pages of every past and present Grind unit including Nocturnus, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, etc.