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Immortal initially rose to fame as a second wave black metal band that deviated away from the norms of the genre by replacing the usual tremolo picked insanity with some thrash-based riffing for their later works and completely ditching the Satan obsessed nonsense that infests the genre with songs that paint images of snowy landscapes. What many who have heard of the band will be unaware of however is that the band initially started out as a death metal band named Amputation, and that their first release under the Immortal mantle was also a death metal demo entitled Suffocate The Masses.
For the most part this demo is nothing more than a piece of history for none but the most avid fan of Immortal. The production values of this release are next to nothing as it was recorded in the garage of drummer Armagedda's home. Making up the rest of the band are vocalist/bassist Abbath and Jorn Tonsberg on rhythm with Demonaz taking the lead work. The most noticeable changes from the later releases by this band is the vocal performance from Abbath which is actually an incredibly strong series of inhuman death grunts, and an influx of lightning fast guitar solos. Across the three songs on this demo tape are numerous quick toneless lead runs and a never ending stream of tremolo picked rhythm parts, with some fast as hell blast beats and Abbath roaring over the top of it all, which lasts for a total of twelve minutes.
The music itself is very basic death metal with a predictable formula of verse-verse-solo-outro that makes the songs incredibly repetitive which is not helped by the lack of variation in the riffing. The only variety that can be found on this album at all is in the drumming which quickly jumps from a slower more rhythmic style of playing to the crazy blast beats that the band later became known for. If it were not for Armagedda's performance on this demo it would not be close to listenable despite the obvious proficiency that the rest of the band has. The one highlight moment of the demo is found in the opening song, Suffocate The Masses, in which Abbath unleashes an absolute monster scream around forty five seconds in that never ceases to amaze. His performance for the rest of the demo is pretty monotonous but clearly very strong, with his growls being unintelligible but still fantastic to listen to. Sadly these are the demos only redeeming factors as the leads are completely toneless and too many in number and the riffs are the same thing over and over again. For fans of Immortal's later work this will definitely come as a surprise as all the band does on this demo is tremolo pick over and over again.
Sadly this demo is not anywhere near what one should expect from one of the premiere black metal bands of today and certainly one of the most varied. It is listenable enough if only to hear the drum performance and the vocals on the song Suffocate The Masses but aside from that this is as plain as it gets. Distinguishing one riff from another is virtually mission impossible due to the awful production job and the bass work is completely inaudible, leaving the monotonous guitars to carry the demo which they fail to do.
Like many of the second wave black metal bands, Immortal began as a death metal act. The only remnant remaining from that early incarnation of Immortal is their rough and gritty self-titled demo. The demo is brief; only three songs totaling twelve minutes. Still, it is enough time to demonstrate that Immortal were actually capable of creating some pretty dark and dirty death metal.
The mix on this demo is pretty uneven. The vocals are predominating, while everything else is kind of a blur. The guitars are pretty low and sometimes it requires some straining to make out the riffs. The drums are the most difficult aspect of the music to make out. One can hear the steady blast beats of the bass drum, but the high end is almost nonexistent. Furthermore, the recording is kind of hissy, which adds to the muddled tone.
These songs aren’t very distinct and lack memorable riffs. There are numerous quick, sputtering solos, which are somewhat excessive and obligatory. However, even if the riffs aren’t stellar, they do create a monstrous and ugly atmosphere while also providing good headbanging fodder. Furthermore, Abbath's unexpected skill at producing deep, nasty death growls gives the recording plenty of force.
Still, this demo is nothing special. Other than the fact that this was recorded by Immortal, there isn’t anything that makes this demo stand out. It’s just one of the hundreds of early 90s death metal demos that were created. However, at least it is heavy and groovy enough to qualify it as a novel and worthwhile history lesson for Immortal fans.
(Originally written for deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
Death Metal was a huge craze from about ‘87 to about ‘93, not solely in Florida or Brazil either, but world wide seemingly. Hell, even most of the Norwegian Black Metal bands of the early 90s, whom rivaled Death Metal during that time period, went through a phase of playing it sometime in the late 80s and very early 90s. Mayhem, Dark Throne, Varg (back in Old Funeral), and yes, even Immortal. Prior to releasing this demo, they were called Amputation, playing the typical brand of brutal, old school Death Metal. Even by the time the band changed their name to Immortal, they had still been playing this style of music. This demo sounds nothing like what would be released by the band a year later, much less two or three years later.
Now the biggest surprise to any Immortal fan upon hearing this demo would be the vocals. Being deep, guttural and twisted, Abbath strays far away from his latter day use of cold, harsh, raspy shrieks. It’s almost shocking to know that this is the same guy on albums like Pure Holocaust and Battles In The North. Really, it is. He even outdoes Chris Barnes, at times. Musically, these songs aren’t strictly fast, although the band does their fair share of blasting throughout the demo. The brutality factor is mainly present in the vocals, ultra raw production, and that down tuned, muddy guitar. I mean, if you want band comparisons, I guess I can best compare this to the old Death demos, Sarcophago, early Morbid Angel and Deathcrush-era Mayhem. Just to give you an idea of what the band was aiming for here.
So much like the afformentioned bands, these tracks are often very thrashy. This is most noticeable with Left On The Stake. The most brutal, or probably the fastest track on this demo, would be Suffocate The Masses. Actually, all the tracks sound pretty damn similar to one another, following the same basic formula. But often, the badass riffs are drowned out by the incredibly poor production. But hey, this is a self released/produced demo after all. It’s still pretty fucking good, if you’re into primitive Death Metal.
Not all fans of Immortal will enjoy this, I can guarantee you that. Unless they’re also into early Death Metal, they’ll be put off instantly. Even some Death Metal fans themselves might, just because of the lo-fi production. It’s mixed badly, but like I said earlier, what more could you expect from a bunch of armature musicians self producing their own demo? By the way, this is Immortal’s only demo, technically. The Promo ‘91 demo released a year later is supposedly the same thing, just under a different name and missing the outro. The band would totally change their musical style after its release.
OK, so why did Immortal form from the ashes of Old Funeral, just to sound like Old Funeral on this demo? I am about 95% sure that a riff in "Enslaved in Rot' is lifted straight from an Old Funeral song. Never the less, onto the review.
The production is quite terrible, the vocals sit too loudly in the center of the mix, The guitars blend in with the cymbals to create a melody-less noise at some points. It is good music none the less, but this genre of constantly changing Death Metal is hindered by a production that makes it quite hard to follow. The songs do seem to flow pretty well for Death Metal once again. The riffs sound somewhat meandering, which is present in there later works as well. The vocals are quite good and brutal.
All in all, a short demo plagues by muddy production. I am sure if it was recorded better it would be widely bootlegged and put on compilations.
This short demo (released just over a year before their first full-length) displays a very different sound than we are used to from Immortal. This is pure death metal, and offers only a hint at what was to come. The song titles betray the death metal sound before you’ve even listened to any music, but once the first song kicks in it’s obvious that this is not black metal. It starts off with a tremolo-picked riff over a blast beat, and deep, almost guttural vocals grunt over the music. There are plenty of changes in pace, with different riffs to accompany each section. The guitars sound quite down-tuned, but the riffs are all perfectly legible. We even get a (very) brief solo at about three minutes in. The band also employ the Morbid Angel technique of screaming the song title at regular intervals in place of a ‘chorus’.
‘Enslaved In Rot’ starts off with a great riff (although at points it sounds like one of the guitars is out of tune) and some impressive mid-paced drumming, with frequent fills. The song alters between fast and mid-paced, with the band preferring to use a more interesting selection of drum patterns rather than just typical blasting. Again, the vocals are deep and powerful, with one or two higher-pitched screams, and the lyrics are almost entirely illegible. There’s another brief but quite impressive solo at about two minutes into the song.
‘Left On A Stake’ starts with another great opening riff, with some powerful drumming behind it. As with the other two songs, the emphasis is on rhythm rather than speed, but that doesn’t stop the band from blasting every now and then. There are more of the very brief solos and more guttural vocals. To be honest, all three songs sound pretty much the same; they use the same writing/composing formula, and they tend to stay around a certain range of speeds, never getting ultra-fast or too slow.
The production is, predictably, not great, but luckily the main problem is just that it lacks power or punch, and all of the instruments can actually be heard very clearly. The vocals have a tendency to drown everything else out a little, but not to the point that it ruins the music. It’s a short demo, and the music is good, but it’s nothing special, so unless you’re a die-hard Immortal collector, it’s not worth putting too much effort into finding this. It’s also worth considering that this sounds nothing like their black metal releases, so if you thought that ‘Pure Holocaust’ was Immortal at their peak, then this is probably not for you.