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While perhaps not the most consequential of years for the outward advancement of death metal, 1984 is the year of the genre's birth. Sure, from a purist standpoint, the stylistic attributes of the early underground offerings come off as a mere uglier cousin to the recently established thrash metal style. But even within the familiar riff sets and generally formulaic songwriting is something that hadn't been done before, and Mantas (soon to become Death) was hinting at this along with their chief influence Possessed when this static heavy slab of unfettered madness was committed to audio recording.
To any ear that is unfamiliar with the roughness of "Pure Fucking Armageddon" or "Land Of Frost", or the Checker Patrol demo "Metalion In The Park", what is heard on here can be best described as a very low-fidelity mixture of tinny sounding cymbal hits and static with a handful of kick ass songs beneath it. But a few listens of adjusting to the snowy sounding exterior reveals a band that has taken some of the more chaotic elements of early Slayer and Metallica and put a raw scream over top of it that is just nasty enough to outdo what Kreator would put out a year later. Schuldiner's vocal attack on here isn't quite the refined, raging, ghoulish shouting fest that it would become by the time 1987 rolled around, but it's very clear that he's operating on a very different wavelength than Tom Araya or James Hetfield were at this time, and there's definitely no discernible melody to it either.
For the most part this thing listens like a super sloppy rendition of "Show No Mercy" from a musical standpoint. The guitars, though definitely aggressive and forbidding, don't yet possess that deep, murky feel to them that was first ushered in by Slayer on "Reign In Blood" and almost immediately picked up by the time "Scream Bloody Gore" came into being. "Legions Of Doom" is the only thing on here that pretends at attempting a mid-tempo feel, though the drums sound so distant that the feel isn't really altered that drastically. Everything else that's on here reeks of speeding chaos, and ironically enough, the song with the greatest level of clarity is a live rendition of "Evil Dead", which is the only song on here that made it onto the Death debut, for the most part, in all its original glory. It cuts through the fuzz quite well, and reveals a different take on this song that is even closer to its thrash metal roots.
This is more of a historical achievement than it is a major feat of recording brilliance, and approaching it should occur within the context of what it is, a really rough as hell demo that probably won't be appealing to a lot of people who've already heard the finished products that occurred in the later 80s. Nevertheless, for those who obsess with the architecture of an entire genre, there's definitely no harm than digging down into the earth to take a peak at the foundation that the building stands upon, and the contents of this crypt come off as more of a collection of dry bones than the juicy, semi-decomposed corpses that Schuldiner would offer up a few years later.
Is this the very first death metal oriented output of the history? It’s a question that many of you had already done for several releases in this genre. We start from Seven Churches and the Possessed demos to go to the first EPs by Kreator or Sepultura and the quest for an answer seems neverending because sometimes you can identify an effort as a simple, rawest form of thrash metal; a sort of a hybrid death one. This genre wasn’t born out of nowhere but it was a product of an evolution, a quite fast one, but always an evolution.
Undoubtedly, this demo for 1983 was really ahead for innovation and pure bestiality. Mantas was one of the very first groups to take the thrash metal and transport it to new levels of sheer brutality. I must recall you that the same year in which Slayer and Metallica put out their revolutionary debuts, someone was playing more extreme, Mantas exactly. The production is what it is and we can’t complain for this because that was the period and the money was not enough to record good tapes. What really astonished me on this tape (I have the bootleg CD version with all the Mantas/Death demos…) is the level of brutality and the obscurity.
If, during this period, there was someone that played obscure music in Europe, Helllhammer; in the United States we had Mantas to keep the flag high in the black sky. The differences between the two bands are evident and Mantas already had that marked tendency to play pure death. The riffs are really violent and the vocals are already in a primordial form of growl. Unfortunately, the production doesn’t help because it hides them to privilege the drums attack and the guitars. Anyway, you can always hear Chuck screaming on “Evil Dead”. The refrain is more or less similar to the original form on the debut album but on the verses the vocals are lower and less screamed.
It’s another thing on which we can reflect about, also because many experts in this sector always said that Chuck, for the vocal tone, was heavily influenced by Becerra. The case is open and just to remind you, the “Death Metal” demo by Possessed is from 1984. What a great thing, guys. In those years everything was growing, evolving and becoming stronger like a baby who’s turning to a kid. The screams on “Behind The Unholy Grave” are fixed on the pages of the book of the metal history for their rawness and pure malevolence.
“Death Metal” by Possessed and “Death By Metal” by Mantas, in 1984 and 1983 respectively. These are two of the very first examples of a rawest, more chaotic and brutal form of metal with the roots on thrash and the mind to death. Fantastic.
DEATH (MANTAS) â€“ DEATH BY METAL (DEMO 1) - 1983
What better for my first review than the first Death (then known as Mantas) and arguably first death metal demo ever? First off, I'll have to admit I'm not the world's biggest death metal fan, so this isn't just a fanboy review. Although, on the other hand, I think Death is amazing. But make no mistake. This review is a far cry from the later Death studio albums. This is no Sound of Perseverance. If you only like Chuckâ€™s later works, stay the fuck away from this. This will castrate you.
I stumbled upon this 100% by accident. I was under the impression I was getting the re-issue put out after the name change, but imagine the smile on my face when I looked the track list. This is the first material of any kind put out by Chuck and it is brutal. This is fucking death metal. The riffs are somewhat generic, but they fucking crush skulls. Kam Lee, the drummer, does most -if not all- of the vocals here. (Word on the street is Chuck does them on Power of Darkness, but the vocals there sound the same to me as the rest of the demo.) Kam is fucking amazing. I don't think the other reviewers here have done him justice. The guy does lower shouts than Chuck, true, but no one mentions the fact this guy FUCKING SCREAMS LIKE A BANSHEE! I mean that in a good way. In Evil Dead for example he goes from grunting/shouting to fucking wailing "EVIL!!! DEAD!!!" in the chorus. It's beautiful. If death metal was beautiful.
Music-wise, this is far from horrible. Kam may not be Gene Hoglan or Richard Christy, but fuck those are two of the best drummers in metal but Kam gets the job done. Chuck is not quite Chuck yet, but as I said, the riffs slay. Unfortunately the solos are pretty impossible to hear given the production. They are just drowned out by Kam's wall of drumming. But perhaps that is a good thing since in the few seconds in which I can distinguish them, it sounds like they are in the Kerry King vein of "solo"-ing. Finally, I don't think there's a bassist on the recording, at least as far as I can tell. The best way to describe the overall sound of this demo is a lesser-produced version of Slayerâ€™s Chemical Warfare with crazier vocals.
Honestly, if this was just a random demo, I'd be more inclined to give this a rating around 55-65. The fact this is 1983 gives it about 10 points, and itâ€™s Death with Kam on vocals gives it real niche value. Two of the tracks here would later be re-recorded for the 1987 debut Scream Bloody Gore, but make no mistake, they annihilate here.
If you can find this, I HIGHLY recommend picking this up. This is worth a listen if only to realize how ground-breaking it is, let alone the fact it's actually decent.