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Death by static. - 78%

hells_unicorn, December 25th, 2011

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.