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Mantas - Death By Metal - 60%

ThrashManiacAYD, December 27th, 2012

Having gone through the rereleases of a number of Death's albums in recent times I now find myself looking back through a collection of their early demo recordings (of which there were many) that originally saw the light of day under their original monicker of Mantas at the genesis of American extreme metal in the early 80's. There have been other attempts to bundle together early Chuck Schuldiner work (notably poor attempts by Hammerheart/Karmaggedon Records) but coming from the same Relapse lineage and their respectful and professional foray in the Death catalogue this one is more deserving of our attention.

Any reissue review naturally requires a balancing of the historical importance versus quality of song within to be made and more so in the case of this review rather any other with Death does the former outweigh the latter. On the "Death by Metal" demo versions 1 and 2 and "Rehearsal Early 1984" here, where we only have 6 actual unique songs out of the 14 on offer, we are witnessing the birth of death metal certainly in the US and quite arguably in the whole world - it is youthful, amateur and messy but it's importance in spurring others onto further extremes in the following years cannot be under-estimated. From the heavily distorted and chaotic 'demo version 1' tracks you can hear youthful exuberance awash in the great "Evil Dead" and "Death by Metal". "Legion of Doom" for the most part is more mid-tempo built around the kind of rhythm riff that I still hear bands of minimal ability churn out in extreme metal today, nearly 30 full years later - a full testimony to the ahead-of-their-time thinking that was in the brains of Chuck Schuldiner, Rick Rozz and Kam Lee in these nascent days.

Progressing through the demos on offer here an improvement of performance and recorded ability becomes apparent but throughout we are still looking at a sub-"Scream Bloody Gore" sound devoid of any post-production whatsoever. Naturally fans of modern 'pretty-boy' death metal bands will find more in common with the most recent Linkin Park release that this offering but think of "Death By Metal" as the equivalent of an archaeological dig unearthing primitive caveman tools and you'll be some way to the mindset required for appreciating this release.

Before Death there was no Possessed, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel or any other death metal luminary and without these first steps there would have been no "Human" or "The Sound of Perseverance" to follow, just to emphasise the importance of these demos to the annals of the genre. They may be for the Death completist only such is the repetition of songs and merciless under-production but for the archeologists among us it is an interesting listen nonetheless.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net