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....And so it was born - 99%

Ov_Cosmic_Pyres, November 6th, 2012

For many, the embryonic traces of death metal are those of Slayer. Some say that Celtic Frost, or even Venom and Possessed are credited with the conception of death metal. While this may be true, and in many ways subjective, the somewhat obvious answer is Death, and by extension this very demo. Released in 1984, this demo is sheer death metal brutality. To imagine what the response of those who came into contact with this first back in 1984, and era ruled by hairspray and spandex, is one I truly wish I could have seen. To add to the brilliance, it was only two people who orchestrated this demo to be what is. Mr. Kam Lee, and the legendary Chuck Shuldiner [R.I.P.]. From start to finish, this demo births the earliest incarnations of death metal, and the future seeds of what would be.

There are only 4 tracks, or be it five I believe on some copies. From the get-go, the tone of this demo is just pure evil. To even think this was released in 1984 is sincerely mind blowing. Just as the L.A. scene was picking up speed thanks to the likes of Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt, the death metal scene was quite literally in it's infancy. Most of the bands had not even gone to Florida yet, the place where death metal would soon be the mecca of, and the place where bands flooded its market to near full capacity. To many this may sound completely subjective, and it very well may be, but this demo is unadulterated death metal at it's purest form. Take a track like "Corpsegrinder", which is full on tremolo picking and early death growls in it's possible first appearance. Kam Lee does an incredible job on vocals on this demo. His sound may not encompass what most have come to understand is a death growl, but more a bark or even a bellow. In many respects, they were just taking what Slayer had done on guitar and drums, and mixing it with a warped version of what Celtic Frost and Venom were doing at the time on vocals. Possessed were definitely an influence on Death, more specifically in their earliest years. However, Death had a more "death like" sound on this demo, and that is why I say Death were the first band in existence to play true death metal. This demo's full of all the attributes, and laid the ground work for many other bands to come.

In all, this demo must have scared some people when it first came out. Blatantly evil and inherently dark, this demo launched the growth of death metal into a new stratosphere. As time has gone on, people have accepted Death as the godfathers of death metal, and the gods of what is now beloved by many. Yes the production is bad. Yes the instruments sounds like tin. And yes most of the lyrics are immature. But think about it, without this demo, our beloved death metal would never exist. So to for that, say a big thank you to Death, and grind a corpse in their honor.

The coming reign of death metal. - 84%

hells_unicorn, December 25th, 2011

While the Mantas demo "Death By Metal", which came shortly after Possessed's pioneering "Death Metal" demo, stands as a formative example of the early death metal sound, it wasn't until after Chuck decided to change his band's name that the typical sound that has come to be associated with the band started to emerge. This long stint of independent touring and honing of the style that took place in the mid 80s was advantageous in defining where thrash metal ends and death metal begins, but in the latter months of 1984 when "Reign Of Terror" was conceived, the distinction was still pretty difficult to catch.

Though unlike the Mantas material, this demo showcases the tremolo based, low end riff set that has come to define most 80s and early 90s death metal offerings, the problem lay in the fact that this style of riffing was also being incorporated heavily by Slayer, the Teutonic Trio, and a couple of other bands that can't claim the death metal moniker. The only real distinction lay in Chuck's vocal interpretation, which has begun to take on the more guttural and muddled character that would be further exaggerated by David Vincent and Chris Barnes later on, but here it is still very intelligable and has more of a muttering feel than an actual barking quality, save a few higher pitched shouts intermingled with what largely sounds like angered spoken passages.

For the most part, the contents on here sounds a good bit like Slayer's "Reign In Blood" about a year and a half before it was put together. The signature crusher "Corpsegrinder" stands as one of the most insanely brutal things to be created in 1984, trudging through a decrepit swamp of low tone tremolo lines at the pace of a sprinting wolf, painted over by a diabolical Schuldiner, whose voice has been drenched with studio reverb to the point that the echoes overtake the drums. The rest of the demo tends to follow a similar approach, each one featuring brief bursts of lead guitar frenzies that closely resemble the Slayer model heard on "Haunting The Chapel", being mostly pentatonic in character but dressed up with plenty of whammy bar dives and flurries of chromatic scale runs, particularly on "Witch Of Hell".

It's somewhat depressing that Schuldiner didn't see it necessary to release some of these songs either as part of "Leprosy" or even put together another album in the mold of "Scream Bloody Gore" including these, but so goes the world of compromising with record labels when you have 4 years worth of compositions to choose from and limited time in the studio. Some day someone ought to cover these songs and give them their time in the sun with a cleaned up production, though it wouldn't be the same without Chuck to lend his voice to the affair. Nevertheless, the contents on here are a bit clearer than that of "Death By Metal", and have an appeal beyond their historic significance.

Simple, but effective - 88%

enigmatech, May 27th, 2011

Sure, the production on this demo sucks. It's muddy as hell, there are very noticable volume changes at random places, it skips, the solos are hard to hear, the drums are hard to hear, (save for the toms, which are pummeling) the vocals are quiet, oh, and did I mention it's staticy? Yeah...this demo is somewhere between 50 to 65% static! Some may be turned off by this rather unfortunate aspect of this significant death metal release, but to me, it gives it at strong, ancient atmosphere. The vocals sound like a zombie chanting eternally in some lost cave somewhere, while the drums sound like the beating winds of hell, and the guitars grind and cruch along, sounding like a continent suddenly broke in two!

But, fear not! The riffs are still discernable! And goddamn, did Chuck Schuldiner have some killers up his sleeve so early in his career! This release focuses mostly on tremelo picked riffing (save for "Reign of Terror", which has a Mercyful Fate vibe to it), which ranges from slightly melodic (the chorus of "Corpsegrinder") to completly and utterly evil ("Slaughterhouse"). As well, this release features one of the three instrumental tracks Death would ever perform, called "Zombie Attack". It opens with an eerie clean guitar riff before a mammoth thrash riff explodes into the song. It's simple but effective.

That's the phrase I'd use to define this album. Simple, but effective. The songs are not filled to the brim with riffs, though the more minimalistic approach gives off a fun vibe to the album that few bands have managed to match in this particular genre. The vocals, performed by Kam Lee, are a far cry from Chuck Schuldiner's guttural, frothing-at-the-mouth gurgles, resembling more or less zombie-like shouts, though they work well with the thrashy vibe of the music and serve as a primitive, yet effective blue-print for today's death metal grunt.

The sole true problem here concerning the music would be the song-writing. It's fairly obvious here that Chuck Schuldiner had not yet become the songwriting genius he would later be, cranking off two, maybe three good, but not very memorable guitar riffs per song, while the drums blast away and the vocals are content in grunting along without consequence into the depths of hell. However, this is not to say that you can't plainly see the band's potential and the genuine emotion that Death has always had, even in this early, early, early release.

I'd suggest this album to Death fanboys only, or to people genuinly interested in how old school death metal evolved into becoming it's own little slice on the pizza of evil. If you like good, polished production in your death metal, definatly stay away from this album and buy some Vital Remains instead!

This came out in 1984?!? - 96%

blackmetalfan, August 26th, 2008

Death epitomize death metal. The perfect combination of pure brutality, guitar pyrotechnics, those oft-maligned cheesy vocals, and of course, the wildly varied lyrics, can be found in any of their releases. Reign Of Terror was the first studio recording by the newly-rechristened band, who at this point featured Chuck Schuldiner on guitar and vocals, Rick Rozz on guitars, and Kam Lee on drums and vocals. During Kam’s tenure, he did most of the vocals since Chuck, Satan love him, could only muster a death growl that pretty much bore similarities to a pubescent dark angel.

1984 was a major year for metal. Venom had exploded onto the scene in 1981-82 and were the gold standard for brutality in metal, Hellhammer had their demos going in the underground and were quickly making Venom sound dated, thrash was all the rage, and Death’s competitors for the death metal throne, Possessed, were getting their shit together with a demo of their own. Chuck was quite the listener, it seems, for Reign of Terror, unleashed into the maelstrom of extreme metal that existed in 1984, took the best parts of the aforementioned entities and put them together into a vicious blend. Reign of Terror is more death/thrash than pure death metal, unless of course you’re one of those virgin death metal fans who think that the growls define the music. The riffs are the dead giveaway – brutal tremolo-picked monstrosities played at a speed not even Possessed dared to go.

The songs are among the finest of the early days of Death, with the one-two punch of Corpsegrinder and Summoned To Die opening the demo on a great note. Corpsegrinder might very well have been the most extreme metal recording released in 1984; it is one of the most unrelentingly fast songs Death ever did, with a main riff that laid the blueprint for death metal. The rest of the demo is equally insistent. Every riff is a classic of the genre, with Witch of Hell and Slaughterhouse also standing out. There isn’t much in the area of flashy soloing; what’s here gets the job done, and well at that. Chuck and Rick make a great two-headed guitar monster when Chuck’s not soloing. Kam’s not the best drummer in the world, but his work here is decent at best. His vocals are what really stand out – no one sounded as fucked up as this in 1984, and I dare say ever since. These aren’t “death growls”, these are inhuman roars, something even Chuck wouldn’t make an effort to recreate when Kam left, instead opting to sound like Jeff Becerra.

And of course, no 1980s death metal demo is complete without the totally hideous production values. Reign of Terror is one big wall of fuzz with guitars and drums fighting to break through the mess, and it’s a thousand times better because of it. Death metal is not supposed to be palatable; it’s fucking supposed to sound like shit. Chuck would go on to greener pastures sonically with his band, but Death never bettered the sheer “kvltness”, if you will, of these early demos, and Reign of Terror is the Death masterpiece, and the best release to ever come out of the death metal genre. This is an absolutely required release for anyone who calls themselves a death metal fan.

Pretty evil for it's time - 70%

BurntOffering, August 14th, 2006

There wasn't much like this in '84 except for mabye some early Possessed stuff. This stuff is blazing fast. Exceptionally so for the time. Everyone plays pretty tightly on this demo. There's a little static, but nothing to majorly complain about. It's not far off from a Bathory album in reality if you're talking about production values.

"Corpsegrinder" is fast as hell. Just as fast as Chemical Warfare, but I wouldn't say quite as good. This song was later recorded by Massacre. The vocals are really gruff and sounds much more like Kam's vocals, not Chuck's. Although the demo says Chuck does the vocals. "Summoned to Die" is another thrashy tune, that's over fairly quickly. "Zombie Attack" is a cool instrumental. I actually thought it was going to be an early version of "Zombie Ritual", but I was wrong. Parts of this song remind me of Possessed's "The Exorcist", because of the way the tremolo riffage as used back then. Which of course was to it's full effect. "Witch of Hell" sounds like something that couls have been on Scream Bloody Gore. It strange though, because the production of the demo goes up and down on this one. Pretty fucking cool thrash break and a screeching solo on this one as well too. "Reign of Terror" sounds like a Slaughter Lord song in the beginning. More of mid paced, but very evil sounding. The ride cymbal seems off time though at parts.

Well worth finding. Pretty brutal stuff. Recommended for any fan of Death, Massacre, Old School Death Metal, or Thrash. There wasn't much else like this in '84, that's for sure.

Static death metal! - 65%

PowerMetalGuardian, June 1st, 2003

Awsome as fuck, except for the quality of sound and production. It kind of gives a new meaning to static. Of course maybe this was just recorded in their basement, I don't know, but the production is crappy. Too much static!Sometimes it is really hard to hear the guitars, while other times you can hear the guitars fine, but not the drums. For example in the song Corpsegrinder, sometimes the guitars can be heard great, but you can hardly hear the drums. Then after a minute or so the drums are great to hear, but the guitars you can't hear at all. Also I've noticed Chuck's voice isn't as solid as it will become on Scream Bloody Gore. It has more of a low tone growl with hardly any screams. Throw out the static and you have a very kick ass demo. Awsome death metal vocals from Chuck and great guitar playing. Bass could use some turning up, but everything else kicks ass. The version I got comes with six songs. Corpsegrinder, Summon to Die, Zombie Attack, Witch of Hell, Reign of Terror, and Slaughter House!

It all comes down to this. Had I have picked this demo up back in the day, I would have immediately got hooked on Death. While the production is plain shit, everything else (instrument wise) is close, if not perfect. Great for all Death collectors/fans!