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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.