Comecon: A Retrospective An under-appreciated Swedish metal band gets some love.



One of these guys is Rasmus Ekman, and one is Pelle Ström. One of them is the drum machine.

It’s not exactly the stuff of legends: a name derived from a Soviet-era economic pact, two musicians (Rasmus Ekman, Pelle Ström) who handle guitar, bass, a drum machine and other instruments across three full length albums with three different singers on each album. But that’s COMECON.

Most of us can name-check Swedish metal bands like Entombed, Unleashed, Dismember, Hypocrisy, At The Gates, Arch Enemy or Amon Amarth. Comecon isn’t a exactly as well known, having floated just beneath the surface of popularity during the early to mid-1990s. Even though they shared many of the same touchstones as better known bands (recording at Sunlight Studios, produced by Tomas Skogsberg, vocalists from Entombed, Pestilence/Asphyx, and Morgoth, and a certain familiar guitar tone) they were never quite on the same level. Death metal fans never got to see them play live; they were a studio band that didn’t tour. Continue reading

The Golden Years of British Extreme Metal: The Other Guys Of pubs, pain, and pulverizing power.

Bolt Thrower, Live in the '90s

Bolt Thrower, live in the ’90s. Courtesy of

Much ink has been spilled about the blossoming of extreme metal around the world. The United States – particularly the Florida scene which spawned so many great bands – has been well represented. Sweden/Norway gets plenty of love, from the chainsaw guitar tone to the unchained hedonism. That’s all fine and good as those were the blood-stained birthing grounds of our beloved genre.

What about England, then? In those glorious pre-Internet days of tape-trading and DIY promotion, metal wasn’t bound by geography: it spread like a sickness over the entire world. Let’s consider that in the last fifty years, those fog-bound island dwellers have had a serious impact on music, especially music that has a bite to it, a little edge, or my favorite: a fucking massive overload of steam-powered jackhammers pounding the earth. Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath! Just, you know, four guys from Birmingham who altered the very foundations of rock and helped create a genre. Led Zeppelin. Deep Purple. Motörhead. Judas Priest. Iron Maiden. Venom. Carcass. Anaal Nathrak. It’s a progression forward from one extreme to the next, the next band in line doubling down on what had come before them.

When extreme metal began to violate the ears of the world, the Brits were ready to step up and prove they could do guttural vox, grinding guitars and blast beats as well as anyone. This was a wonderful time for extreme music, as musicians were constrained only by their imaginations, genres were still being defined, and labels weren’t afraid to take chances on bands that had cobbled together a demo. Venom, Carcass and Napalm Death have earned a spot in the top tier of the golden era, when extreme metal was poised to move from the grave to the living room.

But what about the others guys? The names you might have heard bandied around in conversation standing around the beer keg, and you nodded your head and said, “Oh yeah, they’re awesome,” without having a clue what they sounded like? Then let us pry open the Sickening Vaults and get elbow deep in the guts of British metal.

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Mercyless tease new album Something wicked this way comes...from the land of wine and cheese.

Mercyless, "Pathetic Divinity" (2016)

Mercyless, “Pathetic Divinity” — Out October 7, 2016 on Kaotoxin Records

France’s MERCYLESS don’t get a lot of love, but that’s only because they had a short window of awesomeness before shooting themselves in the foot with an ill-advised genre shift. In that short window of good times however, they released 3 demos and 2 back-to-back albums of unpredictable, pummeling, semi-technical death metal — Abject Offerings (1992) and Coloured Funeral (1993) — which cemented their reputation as the real deal.
At least it did until the band pivoted to a vastly inferior semi-industrial “groove metal” style and released C.O.L.D. (1996) and Sure to Be Pure (2000). Some time after that, they threw in the towel completely.

Fast-forward a decade and guitarist Stéphane Viard guitarist / vocalist Max Otero reunited, got back to business and delivered 2013’s comeback album, Unholy Black Splendor.

Fast-forward to now and Viard is out, new guy Gautier Merklen is in and Mercyless are back with a new album, Pathetic Divinity on Kaotoxin Records. Here’s the press release:

French death metal veterans MERCYLESS have now revealed further details about their sixth studio full-length album. Due on October 7, “Pathetic Divinity” will mark the band’s 30th anniversary celebrations, which started in June and will last through the end of 2016 and all of 2017.

Produced by Philippe Reinhalter at the Psykron Studio (PUTRID OFFAL, DIVISION ALPHA) and mastered by Frédéric Motte at the Conkrete Studio (ANATA, OTARGOS, PUTRID OFFAL), “Pathetic Divinity” will be made available on various formats (CD, vinyl, cassette) via Kaotoxin Records.

Pre-orders will start on August 29.


  1. Blood of Lambs
  2. Pathetic Divinity
  3. A Representation of Darkness
  4. My Name Is Legion
  5. Exhort the Heretic
  6. Left to Rot
  7. Eucharistic Adoration
  8. Christianist
  9. How Deep Is Your Hate?
  10. Liturgiæ
  11. Bless Me Father (2015 version)*
  12. Probably Impure (2015 version) *
  13. Eucharistic Adoration (2015 version)*

*Bonus Tracks

Worth mentioning is that Mercyless released a free single in June. The tune is called “Altered Divination” and comes backed by live version of “Substance of Purity” from Abject Offering, possibly taken from their live album, Live Offerings (2015), which saw an extremely limited release in Europe). You can also snag Abject Offerings (a classic) and that live album!

Thursday Three: Cadaver & Friends Mid-tempo, adventurous & weird.

Here’s a three of mid-tempo death metal-bordering-on-thrash that exchanges brutality and violence for something a bit more cerebral. There’s something to be said for taking your time.

  1. Cadaver — “Into the Outside” from …in Pains (1993)
  2. Coroner — “About Life” from Mental Vortex (1991)
  3. Inner Thought — “Words” from Perspectives (1995)
Playlist: Thursday Three: Cadaver & friends

Firespawn release video for “All Hail”

Sweden’s FIRESPAWN (originally named Fireborn and fronted by L. G. Petrov of ENTOMBED / ENTOMBED A.D. fame) have released a new video in support of their 2015 effort, “Shadow Realms” (Century Media). Can’t say I love it, but Century Media certainly put some dollars into the production, which is nice to see. If nothing else, perhaps it will turn people on to this solid slab of death clean, well-produced death metal that flew under a lot people’s radar last year.


Here’s an older (and simpler and better) video for “Lucifer Has Spoken” which is full of Damien-esque goodness:


Get Some!

Firespawn, "Shadow Realms" (2015)

Cannibal Corpse, “Butchered at Birth” (1991)

cannibal corpse butcheredImagine for a minute that you grew up in the musical suburbs, in an unpretentious little subdivision called Death Metal; you know, right down the road from Thrash Town but a long way away from Rock City and on the other side of the freaking country from Country Burg and the glittering excess of Discolopolis.

Just a few houses down from where you live are the guys who like to play a lot of fantasy-based role playing games, who read lots of H. P. Lovecraft and swear the paperback copy of the Necronomicon they bought at the B. Dalton Booksellers (in the same strip mall with the Baskin-Robbins where everyone got a free cone after Little League games) is totally the REAL THING and spend a lot of time attempting to dial up Pazuzu only they always seem to get it’s answering machine.

One street over are the foreign exchange students who all sport Mjölnir tattoos and always have plenty of beers and bottles of some vile liquor from “the homeland” which you could swear is fruit juice they fermented in the unused bathtub upstairs. These guys are like, educated: they’ve actually read Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and don’t mind discussing it with you, at least until the booze kicks in and they get real quiet and start glaring at you through forests of dirty blond hair, which is your cue to get the fuck out of there.

Mother always said not to trust boys who had more hair than she did.

Mother always said not to trust boys who had more hair than she did.

Then there is that house your mom doesn’t want you to visit. “I don’t trust those boys,” she says as she whips up another one of the Devil’s Own Rejected Fruitcakes from Hell. “Where are their parents? I never see them come to Desolation High School Parent Night.” That’s the house you like, though. Those dudes are intense. You’ve smoked meth with them sitting around the living room while some obscure Fulci flick is on the TV, or maybe a documentary about Albert Fish. They’ve got porn mags all over the place that would make a street magazine vendor from New York blanch interspersed with old copies of Fangoria, Gore Magazine, Playgore, and Horror Classics. They’re nice enough but you make it a point not to fall asleep around them. Where are their parents, anyway? And there’s that one room you are strictly forbidden to enter for any reason… and that smell…

“Sure Mom, whatever,” you say, “I’ll stay away from the Cannibal Corpse house.”

This is how I feel when I listen to old Cannibal Corpse; like I’m violating some rule that says I shouldn’t like this and yet I totally do. Butchered at Birth was the second release from the boys from New York and of course this was essential listening during those heady days of the early 1990’s. Even though I was in Florida at the time (a breeding ground for the new deathly sounds), I knew almost no one who was into death metal, so when someone got into my car I would naturally say something like, “Hey have you ever heard Cannibal Corpse?” and hit play on “Meat Hook Sodomy”. Reactions were mixed at best, as I recall. The girls didn’t get it (well one young lady did but that’s another story) and the guys couldn’t understand why I didn’t like Pearl Jam.

The personnel on the second album is the same as the first, and the cover art is another fantastic job by the inimitable Vince Locke. As usual, this was banned and banished in countries severely lacking in a sense of ironic detachment (Germany… really, Germany?) and freaked out a bunch of others who just don’t see the humor in two half-undead vivisectionists extracting a baby from the mostly skeletal remains of a woman.

"Somebody set this thing to evil!"

“Somebody set this thing to evil!”

It’s another Scott Burns production job, recorded at Morrisound Studios (for better or worse… I’ll get to that) and this time the thrash elements that informed Eaten Back to Life have been pushed a bit into the background. Much of this has to do with Chris Barnes’ vocal delivery: someone flipped Chris’s switch to “EVIL” and he hits those fantastic, incomprehensible low end grunts which push the songs into new territory. Once again Alec Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz (bass and drums) deliver impressive and solid performances. I tend to prefer the songs that don’t over stay their welcome, like “Gutted”, “Covered with Sores” and the title track. That’s just how I like my death metal: hit it hard, hit it fast, and get the hell out of there.

Now the guitar tone… damn, people are picky as shit. It isn’t as weak as some of the trolls under the internet bridge claim, but it’s ridiculously thin, especially if (like I am now for the old school feel) you listen to the tape on a world-weary jam box. I’m sure Jack Owen and what’s his name, Rusay, didn’t intend for it to come out like that. The riffs, the rhythm parts, the solos, there is nothing wrong with any of it. Listen to “Covered with Sores” or the staggering ferocity of “Vomit the Soul” and try to imagine those guitars thick and meaty instead of sounding like they need a fucking sammich. I mean, in comparison, give a quick listen to the Eric Rutan produced Evisceration Plague; now that’s how Cannibal Corpse guitars should sound. Look, for what it was at the time, I had zero complaints; who cares if the guitars sound a tad bit weak when you’re listening to a song called “Rancid Amputation”?

An all around solid release and certainly a harbinger of things to come for the Cannibal Corpse guys. It was hard to imagine they’d get heavier than this but they totally did and would eventually, almost, kinda-sorta, flirt with something other than underground notoriety. But that, like my death metal lovin’ gal, is a story for another time.

Memoriam sign with Nuclear Blast Past and current members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction retaliate.

Memoriam 2016

This slipped under the radar! Apparently, back in January, Karl Willets (vocals; Bolt Thrower) and Frank Healy (bass; Benediction, Sacrilege) started a new band with Andy Whale (drums; ex-Bolt Thrower) to “jam out some cover versions of old classic songs that had influenced us in the past along with some cover versions from the bands we had played with over the years, and maybe eventually do a few low key gigs” in the wake of Martin “Kiddie” Kearns’ death and all Bolt Thrower activities being put in indefinite hold. When Benediction’s live guitarist, Scott Fairfax came into the picture, he brought with him a bunch of music and things turned more serious.

The band just announced their signing with Nuclear Blast. CEO Markus Staiger says in the press release:

“Being a lifetime fan of both Benediction and Bolt Thrower, it is with great pride that I announce that the new band of Frank Healy and Karl Willets has now joined the Nuclear Blast family! Following the first news regarding the band, I have been keeping a close eye on them and was very curious to hear their material. After hearing their first demo songs I was completely sold and knew that I had to get in contact with Frank and Karl to seal the deal. Memoriam will please all the fans of old school death metal and especially the worldwide fan base of Bolt Thrower and Benediction!

This is all very promising stuff and it’s great to see some old dogs back to their old tricks.

Memoriam released a 7″ called The Hellfire Demo with the songs “War Rages On” and “Resistance”. Take a listen to the B-Side of the 7″ below and check out their various sites:

Memoriam – Resistance

Gruesome are visiting the (un)holy land! Cuz where's more fun than Florida in August?


DEATH worshippers GRUESOME are hitting the road to support their new EP, Dimensions of Horror, out now on Relapse Records. Their 10-date European run is preceded by what will no doubt be 3 suitably swampy August shows in the home of gators, sweltering humidity and inexplicable behavior: Florida.

North American Dates

  • Aug 4 Tampa, FL New World Brewery
  • Aug 5 Winter Park, FL The Haven
  • Aug 6 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Kreepy Tiki

European Dates

  • Aug 10 Jaromer, CZ Brutal Assault Fest
  • Aug 11 Schlotheim, DE Party San Open Air
  • Aug 12 Leeuwarden, NL Into The Grave
  • Aug 13 Ieper, BE Ieper Hardcore Fest
  • Aug 14 Essen, DE Turock
  • Aug 15 Karlsruhe, DE Substage with EXODUS
  • Aug 16 Colmar, FR Grillen with EXODUS
  • Aug 17 Dornbirn, AT Conrad Sohm with EXODUS
  • Aug 19 St. Nolff, FR Motocultor Fest

Caribbean Dates

  • Aug 21 Santurce, Puerto Rico Club 77

If you can’t make a show, check their new video and maybe pick up of copy of the new shit?

GRUESOME – "Dimensions Of Horror" (Official Music Video)

New Centinex available for preorder Fresh meat from a reliable Swedish institution

After nearly a decade on hiatus, Sweden’s CENTINEX rebounded with 2014’s more than solid comeback, Redeeming Filth. Two years later and their next full-length slab, Doomsday Rituals is scheduled for release in July 2016 on Agonia Records. It’s available for preorder with 3 promising tracks streaming on Bandcamp.

Centinex, "Doomsday Rituals"

60% of Entombed are back together! Reunited and it feels so uuuurrrrrrgh!!!

Decibel Magazine broke the news a couple weeks ago that the mighty ENTOMBED is back in action with 3 original members: Guitarists Alex Hellid & Ulf Cedarlund and drummer/writer/driving force/sometimes secret vocalist Nicke Andersson! Plans on the table at the moment are Close-Up Magazine’s Båten cruise in late October and a performance of Entombed’s 1991 classic Clandestine with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra on November 12. Continue reading