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Distorted reviews.

Autopsy - Torn from the grave (Peaceville)
Ok... Autopsy was formed in 1987 by one Chris Reifert, who played drums for legendary thrashers, Death, on their classic debut 'Scream Bloody Gore'. Dissatisfied in the direction Death was heading, he put together Autopsy together alongside Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles and, after two demos released their debut, the unrelenting "Severed survival". Lo and behold, death metal had new champions, and they poisoned the Underground with their sickening noise up until their demise in 1994.
"Torn from the grave" is a 27-song tour-de-force of their musical history, featuring tracks taken from their 7-year back catalogue. All the greats are here, from 'Gasping for air' to 'Ridden with disease', from 'Robbing the grave' to 'Slaughterday', from the wonderfully-titled 'Squeal like a pig' to 'An act of the unspeakable', all gore-splashed and mangled for your listening pleasure. It also includes several demo and live tracks, plus the CD packaging is pretty nifty too!

Abscess - Tormented (Listenable)
And when Reifert finally buried Autopsy, he formed Abscess, alongside long-time guitarist Coralles, and continued on where his previous band left off. This, their third release, isn't a million miles away from Autopsy, it must be said. The lyrics are still gross ('Filth chamber', 'Scratching at the coffin') and the music builds on the old Autopsy sound, whilst managing to find a new identity, throwing in, would you believe, a certain groove into the over-all sound. The riff and lead in the title track just ROCKS, you'll find yourself digging out that tennis racket and posing in front of the mirror... not that I ever did, mind.
According to Reifert, the band wasn't "wasted this time round", (they do like their whiskey and funny cigarettes, it must be said) deciding to "concentrate on the recording instead". Well, with a professional attitude like that (cough) it really shows, for "Tormented" is the sound of a band coming of age, and with tracks like the 7-minute closer 'Madness at the end of the world', it won't be long before they crawl gnashing and hissing from the underground.

The Ravenous - Assembled in blasphemy (Hammerheart)
Side projects seem to be all the rage lately, anyone who's anyone in a band having several side bands of their own, and Reifert is no exception. Alongside Danny Liker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, S.O.D) and Killjoy (Necrophagia plus numerous others) they have created "Horror-filled death metal", and what a horrid noise it is too. Far more brutal than either Autopsy or Abscess, this is the musical equivalent of a snuff movie. The album cover alone is not for the faint hearted (it depicts a photo of a cannibalistic fiend feasting on a young girl, her intestines in his mouth) and the lyrics are so OTT that they are laughable. I ask you, who could take 'Orgy in dog's blood' seriously?!
Cheesy lyrics aside, this is one release that won't be embraced by the vast metal public; it's noisy, gut-wrenching, a sadistic combination of death and black metal, it almost reeks of the smell of necrophilia and you have to hose your stereo down after listening to it. Of course I recommend it.

Murder Squad - Unsane, Insane & Mentally Deranged (Pavement)
And finally, speaking of side projects, we have Murder Squad, featuring members from Sweden's Entombed and Dismember (Matti Karki, Richard Cabeza and Uffe Cederlund and Peter Stjarnwind respectably) collaborating on a record, which has got to be the ultimate Autopsy tribute album. Their love for the American Deathsters is so great that they decided to get together and record an album full of tunes that could very well have been lifted from Autopsy's debut "Severed survival".
It's uncanny, the music sounds the same, the packaging looks the same, it's plagiarism on the highest level, but man, does it works. As soon as the first track 'Slowly burnt to death' (oh yeah, same lyric matter too) hits in I could have sworn I put the wrong album on.

4 albums of unspeakable heaviness and blood-splattered horror - rotten to the core indeed.

Zyklon - World Ov Worms (Candlelight Records)
Zyklon, meaning 'tornado', not the infamous ZYKLON B used in the Nazi Death Camps, is Zamoth and Trym from Norwegian Black Metal Gods Emperor and Destructhor from Myrkskog, and what they've created here is possibly the biggest noise of 2001.
Another side project now deemed "our second band" (call a spade a spade, guys) this is more Industrial-grass-roots Thrash Metal than the sweeping landscape that is Emperor. This is all-out, aggressive sonic violence, and Zyklon do not paint a pretty picture. Lyrically, theirs is an Orwellian vision; bleak, desolate, miserable; to them the world is a piece of shit and religion is the root of all evil.
There are various quotes in the CD booklet, take this for example: "The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases - one of it's diseases is called man" - Nietzsche. This sums up the blasting tracks on offer here, from 'Chaos Deathcult' to 'Worm World' to the ferocious opener 'Hammer Revelation', all captured beautifully (for want of a word) by producer Thorbjorn Akkerhaugen. Whatever 2001 holds with regards to extreme Metal, have no doubt, "World Ov Worms" will be remembered as the album that set new standards in the ever-changing Norwegian Metal scene.

Vader - Reign Forever World (Metal Blade Records)
Think of Poland. Think of four Polish chaps called Peter, Doc, Shambo and Mauser. Think of high-octane, quality Death Metal, played with astonishing speed, power and precision. Now think of Vader. Strange how the two don't go hand-in-hand, but Vader are at last beginning to make waves in their home country (not to say the rest of the world), which, when you think of Poland, is saying a lot.
This release, entering the Polish national charts in the Top Ten is a collection of new/live/cover tracks, which may be seen by some as a gap-filler until their next album, but it blows out of the water the majority of the other DM releases out there today. Of the new tracks, it's 'Privilege of gods' that stands out, a monster of a track, riffs upon riffs piled on top of one another, with an unrelenting rhythm that will pound around your skull - outstanding.
Of the three cover versions, 'Rapid fire' by Judas Priest, 'Total desaster' by Destruction, it's 'Freezing moon' by Mayhem that sticks out, Vader stamping their mark on it almost making the classic track their own. The live tracks were recorded at the 'Thrash 'em all' festival in Olsztyn, the crowd joining in on the insane 'Carnal' like some bizarre pop concert. You also have tracks taken from the Japanese version of their last album, 'Litany', the instrumental 'Red Dunes' and the very heavy 'Lord of Desert'. Seriously, this is A-list material, I urge you to check these guys out. When it comes to Death Metal Vader are in 'Pole' position (groan...).

Ken Blackmore.

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