Released: 2009, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Ahhh…this brings me back. Maybe I’m dating myself here, but was there ever a better time for death metal than those beautiful years between 1989 and 1991? The scene was fresh, the vibe was intense, and the bands that came out of that era would lay the foundation for the death metal scene that we know today. Most would recognize Entombed, Dismember, and Unleashed as defining the Swedish death metal scene, but Nirvana 2002 was right there with them at the time. Unlike those other bands though, Nirvana 2002 never gained the popularity of their peers and disbanded in 1991, leaving only a spattering of demos and unofficial recordings as their legacy. Some may be vaguely familiar with the band, as vocalist Orvar Säfström was a session vocalist for Entombed for about 15 minutes and is featured on ‘91’s CRAWL single. But now the fine folks at Relapse Records have collected the band’s original demos, cleaned them up and made them available officially for the first time ever. Though some will wonder what all the fuss is about, RECORDINGS 89-91 is a treat for the old schoolers.
The album encompasses pretty much the entire body of recorded work by the band, save for a few exceptions that were lost due to quality, etc, so for completists this is a pretty good deal. The songs are typical early 90’s Swedish death metal, with lyrics about death and all things dark and like most of the Swedish outfits of the day, bear a sonic resemblance to early Entombed (from the guitar tones to the production values). Granted that death metal has come a long way in 20 years, this is the closest thing you’ll get to a time machine view of what the genre was like in its formative years.
Some of the songs repeat here, as they went through different variations across time, but hearing those different versions gives you some perspective of what it was like to be a young death metal band trying to find its place in the world. The performances and production aren’t necessarily anything to write home about, and if you’ve followed the genre over the years, it may be hard to take the step backwards. But call me a softy - this is the stuff I cut my teeth on and it will always have a place in my cold, black heart. RECORDINGS 89-91 is a great way to recognize a band that was previously a footnote in the annals of metal history. Kudos to Relapse for putting this album together, if for no other reason than for the sake of posterity and for a genuine love of all things metal. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for other forgotten bands of yesteryear.