Death is just the Beginning VI
Released: 2000, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
I remember being excited at the prospect of discovering new and unfamiliar bands when news of a new Death…is just the Beginning compilation hit home. But unfortunately, starting with the disappointment garnished with the release of volume four, the series has continued on a downward spiral. The amount of death metal bands featured has continued to decline, and for what reason? Sure the title Death...is just the Beginning could be interpreted in different ways, but the first three volumes were firmly rooted in death metal, and I think that’s how it should have stayed. I am sure Nuclear Blast feels the need to expose all the power, goth, and other types of metal bands they’ve been signing over the years, but I believe a new compilation series should have been initiated specifically for that purpose, while concentrating on death and black metal artists for the Death…is just the Beginning series. Sadly, this sixth installment is the worst so far.
While spinning disc one of this double-CD set, I started to think just how stale the metal scene has become and how lame all these bands are. Of course the metal scene is not stale, but listening to this compilation sure as hell makes you feel like it. Maybe it’s just that I think power metal sucks. But I tried listening to these songs all the way through and found it extremely difficult. Helloween, Stratovarious, Hammerfall, Primal Fear, Sinergy, Sinner, Steel Prophet, To/Die/For, Pegazus, U.D.O., and Skyclad (the worst here, just because of the extremely lame chorus) really just turn me off. Some are better than others, but overall I just can’t help but feel these songs are so stagnant, simple, boring, and rehashed. Where’s the toilet, I feel the need to vomit. And hey, it has nothing to do with the soaring, happy, majestic vocals either…put death vocals in their places and the songs would still be an unchallenging listen. Everything from the arrangements, to the bass guitar playing, to the drumming, and the cheesy keyboards bore the shit out of me. Even the In Flames track “Strong and Smart” (previously available only as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Clayman) is not their best. But it is a rare track, and I am thankful for being able to hear it. And for some reason, I’m always eager to hear a new Therion song. But I always end up disappointed to a degree. Their use of real classical instruments and choir vocals fucking rules and sounds unbelievable, but the rest of the music usually suffers through the use of extremely simple arrangements, boring guitar riffs and drumming, and occasional horrible lead vocals. But I will say “Seven Secrets of the Sphinx” is one of the best songs I have heard from Therion. S.O.D.’s “Raise Your Sword” is a take-off on power metal, which should be obvious from the song title. A bit amusing, especially considering the lame lyrics and vocals, but the overall production sucks. The Danzig track “Fiver Finger Crawl” is a lot better than I would have expected from Glenn and Co. in this day and age. But it’s dark and heavy just like it should be. It doesn’t take listening to a song from Kovenant to know they suck…just look at their band photos in magazines. Terrible vocals and shitty drums…or should I say drum machine? I’m still debating whether or not to pick up Gardenian’s last two albums. I have had their debut Two Feet Stand since its release years ago. And although it isn’t nearly the best Swedish melodic death metal album out there, it has some truly shining moments preventing me from trading in the CD. “Courageous”, from the band’s latest album Sindustries, is actually a pretty damn fine song, effectively mixing death metal with clean vocals without losing any of the thick heaviness. But then there’s The Black League. Goth-metal? No thanks…at least not this band.
On to disc two…Children of Bodom opens up with “Hate Me!” Death metal? Power metal? You decide. Either way they’re not impressive. I hope In Flames never ends up sounding like them. Destruction’s version of Metallica’s “Whiplash” follows. Not a good song to judge Destruction by because it’s a cover tune. But I never could get into this band anyway due to some really poor vocals on early albums (although with time they’ve improved, as heard here). Crematory always sounds hilarious to me. They are an example of a death metal band trying to be too artsy, perhaps. They kind of have an Amorphis syndrome where they mix nice, soft, uplifting melodies with low death grunts. But while Amorphis can make it work, Crematory cannot. Theatre of Tragedy is pretty fucked…this song sounds like industrial metal. Still heavy, but with noise samples, male vocals with effects, and soft spoken, infectious female vocals. A little interesting to hear, but nothing I’d buy. Now…23 damn songs into this CD I finally arrive at some black metal, not that I even like black metal, but at least we’re starting to get extreme here! Dimmu Borgir gives us “Behind the Curtains…” which is full of intense hate. But let’s face it, if I’m going to check out some black metal, it won’t be these guys. Lots of people cream themselves over Hypocrisy, and although I’ve been aware of their presence since their debut album Penetralia, they still don’t rock my world. “Fire in the Sky” has some crushing guitar parts and sick vocals, but still doesn’t possess enough weight to push me towards buying any of their albums. There are too many other better death metal bands out there folks. And what the hell’s going on with Orphanage? Progressive death-goth? Hmmm…actually they’re not too bad. Here’s a suggestion: keep the female vocals and lose the male vocals. Dismember are represented with “Beyond Good and Evil” from their latest heavier-than-hell-yet-still-disappointing album Hate Campaign. OK Nuclear Blast, you’ve given us lots of unreleased tracks from various bands on this compilation, but what about Dismember? From what I understand, there are two songs (“Live to Hate” and “Unhealing Scars”) that were put on the Japanese version of Hate Campaign. Why weren’t at least one of those songs put on this compilation???? By now I’m ready to just throw in the towel on this compilation, but still I persist. Agathodaimon? Boring keyboard-ridden death metal. Satyricon? Techno-black metal. In other words: complete crap. Raise hell? Good music, good vocal sound, but I’m not sure about the vocal phrasings. Fitting, however. Kataklysm? Buried towards the end of disc two, along with all the other death metal bands, “Manifestation” reminds me of Illdisposed (one of the heaviest death metal bands of all time, in my book). Kataklysm doesn’t match Illdisposed’s earth-crushing, sludgy, pound-your-face-in riffing, but they come close. Great detuned guitar sound and overall thick production. Gorgoroth follow with some badly-produced, typical black metal. If you guys had a better sound, maybe we could hear just what the hell you’re playing on those guitars of yours, aye? Opprobrium goes back in time and re-records their classic tune “Massacre of the Unborn” (which appeared on the first volume of Death… back in 1990 when the band was still called Incubus). This song brings back some damn good memories. Bal-Sagoth? Black power metal? Nice Nintendo keyboards, guys. I never was able to finish Super Mario Bros. 3, but maybe if I did Bal-Sagoth would have provided the music to the game’s ending credits? Mortification…these guys are still around? Like most other Christian bands, Mortification lurk somewhere out there, probably with a slew of albums under their belts and only a small following of diehard fans. “Dead Man Walking” probably won’t gain them any new fans either. Soulreaper? Well after hearing them on Volume Five, I almost bought their album. However, after reading a scathing album review in a major metal magazine (Metal Maniacs?), I changed my mind. I could tell the reviewer was a big Dissection fan, as I am, and I trusted his word. Soulreaper does a cover of Dissection’s “Satanized” from the latter’s demo days. Great job, but Decameron did it better five years ago. Last on the compilation lies “Of Hate We Breed”, a new demo track from black metallers Susperia. Labels still sign new black metal bands? These guys show no signs of originality whatsoever.
So by now you probably think I’m an asshole, right? For putting down all of these bands, and for writing such a lengthy review? Oh well. After all, isn’t a CD review just an opinion anyway? So anyhow, out of the 36 tracks on this compilation, maybe a quarter remains death metal. A sad sight and sound, no less. Death…is just the Beginning is now just another one of those compilations to pick up only for those few unreleased songs, as opposed to discovering new bands. The next thing you know Nuclear Blast will be scrapping Necrolord’s future involvement with the artwork, and instead hiring that artist who did the Rhapsody covers. I will always applaud a label that unleashes those rare and unreleased songs, but Nuclear Blast could have done a much better job. First, by including more rare songs. And second, by scrapping most of bands here and throwing them on a new compilation series. But then, I guess the label really hasn’t been signing many new death/black metal bands anyways. Ah…I guess I’ll just go put on Relapse Records’ Contaminated 3.0 for some new extreme metal.