Various Artists Century Media X (10th Anniversary 3 CD box-set)
Released: 2001, Century Media
Last month, on a whim, I decided to treat myself and I picked up the Nuclear Blast 3CD Tenth Anniversary Box Set (also reviewed this month) and the CM 3CD Tenth Anniversary Box-set. I’m glad I did!!
One the lessons I have learned is that when something cool and special comes out in the metal world, bite the bullet and grab it right away. This means, box-sets, limited edition runs, special packaging etc…Inevitably it will be hard to find, you WILL end up wanting it anyway and you WILL pay way more on E-bay. I learned that painful lesson a few times in my youth, passing on cool things only to regret it later and end up paying more for a used product. I have many nice rarities in my collection now because I took the plunge when they first became available.
The new CM “X” 3CD box-set is one I would encourage you to get right away. It is strictly limited to 10,000 copies world-wide. I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves, “Yeah, right, They said that about the Iced Earth -Melancholy EP!! I paid big bucks for that “limited edition” and they re-issued it with bonus tracks later! Bastards!” I feel your pain, gentle readers, I did the same thing. However, I’m sure this really is a very special, item worth getting today!
This thing is too massive to fully describe but I’m gonna try anyway. It has a, sturdy plain black case and inside is a 3 CD foldout, digipack and a 90-page booklet describing the history of Century Media. For me in all honesty Discs One and Two are throw-aways. I have 99% of the songs on both discs. However they are very cool, none-the-less. Disc one is Western Hemisphere and Disc Two is Eastern Hemisphere, which I thought was a nice touch. The packaging is surprisingly non-metal but very well designed, attractive and elegant. I never thought I would hear myself say that, especially about a compilation!
A reviewer wouldn’t be worth his (or her) weight in molten lead if he (or she) didn’t find something to complain about. 2001 was actually the 12th or 13th Anniversary of CM but this set refers to 10 years in operation of the US division. That’s the best criticism I could come up with. That’s a testament how well this package is done because usually I can find some flaw, mistake or oversight but not on this beast!
Disc Three kicks eternal ass with 18 rare and unreleased tracks, highlight in my mind being the Despair-History of Hate. I’ve been bugging various members of the CM staff to find me a cassette copy of that for ages! I would have liked to have a few more tracks from other CM bands from the early days like Poltergeist, Crows, Enchantment, Solstice, Hexx, or Comecon instead of 17 more tracks by 17 bands who were already represented on Disc One or Two. However, considering space restrictions and financial considerations, something had to give and they made the tough choice. I’m sure during the design of this masterwork there were heartbreaking choices deciding which bands made the final cut and inevitably someone will bitch that their favorite was left off. Tough choices…for example, throw on a Crow track, (a band that no one remembers, or maybe even knew was on the label in the first place) or throw on a cool, rarity by a big name band that is still active? Recognize the doomed obscurities vs. reward the success stories. My mild grumbling aside, they made the right choice, not the choice I would have made but I still recognize their choice as the better decision.
The part I enjoyed most about this box-set is the booklet entitled: The Story in Words and Pictures. It has over 100 photos, tons of guest essays from staff (past and present) notes from bands on the label and a full-on discography. I grew up being a fan of CM from Day one, from buying the first Iced Earth (cassette!) and freaking out and having it as the soundtrack to many study session in University all the way to up to this box-set. For me, it was more than interesting to read the notes and see the photos of the people who I had read the work of and admired for the last 10 years, Gehret, Krgin, and Barbieri. These three guys always seemed to have their finger on the pulse of underground metal and would review the coolest bands that I would immediately go and try to find! I’m getting’ all weepy here but I have many good memories of going through the CM catalogues (which I still have safely tucked away) with my buddy Evil Dave and then spending hours going through the import bins and stores in Vancouver tracking these treasures down.
For me this box-set salvaged (barely) a poor year from CM. 2001 was year that was affected by the economic recession in the states and the terrorist attacks of September and it impacted CM in a big way with the label putting out many re-issues, focusing on licensing deals and releasing very little in the way of new material by new bands. That’s OK, a number of financial factors conspired and against the label (office moves, tours being cancelled, etc…) and I’m sure they will bounce back next year.
In the meantime, do yourself a favour…as a long-time fan who wants to relive a few memories, or as an initiate who needs to discover the glorious past of one of best record labels in the history of metal, buy this package. It’s reasonably priced too and for over 50 songs and 3.5 hours of metal and a cool book you cannot go wrong!