Reviewed: January 2021
Released: 2020, Awakening Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Apocalyptic Fear was a little-known early death metal band from Canada, releasing just two demos: Decayed Existence (1992) and Dawn of the Ritual (1994). These have now been combined and reissued by Awakening Records. And for early 90s death metal demo material, this is actually pretty damned good.
Sonically, it doesn’t pack too many surprises. It’s death metal from the days when it was still thrash’s dirtier, nastier cousin, with the heaviness ramping up and some of the now-classic tropes of the extreme metal style coming out. While at first listen the full album sounds pretty coherent, there is a progression of sound to be heard between the two demos that make this up. Oddly, Awakening Records decided to put these in reverse chronological order: the first five tracks are from the later, 1994 demo, while the last five are from the first one. In that second half (i.e. the earlier demo) you can still hear a lot of those thrash roots. Tracks like “Intoxicated” and “Drive Us to Hate” have a riff-heavy grind to them, an effectively vicious chug and sense of pace that appeals a little more to me. Though admittedly, closer “Vampire’s Island” feels like a misstep: the attempt at a longer song is appreciated, but it doesn’t feel developed or interesting enough to earn that increased runtime.
In the tracks from the later demo, you hear the shift more into death metal itself. Blast beats and other more dynamic percussion start to appear, and sharp speed takes more of a backseat in favour of some more adventurous heaviness. Which style appeals to you more will really depend on personal preference: for me, the second half of this compilation release is the best, but both halves are solid work, especially for their time.
Decayed Existence & Dawn of the Ritual doesn’t break the mould, but it’s a solid piece of early extreme metal, and certainly worth checking out for collectors and others interested in death metal’s early days.