When it started in 1990 as an extension of Matt Jacobson’s, Relapse Record’s boss, passion for tape trading (Decibel, 2015), the label put out mostly Death metal and Grindcore releases from bands such as Suffocation, Incantation or Mortician. Reputable bands with a clear identity but regarded as members of a well-established community. What really set Relapse apart from other extreme metal label was it’s willingness to take a chance on bands that sounded very different from the pack. Bands that would go on to define the sound of their contemporary, for better or worse, like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon or Today is the Day. This selection of bands focus on Relapse’s first decade and on bands that are not mentioned as often as these other ones.
Outside of being associated with more than twenty bands (mostly because of Dave Witte and Dan Lilker‘s presence in the line-up) and their strong stance on environmental issues, Exit-13 is mostly notable for their uncontrollable thirst for riffing and grinding at breakneck speed. Much like Cephalic Carnage, but without the technical precision, their unrelenting attack creates a tension from the first riffs to the last beat. Most bands of that era of Relapse Records seemed to play above their level, or had a complete disinterest on polishing their sound. Chances of being appreciated by a larger audience was completely null so why try making their music more accessible? Instead, they just decided to push the boundaries of their song writing ability and recorded material that still convey a sense of urgency to this day.
From the other side of the spectrum we found dISEMBOWELMENT, an Australian band who decided to slow down their Death metal. To put it into perspective, although Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride were also producing the template of Doom Death metal, dISEMBOWELMENT were already pushing their sound to a more extreme end at the same time before breaking up in 1993, the year of the release of their first and unique album! Dusk showed that it was possible to mix blast beats with eery melodies and to push sludgy down-tuned riffs to a crawl to create a more morbid atmosphere than on records by bands like Morbid Angel, the masters of the genre, who were releasing at that time their fifth album! dISEMBOWELMENT didn’t make many friends and fans at the time but they are now regarded as the godfathers of Funeral Doom.
Enemy Soil (1995)
Despite Mortician being ahead of the game for using a drum machine in Grindcore, it was difficult to take the duo’s music seriously. Long samples with short songs with little to distinguish themselves from one another, Mortician is the example people who hate Extreme music can pick to demonstrate its lack of artistic merit. Enemy Soil on the other won’t win any prizes with the critic but showed to freaks everywhere how to play Grindcore without a faster than lightening drummer and still retain all the energy and intensity of early Napalm Death and Carcass records, or even the mighty Siege!
Luddite Clone (1999)
The same year The Dillinger Escape Plan released their influential debut, Calculating infinity, another band was taking metallic hardcore into a chaotic direction. Luddite Clone was not as technical minded as the future pop stars of chaotic metal but they had the passion and the creativity to make great music. Unlike the raw emotions of Calculating infinity, Luddite Clone‘s unique EP, The Arsonist and the architect, possessed a strange atmosphere much like David Cronenberg’s horror movie. Terror that defies the imagination. Creatures that crawl underneath your own skin. A strange but remarkable collection of songs only followed by an excellent split EP with Burnt by the Sun. Another band called Kiss the Cynic featuring singer Andrew Cummings and bassist Kevin Hannan then materialized on Mp3.com with a few promising songs but nothing more than a EP was put out leaving one to wonder what could have been while replaying these fantastic songs.
Uphill Battle (2002)
Destined to be mentioned as an early project that led the way to a more famous band, Intronaut, Uphill Battle was actually more forward thinking to the progressive Metal band Danny Walker founded after the break-up of this band. One year after Converge released Jane Doe, Uphill Battle took the Bostonian to the challenge and released a fantastically brutal self-titled album that took the chaotic metal hardcore to new extremes. Black metal melodies, an intensity rivaled only by the musical tornado of Pg99, a hyper saturated production, Uphill Battle‘s entry in the ring was probably too much to take in but it still remains as a fantastic testimony to the prowess of these musicians. Sadly, both albums can be easily found in bargain bins at festival which also means that you have no excuse for not picking it up when you will find a copy (along with any releases by Crowpath).