Friday, June 22, 2007

Deep In The "Doldrums"....The mid to late 90s

As I became entrenched at UCLA in the Fall of 1994 and subsequently started my career in 1996, I still hadn't yet placed my finger back on the pulse of the metal underground. As previously described, I completely missed the black metal explosion that was going on in Scandinavia, and was also beginning to pick up in plenty of other areas around the world, including the United States. I would not discover all of this until about 2000 or so, though.

At any rate, this period for me is exemplified by one mediocre, or just plain bad, release after another by the bands that I had been listening to for years. Personally, I find that the following albums are definitely sub-par, if not worse: Cannibal Corpse "Vile", Napalm Death "Inside The Torn Apart", Sacred Reich "Heal", the three Deicide full-lengths beginning with "Serpents Of The Light", anything by Sodom after "Agent Orange" and before "Code Red", Kreator "Endorama" (although "Cause For Conflict", and even "Outcast" are good), Obituary "Back From The Dead", Slayer "Diabolus In Musica", S.O.D. "Bigger Than The Devil", etc., etc., the list goes on. Nu metal reigned, and grunge was still going strong. By the way, this is the only grunge album that I like...



American metal seemed practically dead, with the notable exceptions of Pantera (never really a favorite of mine, though, and an argument could be made that they stole their post-glam sound from Exhorder), the first two albums from Machine Head, and, marginally, Fear Factory. Machine Head and Fear Factory, in particular, would subsequently either attempt to follow nu metal trends, or try to follow in the footsteps of Metallica by taming their sound. Celtic Frost and Destruction were gone, and Metallica should've packed it in years ago (these were the days of "Load" and "Reload", perhaps the lowest point of metal since the art form began, what would have Cliff Burton have said?). Anthrax, for me, actually improved with "Stomp 442" and "Volume 8: The Threat Is Real" (believe it or not, I actually like that album). Megadeth alienated their fan base, even though I was sort of snickering from the sidelines, with "Risk". The Bay Area scene now consisted almost solely of Testament and seemed a distant memory, loaded with funk bands such as Primus. Even "Breeding The Spawn" by Suffocation was a let down. Immolation's first three albums, although classics, really suffer from poor production values.

Needless to say, I didn't see any shows at all during these, for me now in retrospect, dismal times. Once again, I was concentrating on other things such as career, sports, etc. As the 90s were coming to an end, however, all Hell was about to break loose, though, and a personal metal "renaissance" was just around the corner...

4 comments:

Metal Mark said...

This was indeed a dead time for the metal I knew. Kreator and Sodom both struggled. I loved Sacred Reich up until Heal which seemed kind of influenced by Pantera and they didn't need to copy them. Prong were one of my favorite 90's metal bands, but they broke up in 1996 after a string of four great album. I never got into black metal because the little I heard all seemed like the same thing. Looking back though a number of good stoner albums came out during this time. Electric Wizard, Sleep, Fu Manchu, Acid King and others did some fine albums then. Only thing is I didn't get into them until this decade. Oh and Megadeth's Risk was horrible.

dschalek said...

Mark,

I liked "Cleansing" by Prong, but couldn't really get into any of their other albums except, marginally, "Rude Awakening". I didn't discover the stoner scene, except for Kyuss, until my "renaissance".

It's too bad that Sacred Reich were never able to fulfill the promise that they showed with "Ignorance". I felt that their subsequent albums were of increasingly lesser quality. "Suf Nicaragua" and "A Question" were good, though.

My only grindcore discovery of this time was Brutal Truth's absolutely monstrous debut, "Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses". To this day, I think it is the best grindcore album ever made.

Invisible Oranges said...

Really fascinating to see your history...I wonder what I would dig up with mine??? I love Badmotorfinger and don't consider it a grunge album, though it's often tagged as such. It's hardly grungy! (Same with Nirvana's Nevermind) Badmotorfinger to me is basically straight-up metal (as is much of Alice in Chains). Kim Thayil was channeling a lot of Sabbath at that time. And I agree that a lot of metal's greats phoned it in during that time. Was mediocrity in the water then??? Cleansing is the big Prong album, but Beg to Differ to me is the hidden treasure, Coroner-like in its coldness and technicality. Keep that history rolling - seemingly endless time...

dschalek said...

IO,

Metal reminiscing is kind of a fun way to revisit bands and albums that you may not have lisiened to in awhile. I just recently listened to some old Sodom albums (see the next post) that I hadn't listened to in years.

I also like "Dirt", as well, but I feel that both Soundgarden and Alice In Chains moved away from metal and towards a more alternative rock approach with later albums.

I just never really clicked with any of the early Prong albums, and I never liked Nirvana.