Impressionistic appraisal: Sepultura’s Morbid Visions (1985)
Morbid Visions, and the Bestial Devastation EP preceding it, are the albums that brought death metal one step closer to being regarded as a viable, distinct, and more extreme, offshoot of speed metal.
Analysis: Sepultura’s Morbid Visions (1985)
A diligent student of Hell Awaits, Morbid Visions consolidates the vision of death metal offered by Slayer in the interstices of that classic album. Morbid Visions still displays an atavistic inclination towards speed metal on occasion, a tendency that the band would wholeheartedly embrace, and with great success, on future recordings.
Aside from the frequent predilection for speed metal and punk, however, Morbid Visions, at its best, sets the template that would come to be adopted by nearly all ensuing death metal: flowing narratives that eschewed the fractured, gratuitous aspect of speed metal, and an initial suggestion of developmental variation as the keystone that would unite this genre and bring it out of the shadow of its immediate forebear. Young as these musicians were then, the will and intention is nobler than the execution, but the low-fidelity production and performance inadvertently end up breathing real spirit into these songs.
Impressionistic appraisal: Adramelech’s Psychostasia (1995)
Mysterious, magikal death metal from Finland, a country whose strange linguistic history seems to have unconsciously colored its death metal with a unique, melodic identity, too. Psychostasia follows in the proud tradition of Amorphis, Demilich, Demigod, Rippikoulu, Mordicus, Abhorrence, Purtenance, Funebre, and others, presenting a death metal thick with atmosphere and the promise of revelation.
Analysis: Adramelech’s Psychostasia (1995)
As once alluded to by the Dark Legions Archives, there has to be something akin to a Finnish death metal scale, and then a particular way of playing it. This scale seems to be formed from a collusion between pentatonic and chromatic note choices, which are then employed in specific configurations to achieve an effect of overwhelming doom and portent. As an example, a simple minor pentatonic triplet run, either ascending or descending, and executed at a slower register, can serve as a wonderfully dark harmonic device when used with taste and strategy. Psychostasia, and all of Finnish death metal, is this constant, succulent interplay of delicate contrasts; even the humblest passages here bear testimony to a see-sawing of majors and minors, and an obsessive weighing at the minutest levels of song-building, which, given the intensely musical nature of this sub-genre, makes a fine case for the further study of Finnish Death Metal™ as a legitimate branch of music theory.
In what will be an unpopular verdict, I will go with Psychostasia as the superior album. The Bestial Devastation/Morbid Visions influence on the genre is immense, their energy undeniable, but these albums, Morbid Visions more so, are still heavily indebted to Hell Awaits and the Chemical Warfare EP on a conceptual, structural, and a literal, riff-writing level. Psychostasia, on the other hand, has the advantage of being made in the full creative bloom of the genre; it is less immediately caustic than the Sepultura albums to be sure, but what it gives up in the violence sweepstakes, it adequately compensates for in being a far more layered and original experience.
Adramelech go through to Round Two.