Angelcorpse – Exterminate (1998)
Is this the peak in Angelcorpse’s discography? Maybe. Angelcorpse is apparently notable for being one of the first extreme metal bands to fuse death and black metal tropes in a way that wasn’t simply “We’re evolving into a black metal band”. There’s always Immortal’s debut album if you like that sort of thing. The usual comparison here seems to be Morbid Angel, particularly on Covenant, but Angelcorpse is generally a simpler, faster, more consonant affair. It’s occasionally reminiscent of the minimalist black metal preceding it, but it’s also as far from the more rhythmically complex sort of death metal (read: Suffocation) as it is from Darkthrone.
If there’s in fact any direct ancestor besides Morbid Angel, it’s probably someone from the early ‘war metal’ movement, which in the timeline I’m relying on probably means either Blasphemy (the one from Vancouver, since 99% of all metal bands are named Blasphemy) or Beherit (from Finland, although that band later evolved into something far stranger). Hints of this ancestry appear in the muddy, bassy production, although yet again Angelcorpse tends towards tighter, more regimented instrumentation and isn’t nearly as unintelligible and chaotic as those bands were. To be fair, even if my hypothesis turns out to be true, Angelcorpse is separated from a Dawn of Satan’s Millennium or a Fallen Angel of Doom by almost a decade on Exterminate, which leaves plenty of time for massive sonic evolution and divergence, at least on the timescale that death metal has operated upon.
So Angelcorpse (like most of the bands I write about here) are writing and performing in a style, even if it’s more like an ungainly fusion of established ones than something particularly original. I’m not sure whether this album should be lower fidelity in order to amp up the chaotic and imcomprehensible factor, or the opposite for the sake of aggression and emphasizing the occasional embellishments. I do, however, get the feeling that raising the question isn’t the greatest of signs. The very fact that this album doesn’t go full minimalist/primitive leaves it in an awkward spot where it isn’t quite nuanced enough to effectively compete with its buddies. On the other hand, it’s still an consistently intense death metal recording, and while by virtue of release in 1998 it has certainly been outintensed, it can still serve as a fairly accurate barometer of what the genre was up to at that point, just as internet advances were making the genre more accessible than what major label records were willing to do…
So if it sounds like I’m not too impressed, I’m not.
Highlights: “Wartorn”, “Into the Storm of Steel”, “That Which Lies Upon”