5. Loudblast – Sublime Dementia 1993 (Semetary)
Appearing with three tracks on Century Media’s cool In The Eyes of Death compilation in 1991, Loudblast were virtually unknown outside the four corners of France even though they’d released two full-lengths and a string of demos prior to Sublime Dementia. Loudblast twisted Schuldiner’s brutal/melodic idiosyncrasies (from Human) into an always-moving, instrumentally adept edifice, which, for the time, blurred the lines between tech-death and thrash. Guitarists Stéphane Buriez and Nicolas Leclercq are particularly impressive if, like this release, unsung.
4. Sceptic – Pathetic Being 2001 (Empire)
Vader, Behemoth, and Decapitated are on your radar, but Krakow-based Sceptic, who still avoid the attention of larger labels with deeper pockets, aren’t. Well, Sceptic should be one of those blips if scholastic death is part of your daily mind-exercising classload. Guitarists Czesiek Semla and Jacek Hiro studied hard and got good grades at the Schuldiner University of Professional Death Metal. Like their late professor, these two guys bafflingly assemble head-scratchin’ songs with blazingly good solos. There’s a reason there aren’t any hot girls who know what scalars, vectors and matrices mean.
3. Afflicted – Prodigal Sun 1992 (Nuclear Blast)
In the years after its release Prodigal Sun was largely ignored due to the fact that it never fit nicely in any category. Too obstreperous for the br00tal crowd and too coarse to the sensibilities of Cynic devotees. Sort of like Disharmonic Orchestra’s Not to be Undimensional Conscious, Afflicted’s debut existed singularly and no one—even the band abandoned the Prodigal Sun sound for trad metal on 1995’s equally ignored Dawn of Glory—no one’s bothered to attempt to replicate the Stockholm + kitchen sink-sound since. “Harbouring the Soul” alone is worth sitting through the rest of the album’s remaining wayward 35 minutes.
2. Quo Vadis – Forever… 1996 (VomiT)
Quebec is the strangest place on the planet. Stranger than Ulan Bator even. Coined after a Latin phrase meaning, “Where are you going?,” Quo Vadis is part of the same scene that birthed such eight-armed/legged things like Voivod, Gorguts, Cryptopsy, The UneXpect, and Beneath the Massacre. On debut Forever… Quo Vadis declared “nous sommes uniques!” through the incorporation of violin and opera into what is highly accomplished, technically demanding and mind-contorting death. Good luck finding Forever… on CD, but it’s damn good.
1. Sadist – Crust 1997 (Displeased)
Crust is what I’d call the pivotal, if criminally ignored, release by Genoa-based Sadist. Clearly, the Italians took a few structure ideas from Destroy Erase Improve, but as an album it’s wholly unique, with boppin’/slidin’ bass lines (think “Uriboric Forms”/“Sentiment”), piercing, atmospheric keyboard layers, and obtuse, grinding riffs with a Holdsworth touch on the solos. A more direct comparison is Australia’s Alchemist. Sadist, however, opted for the cold and clinical on Crust.