When the days were long and the Internet merely a glimpse in Ron Jeremy’s lidless eye, the underground metal scene persevered through hand-made fliers and unsuspecting postal services everywhere. Postmen and women were, in effect, the carriers of a deadly plague. From England to Florida, from Tokyo to Oslo, from Australia to San Francisco, postal workers were the bandwidth by which death metal, black metal, doom metal, and every other underground form of metal communicated. Open a letter and out poured legion! Fliers for everything–demos, ‘zines, LPs, mail-orders, etc.–were part of the letter writing and distribution process. The fliers were critical to kids (and savvy businessmen) staying in touch. It’s how news of the underground marketplace worked its way around. To celebrate the old ways, Decibel’s picked 5 fliers from the early ’90s. Some were omnipresent (yes, Relapse), while others were more singular (Peaceville’s Collectors Club). Raise your chalice and drink heavily to the printed Old Ones!
5. Cianide – The Dying Truth (Grind Core International)
Chicago-based death metallers (OK, death-doom) Cianide have been at it since 1988. Under original members Mike Perun and Scott Carroll, they’re still at it today. Amazing to think when this flyer was circulated in 1992, it was an equivalent to a full-page advert in Metal Maniacs. It was passed along to fellow metallers again and again, via the postal services the world over. Although the band’s label, Grind Core International, had very little to do with grindcore itself and the label’s logo looked like a short-lived non-Pushead Zorlac sub-brand, they had a gem in The Dying Truth. Hail!
4. Peaceville Collector’s Edition (Peaceville)
British cult label Peaceville wanted to one-up itself in 1993 by introducing the world to its Collectors Club [sic]. The label was clearly trying to cultivate a rabid, somewhat exclusive club, where 7-inches by established bands would be sent in random order, nearly unannounced. It kind of worked, too. At the Gates, Banished, Anathema, Pentagram, Doomed, Morta Skuld / Vital Remains, My Dying Bride, and G.G.F.H. had their time in the Collectors Club. The venture was short-lived for whatever reason, however, lasting barely a full year. I can still hear Decibel illustrator Mark Rudolph singing Anathema’s “666”.
3. Burzum – Det Som Engang Var (Necropolis)
Before cassettes were cool (again), California-based Necropolis Records got into the Burzum game with a truly cult re-release of Det Som Engang Var. Called “ancient, medieval Nordic art”, well, who wouldn’t a cassette version of the Count’s third-best effort for a cool Hamilton? Maybe those with the CD?! What probably bummed out kids from Germany to Poland and Brazil to Japan is that this release was a U.S.-only license. But I’m pretty sure label dude, Paul Thind, slipped out a few orders to ‘bangers who sent in cold hard cash. Where were you in 1993?
2. Relapse Records Label Flyer (Relapse Records)
From 1991 to 1993, you couldn’t open a letter (from a friend or blind submission) without seeing a flyer for one of Relapse’s many (about 20) in-house products. The label was one of the first to market themselves heavily. By any means necessary. And not only as a label with bands signed to it, but also a reliable, if ridiculously slow (sorry, Pellet!) mail-order with an endless array of domestic and imported death, grind, noise, ambient, doom, whatever metal (and some black metal) at prices that, at the time, seemed fair for obscure Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian metals. As this flyer illustrates, Relapse were also very well aware of the underground and the fact that ‘zines would print fliers for free. This vertical from 1991 (I’m guessing) was a perfect alternative to the endless horizontals preferred by designers pre-Jurassic Period.
1. Enslaved – Hordanes Land / Emperor – Emperor Label Flyer (Candlelight)
If the start of something was tangible, it’d be this half-pager by Candlelight. Black Metal was just taking off (OK, Bathory coined Viking Metal) in Norway (and in various countries around the world), and these two bands were obviously at the front of it. At the time, Samoth was part of Burzum (as noted by the ad’s “features” comment) and Enslaved weren’t Viking Metal just yet. The young ones from Hordaland were called Battle Metal, seeing as though they weren’t Satanic or fully astride Sleipnir. The two releases–Hordanes Land and Emperor’s self-titled–were eventually combined on one, must-have CD (likely one of the hottest mail-order items in 1993) on Candlelight. It was then crucially released in the U.S. in 1994 on Century Media sub-label Century Black, with a red-pink (still a true what-the-fuck moment!) cover.
** So, there you have it! Some old-school fliers from back in the day. We know they’re not the only Top 5 (you have yours, right?) and we also know that we’re not the only pack rats. Dig out those old fliers! Reveal them in their hand-made Kinko’s glory! Post ’em so we can see ’em!