Over the course of metal’s storied history there are examples of long careers (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, etc.), but there’s also the opposite. Bands, most promising, genre-leaders/benders, who issued a lone album or EP, vanished for one reason or another and are no longer active (hence the omission of Repulsion’s Horrified from this list).
At Decibel, we’re more than pleased to praise the long-comings of bands whose careers have lasted a decade or more, but there’s an important slice of career-cutting bands that we’d like to highlight.
For all intents and purposes, the bands on this list were only around for their demo and first release phase. They folded ceremoniously (as friends) or unceremoniously (as enemies), but their musical output endures the reasons of old. In fact, the reasons bands like Cromlech or Shrinebuilder only had one album is down to its membership, not anything the band did or didn’t do business-wise. Then, there are bands like Kvist and Spiral Architect. Both Norwegians, both with incredible debuts, and yet both disappeared after one full-length. Of course, our #1 on the list is Australia’s diSEMBOWELMENT. The group’s only album, Transcendence into the Peripheral, was like no other in 1993. Today, it remains singular.
Bring on the list of one-album (EP) wonders!
5. Cromlech – The Vulture Tones (EP)
After trailblazers Eucharist took a dive (for the second or third time) in the mid-’90s, former members, particularly guitarist Henrik Meijner, put together Cromlech, an extension of Eucharist’s classically-inspired savagery. Cromlech assembled two demos throughout the ’90s — …And Darkness Fall and Promo ’99 — before releasing their lone EP, The Vulture Tones on obscure indie Beyond… Productions in 2000. If anything defines Cromlech it’s vicious yet profound melodic death metal, the likes of which were shared, if not in such a potent form with Ablaze My Sorrow (from which Fredrik Arnesson was sourced) and Sacrilege. Key tracks are all tracks. There’s not a dud among the four on offer.
4. Shrinebuilder – Shrinebuilder
What happens when members of Sleep, Neurosis, Saint Vitus (and The Obsessed), and The Melvins get together? Supergroup. Musically, Shrinebuilder could’ve been an unmitigated disaster–the personalities in the band aren’t laydown, keep-mouth-shut types–but when the group’s self-titled was released in 2009, it immediately hit on all the right buttons. The apocalyptic cover fit right with the deep grooves of Weinrich, Kelly, and Cisneros. The opening 8-minute track “Solar Benediction” is proof that five-star group could, in fact, write songs together (or partially together). Despite having a penchant for fuzzy, megaton riffs, the group were also quite atmospheric, which afforded Shrinebuilder contrast. While most bands were happy as dogshit to rip off Iommi and call it “good”, Shrinebuilder went beyond apery and re-envisioned the whole stoner/doom genre. What else would you expect from the group’s membership?
3. Kvist – For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike
Norwegians Kvist were part of the third wave of black metal and despite having released only one full-length, the amazing For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike, their legacy has endured, mostly in circles appreciative of technical, if opaque black metal. In many respects, Kvist’s take on black metal is somewhere between Emperor and Enslaved, but there’s something different under the surface. The overtly technicality of “Ars Manifestia”, (and atmospheric qualities of) “Svartedal” and “Stupet” are perhaps more the influence of death metal and film scores than direct inspiration from, say, Emperor, Enslaved, and Gehenna. For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike is a rarity these days, with few labels interested in reissuing the gem. That being said, despite its relatively rare status in physical form, it’s available for eternity (or as long as Youtube is alive) as a streaming asset.
2. Spiral Architect – A Sceptic’s Universe
In 2000, Norwegian progressive metallers Spiral Architect, named after the Black Sabbath hymn, issued A Sceptic’s Universe. Immediately, the band was catapulted to the top of the progressive metal heap, sharing, if only by a slim margin, the highest exalt with Dream Theater. The group had everything: musicality, instrumentation, smart lyrics, and cool artwork. They were the quintessential band for eggheads and music nerds into non-neanderthal like songwriting. The album’s opener “Spinning” borders on ridiculous across its three-plus minutes. Same with “Moving Spirit”, “Cloud Constructor”, and album closer “Fountainhead”. Fans have begged both the band and the band’s then-label Sensory Records for a follow-up, but considering it’s been 16 years, possibilities of Spiral Architect returning to metal aren’t very good. At least we have A Sceptic’s Universe.
1. diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence into the Peripheral
Quite possibly the most mind-altering, perception shattering doom/death/whatever album to come from any country. Aussies diSEMBOWELMENT were pushing towards what would be Transcendence into the Peripheral on their demos and the Dusk EP, but few could’ve imagined the sonic pictures created when their one and only full-length, Transcendence into the Peripheral, landed in ’93 on Relapse. The artwork gives nothing away. The modern typography, blood-red cover looks like something out of Vaughan Oliver’s portfolio. But when “The Tree of Life and Death” kicks off, it’s pretty much over. Ten minutes of blistering, brutal bliss emanate from places of inspiration the genre of extreme metal had never thought possible. Like if Dead Can Dance made a grind album. Or if the Cocteau Twins made a death metal album. diSEMBOWELMENT’s one and only doesn’t stop with “The Tree of Life and Death”, however. It continues to blaze across the southern sky with tracks like “Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory”, “The Spirits of the Tall Hills”, and the beautifully introspective “Nightside of Eden”. All signs point to diSEMBOWELMENT never resurrecting, but at the very least we have Inverloch–featuring drummer Paul Mazziotta and bassist Matthew Skarajew–the closest we fans will get to the experiences we felt with diSEMBOWELMENT.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Control Denied, Vinterland, Intestine Baalism, Heaven & Hell, Nailbomb, and Weakling, to name a few.