Throughout death metal’s history, the EP has served as a way to a full-length or as a stopgap between full-lengths. Decibel combed through some of the rarest (and sought after) EPs from death metal’s most recent past (1990 forward), hyperbolically labeling them ‘undiscovered’. Like Columbus didn’t ‘discover’ America, Decibel didn’t ‘discover’ any of the EPs on the list below. We’re merely highlighting some of the coolest EPs that exhibited two qualities: rareness and musical aptitude. ‘Cause to be fair, death metal, especially from 1990 to 1995, was stacked with Z-Level bands, offering obscure, if musically sophomoric attempts at their influences.
Now, Decibel understands there are tons of potential candidates–like Divine Eve’s “As the Angels Weep” EP or Winter’s “Eternal Frost” EP–we settled on a killer assortment of EPs from bands across the globe. Like, who remembers Mexican ravagers Shub Niggurath? Or, who bought Liers in Wait’s sole EP from Dolores Records (not the Black Sun re-issue)? Or, which one of you paid exorbitant sums of cash on an original of Utumno’s now heralded “Across the Horizon” EP? Certainly, Decibel staffers–like me–were there for it all, even ponying up stupid sums of lunch money for rare originals.
So, get ready for a dive into the darkest depths of death metal’s extended play past with Decibel. We’ll provide the oxygen, you provide the courage.
5. Shub Niggurath – “Evilness and Darkness Prevails” (Guttural)
Mexican maniacs Shub Niggurath were part of the original wave of death metal. They were thanked prominently in Thanks Lists by the genre’s heavyweights, though getting their music was relatively challenging. The group’s debut EP, “Unknown Adorer”, was rare in 1991. Likewise with follow-up EP, “Blasphemies of Nether World”. But the band’s best offering was 1994’s “Evilness and Darkness Prevails”, an extended EP (if that exists) that ran five minutes shy of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”. The Shubs weren’t quite as talented as their main inspiration–Morbid Angel, Possessed, and Slayer–but they had the right spirit. Songs like ‘Lying the Dormant Awaits’, ‘Zatanazombie’, and ‘Nightmares from Beyond’ embodied everything that early ’90s death metal–from the states, actually–had to offer: choppy rhythms, intense (not stupidly low or cupped) vocals, and an occult disposition. Shub Niggurath remain active, which makes them Mexico’s longest running death metal act. Recommended for fans of Morbid Angel, Lost Souls, and Sulphur Aeon.
4. Sadistic Intent – “Resurrection” (Gothic)
One of California’s longest standing death metal acts–OK, that honor goes to the mighty and inimitable Autopsy!–is Los Angeles-based outfit Sadistic Intent. While most of the credit (and therefore the obscurity) goes to UK and European-based acts, Sadistic Intent are one of the few American acts to live in the abyss. Active since 1987, the Californians have never had a full-length. Instead, over the years they’ve released EP after EP and split after split–actually, Sadistic Intent’s output is also quite sparse–, the latest of which is the split “Invocations of the Death-ridden” with Dutch masters Pentacle. Dark, purposeful, and rife with evil, uh, intent, Sadistic Intent are the pinnacle of old-school American brutality. Recommended for fans of Dead Congregation, Mortem, and newcomers Ascended Dead.
3. Liers in Wait – “Spiritually Uncontrolled Art” (Dolores)
Swedes Liers in Wait lasted a good five years before transforming into gothic rock outfit Diabolique. Prior to, however, they were half of greats Grotesque. The group’s only EP, “Spiritually Uncontrolled Art”, was originally released by Gothenburg-based indie Dolores in 1992. Brutal, uncompromising, technical, and faster than Deicide sniffing Satan’s crack, the Swedes parlayed a style that would later be popularized by the likes of Decrepit Birth, Spawn of Possession, and Psycroptic. Though the difference here is the intent (and the lyrics). Whereas most technical bands are simply technical, there’s malice and hate in Liers in Wait. Songs like ‘Overlord’, ‘Maleficent Dreamvoid’, and ‘Liers in Wait’ feel evil, as if they were crafted out of ancient demonic spells. Recommended for fans of Luciferion, (early) Atrocity, and Deicide.
2. Catacomb – “In the Maze of Kadath” (Drowned)
French death metallers Catacomb, not to be confused the six other Catacombs, specifically Italy’s Catacomb who eventually became Novembre, had a relatively long life (1990-2003) but have relatively little to show for it. The group’s 1993 EP, “In the Maze of Kadath”, was released by Spanish indie Drowned Productions with little fanfare. At the time, French death metal, outside of Agressor and Mercyless, was rare, as if France was equal to outer Mongolia. Francophone bands, however, tried to reach out to the rest of the world. “In the Maze of Kadath” was a killer EP, however. Murky, doomy, melancholic (in minor doses), and dark, Catacomb relied heavily on guitarist Tony to get them into some of the coolest riffs since Deathevokation and out of mediocrity. Recommended for fans of Timeghoul, Spectral Voice, and Blood Incantation.
1. Utumno – “Across the Horizon” (Cenotaph)
Swedes Utumno had the severe misfortune of having their label, Netherlands-based Cenotaph Records, go belly up right as “Across the Horizon” was released in 1993. It’s rumored the band never received copies. Nevertheless, “Across the Horizon”, in 1993, wasn’t terribly new or original (the EP was recorded by Skogsberg at Sunlight Studios, natch), and ultimately Utumno was potted with the rest of the second wave of Stockholm Death Metal acts. The fact that the band never had a full-length, did many interviews, or toured probably sealed the group’s fate. But that didn’t stop death metallers from digging up “Across the Horizon” in the early aughts, saving it from the dusty halls of the genre’s lowest abyss. Underground labels, 17 years later, pressed copies on vinyl and CD, adding the “The Light of Day” EP as a bonus, much to the delight of death metal fans aching for undiscovered gems from the genre’s halcyon days. Recommended for fans of Gorement, God Macabre, and Funebrarum.