Phoenix’s Nuclear Death were trailblazers: the band, which formed in 1986, played some of the most extreme death metal around, they had a female vocalist, and they were most likely the first band to use the phrase “necrobestiality” in a song title. The band’s first three full-lengths—1990’s Bride of Insect, 1991’s Carrion for Worm, and 1992’s All Creatures Great and Eaten—represent a stunning trio of early extremity, Nuclear Death spitting out three absolute classics in three years. (The first two were on infamous underground label Wild Rags Records, which adds another fun twist to the tale.)
Back in August of 2012, we inducted Bride—which the band members actually put together while still in high school—into our Hall of Fame. Because there’s never a bad time to revisit the glory that is early Nuclear Death, we thought we’d revisit the album over here and rank the songs from worst to best.
12. The Misshapen Horror
To be totally honest, much of this album is blur, songs like this one running into many others until you sit down and listen to each one individually and really examine it. And in doing so, you turn into a complete raving lunatic, reminiscent of vocalist Lori Bravo, who here delivers a vocal performance so scary it seems downright… genuine. Which is, yeah, super scary.
11.The Beloved Whore Celebration
Get a load of that punk rock opening riff, the band going crust on our asses for a brief second before the claustrophobic blasting and ugly death metal kicks in, this song not necessarily better or worse than many on here, although as we approach the mid-point of side B, things are definitely becoming a blur. A wonderful, bestial, chaotic blur.
10. The Colour of Blood
Side B of the album kicks off with this grindcore disaster (that’s a compliment here), the band just going for it in this concise, two-minute rager, which features a killer divebombin’ guitar solo to boot, and the British spelling of “colour” in the name just for the hell of it.
9. Place of Skulls
Now seems as good a time as any to talk about Nuclear Death’s lyrics, which are some of the most disturbing I’ve ever come across in a lifetime of pillaging extreme metal lyric sheets and liner notes. A bit poetic and definitely going to places no other bands dared, they still hold up as far as lyrics that are gnarly but offer more than shock value go. “Place of Skulls” finds the band nearing the end of the first half of this album, the unsettling lyrical tales a fine companion to the blasting, grinding psychotic death metal sounds.
8. Vultures Feeding
I love this cool, quick (1:22) punk closer, the band taking punk riffs and beats, divebombing early-gore, and war thrash to new places, mainly because at least two of those are barely even things, so it had to be new. One and done and it’s done and over, Nuclear Death ending this album wisely here with this song, which is more of a burst of sideways kinetic energy than it is a “song,” but, hey, what are you going to do?
7. Bride of Insect
Don’t read the lyrics, and you’re going to love this messed-up sludge swamp grind drag, the band diving into the depths until they can barely breathe. Read the lyrics and you’re fully enveloped in the mad, mad world of Nuclear Death, the disturbing tale fitting the nightmare music just fine. This band is like no other, and this song right here is a perfect example why. Put it on and let it wash over you; you’ll never be the same.
6. Fetal Lament: Homesick
This is Bride of Insect’s epic, placed on the middle of side B and clocking in at 4:35. The song starts off with a quiet, disorienting intro, as the listener makes the mistake of peeking ahead at the lyrical nightmare this song details (seriously, I generally go about 15 years in between sitting down with this album’s lyrics, and these ones stick with me, always, for better or for worse). It doesn’t take too too long for the band to devolve out of the quiet and into the blasting, grinding, blur-thrash, caustic-death they spend 99 percent of this album pummeling the listener with. Still, probably just given its length more than anything, this song packs more punch than most of the songs on this album, every single one of which is really quite awesome, it must be said.
Underneath all the production chaos, some songs here, like “Cremation,” actually resemble somewhat straight-ahead death metal, this song—which capped off side A on the cassette and vinyl—clocking in at a slightly longer 3:08 and containing songwriting that is actually writing, and actually results in a song. None of which takes away from its power and intensity; rather, the band giving the listener a very small amount of something to hold on to here only amped up the listening experience as the first half of this nightmare ended and the horrified longhair took a moment to reorient themselves before re-immersing themselves into Nuclear Death’s fever dream.
4. Stygian Tranquility
Not much tranquility to be found here, although four songs in to the album here the band finally relents a bit, at least in the “Stygian Tranquility”’s opening part. Then it’s blinders on and pure Repulsion/Autopsy carnage, Nuclear Death really taking things a step further and creating a sewer-grade vibe that would only become truly popular in 2017 and beyond in extreme music.
3. Corpse of Allegiance
The band plays with a relatively steady (relatively, remember) tempo here, things going from Teutonic-thrash bpm to hyper grind levels pretty fast, the song racing past in an appropriate blur for track two on such an intense album. Love the energy here, slightly less suffocating than on the horrid and beautiful opener “Necrobestiality.”
2. Feral Viscera
Bravo delivers a terrifying vocal performance on this killer quickie, and the playing of all three members is also terrifying, this 57-second rager really delivering on the promise the album has set up already: to go down into the depths of psychologically disoriented extreme death further than any band had up to this point. Mission accomplished.
The jarring, classic opener: just imagine putting this on in 1990 and hearing this oozing out of the speakers. It’s like Autopsy gone berserk, the “song” “structure” only barely existing, almost more as a sly nod and wink to the listener, who is just overwhelmed immediately by Bravo’s vocals, the bonkers drumming, and the disorienting production. All these years later, I still put this on and think, “This is how you start a goddamn album.” (And if you think all this is terrifying, go listen to Carrion for Worm next. See you in hell, my friends.)