The Top 20 Decibel Flexis of All Time (For Now)

To celebrate the release of our historic 100th Decibel Flexi Series release, Decibel’s editor-in-chief and series curator impartially counts down 20 of the most memorable musical moments on collectible floppy vinyl.

“Among the Arches of Intolerance”/”In Pain”
Maybe I subconsciously already knew this, but it’s now pretty clear that every 50th flexi has to be from a grind band. Or, for you annoying purists who only listen to Agathocles rehearsal tapes, “grind-influenced” bands. Either way, this pair of Nails burners—the latter of which was re-recorded for the band’s last LP—storms through in exactly two minutes. They should have ample time to record more material for DB150.

“Immolation” (2016 Version)
Last year, At the Gates contributed a re-recorded version of “Raped by the Light of Christ” to the series to celebrate the track’s 25th anniversary. Their legendary death metal contemporaries Immolation pulled the same trick two years earlier, tracking an absolutely scathing rendition of “Immolation” from 1991’s classic Dawn of Possession (or the band’s first demo in 1988, if you require tape-trading cred). Fun fact: The flexi was mixed and mastered by Dawn of Possession producer Harris Johns.

“Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing”
There’s a distinct lack of black metal compared to other subgenres in the Decibel Flexi Series. So, when a black metal track does it appear, it’s gotta be special—like the first new Panopticon song following the completion of Austin Lunn’s epic trilogy of albums from Kentucky to Autumn Eternal. Lunn cautioned that “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing” would be different, reflecting the social and political climate of late 2016. He wasn’t lying. It’s pissed.

“Key of the Eidolon”
This song was originally planned to be the outro for the band’s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages album, but with a total runtime exceeding 70 minutes, the group abandoned the track at the 11th hour. At least until I invited them to contribute a song to the Decibel Flexi Series, which is when SubRosa rewrote the outro and “Key of the Eidolon” emerged as the final thematic piece of the record. Or, as frontwoman Rebecca Vernon puts it, “The album brings up a lot of questions, and ‘Key of the Eidolon’ is the answer.”

“Vengeance of the Blind Dead” (Flexi Version)
You’ll notice the subtitle of “Flexi Version” here. That’s because a different version of this track was originally intended to be included on the doom progenitors’ swan song, 2013’s The Last Spire. Somewhere along the way, that plan changed, as “Vengeance of the Blind Dead” was left off the final version and only lives on in Flexi Series form. Spanish templars arise again for one final time.

This may sound ridiculous, but I was actually invited to choose between this track and a couple others from the band’s Surgical Steel sessions, which eventually wound up on their Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel EP a year later. “Zochrot” was eventually featured there, too, which is important because the issue of Decibel that this flexi was included in sold out immediately. Jeff Walker’s “smiling” face on the cover surely helped, but this flexi disc certainly didn’t hurt.

Spirit Adrift
“Eyes Were Not Alive”
Spirit Adrift’s sophomore LP Curse of Conception was our #2 album of 2017, and “Eyes Were Not Alive” is arguably better than any song on that album. The Arizonians’ rocket ascent from Nate Garrett’s solo project to fully-armed classic heavy metal killing machine is hardly complete, though. Just wait for their next record, Divided by Darkness, to surface in June, which will likely feature a re-recorded version of this essential banger.

“Empty Throne”
Only our friends in Khemmis, who regularly fashion 12-minute doom rock epics, would describe a six-minute song as “concise,” but that’s the word they used to explain what their Flexi Series contribution sounded like before I heard it. Maybe it was because they tracked “Empty Throne” simultaneously with their cover of “A Conversation With Death” for a split 7-inch with fellow series vets Spirit Adrift, but they definitely proved surprisingly adept at the single format. See “Isolation” from last year’s Desolation album for further refinement.

KEN mode
“Fractures in Adults”
Despite 100 songs stuffed with blistering blast beats, superhuman guitar-shredding and subterranean vomit vocals, leave it to a noise-rock band to deliver the heaviest track in the history of the series. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact the this was originally just a demo for a version of the song that later appeared on last year’s Loved. Sure, it sounded clearer on the finished record, but it wasn’t this fucking heavy.

Brutal Truth
“Walking Corpse 2112”/“You Should Know Better”
Don’t worry—we were properly dead from the start. Former BT vocalist and dB columnist Kevin Sharp deserves all the credit for helping revive the idea of flexi discs as part of the magazine in 2010. It was only natural that the inaugural entry in the Flexi Series should be from Brutal Truth. Notable as the only flexi sponsored by Scion. They don’t make cars anymore, but we still make flexis.

I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for Obituary. And by this, I mean Decibel. That’s because Cause of Death was the first pure death metal album I ever owned, so the fact that the death metal legends contributed a song to the series—not to mention performed as main support to Kreator on the 2017 Decibel Tour—definitely qualifies as a “pinch me” moment. I’ll even forgive John Tardy growling actual lyrics over it.

Municipal Waste
“Religion Proof”
I think Dave Witte is still secretly bummed that this track didn’t make the final cut for the band’s 2012 album, The Fatal Feast (Waste in Space). And you know what? He should be. “Religion Proof” is an absolute bible-bashing thrash ripper that stacks up against anything the Richmond (craft) beer-bongers have recorded in the past decade. The fact that it found its way into Decibel’s grimy paws definitely feels like a rare bank error in our favor.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed
“Merry Chrystmeth”
ANb are the only act with three Decibel flexis to their name, and each one is vastly different in concept. This was the second in what was originally planned to be an annual holiday-related flexi song from the band. Then we all realized how fucking bonkers and unrealistic that idea was. It’s a minor miracle that we even birthed two of these into the world. “All I want for Christmas is to chew solid food!” J Randall > Charles Dickens.

“Locust Star” (1995 demo)
Christ, I almost forgot about this. When I pitched the idea of a Neurosis flexi to Steve Von Till to include in our special Neurosis issue of Decibel, I honestly didn’t expect him to have anything available, let alone turn around and provide us with an unearthly demo version of my all-time favorite Neurosis song. If Scott Kelly’s refrain of “star reign down on you” doesn’t spark a primal response deep inside, why are you even reading this magazine?

“Fear and Fury”
At a mere five minutes and 52 seconds, “Fear and Fury” was Pallbearer’s first, uh, radio single. But in reality, it’s just as epic as any of the band’s signature 10-minute monoliths; it just doesn’t waste a single moment or movement. Very fond memories of lugging Vallenfyre merch through the main floor of a sold-out Webster Hall during the 2015 Decibel Tour as Pallbearer soundtracked that experience with a live rendition of “Fear and Fury.”

Pig Destroyer
“The Cavalry”
Way back in 2007, Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull expressed interest in recording a PD flexi disc for Decibel. Only one problem: No one on earth was producing them. Fast forward to late 2010, and Pirates Press begins pressing flexis. The series was born in November 2010, but the Pig Destroyer flexi master wasn’t delivered until November 2018. One spin of the Harmony Corruption/World Downfall-style onslaught later, and it’s clear it was totally worth the wait.

In Solitude
“Mother of Mercy” (original by Samhain)
I hate the Misfits. I hate Samhain. I don’t like more than a handful of Danzig songs from the first three albums. Believe me, I have tried. Yet, I fucking love this rendition of “Mother of Mercy.” I believe the now-disbanded Swedes actually recorded this cover in their rehearsal space, but it still sounds massive. This is the only cover that cracked this list because—for my money—it actually outshines the original.

Napalm Death
“Legacy Was Yesterday”
Getting your favorite band to write and record a new song specifically for you is kind of a big deal, so I’m going to attempt to play this one cool. This was also just a few months into the series and, if I remember correctly, was the first new, original song that a band submitted (the series featured only live songs, covers, re-recordings or unused material to that point). This felt like legitimization of the series. Plus, the song just crushes.

Fresh off their 2015 Decibel album of the year winner Anareta, Philly/Virginia death metal progressives Horrendous hopped back to Damian Herring’s Subterranean Watchtower Studio over a weekend to complete a song they began writing during the Anareta sessions, but never quite finished. Note the eerie similarities between “Sentenced”’s main riff and Judas Priest’s “Lightning Strike” from 2018. Note to self: Check if Richie Faulkner has an active deluxe subscription.

OK, maybe we’re little biased here, but when Dutch death metal legends secretly write a theme song for the magazine that rages like a cross between prime Motörhead and Decibel Hall of Famer The Rack, nothing—and I mean fucking nothing—is gonna keep you out of the pole position. Turn it up for De-ci-bel! But mostly, turn it up for Asphyx.

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