Years of Decay: 1991

19 min read

This Sunday we decided to bring you back in time. A journey to the STARS. This is the start of our new section where we randomly pick an year in time and every member carefully selects only one album from that year to present in detail to you.  The Best, The Rare…The Rest. This time we ended up with the amazing in the metal history year of 1991, and an epic selection of bands and albums. Many things began to change during that year, certain bands and genres began to decline, new ones appeared and went up like a hurricane, and others adapted, transformed or reshaped forever. Still 1991 left an enormous trail in the history of heavy music, giving birth to some of the best ever records.

About our list: each and every record below means something to all of us (actually all albums are special to all of us!) and there is a story from our youth, a memory behind, which stays forever. And all the music and all these memories still bring that sweet pain to life from those glorious YEARS OF DECAY.


CARCASS – “Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious”, Earache Records
[Highly recommended: the Full Dynamic Range edition (2013)]

If you’d only ever listened to Carcass’s first record, 1988’s ‘Reek of Putrefaction,’ you’d be patted on the head and forgiven for assuming they had absolutely no chance up against death metal’s devastatingly gifted Class of ’91. But lo, the three scuzzbags from Liverpool evolved over this short period into genre-bending pioneers, creating with ‘Necroticism’ an album that could confer a medical degree upon anybody who dared cast a passing gaze over the lyrics (if they could get through the experience without vomiting). read more

The addition of a second guitarist, the Swede Michael Amott (later, founder of Arch Enemy), originally had the intention of fleshing out the band’s live sound, but ended up expanding their range by taking them into a more catchy, melodious direction, helping them segue from their grindcore origins into death – even prog – territories.  The complementarity between founding guitarist Bill Steer and Amott is effortless; the leads dance with, rather than around, each other, with singer Jeff Walker’s witty liner notes helping us to identify precisely who is performing what technical surgery [one of my favourites is ‘Compost humous horticulture by W. G. Steer’].  It is difficult to believe that they were, in their words, ‘still learning to play,’ but such was their natural talent and their ability to draw it out of each other, aided by the sympathetic touch of producer Colin Richardson.

Opening track ‘Inpropagation’ is a personal highlight for Steer’s delicious little lead fills during the verses, and demonstrates a complexity and sophistication a notch above what’s gone before.  I feel compelled to also mention ‘Pedigree Butchery,’ purely for its thematic content (‘Human midden is consumed… Not one to mince my words / But now I love to see those siblings churned,‘ rasps the vegetarian Walker, exacting his revenge on the pet food industry).  All in all, ‘Necroticism’ more than holds its own against its contemporaries, and was my depraved pleasure to return to.

Jordan Summers Young

DEATH – “Human”, Relativity Records

After the disastrous outcome of the 1990 European tour that involved a “version” of Death touring Europe under contractual obligation sans Chuck Schuldiner, who decided against travelling had spawned another line-up change in the seemingly ‘revolving door policy’ of musicians that played in the band throughout Death’s career. As a result of legal action which resulted in the sacking of Terry Butler and Bill Andrews, Schuldiner decided on hiring session musicians for the creation of ‘Human’. This time around for album number 4, Schuldiner picked Steve DiGiorgio, Sean Reinert, and Paul Masvidal from Cynic – who 2 years later debuted with the technical death metal classic that is ‘Focus.’ read more

It became evident in their previous album ‘Spiritual Healing’ that Death started a shift in direction, which at times felt awkward to listen to; struggled to find a sense of cohesion while they took tentative steps in leaving behind a more straightforward and bludgeoning death metal attack, aiming for a more melodic and at times avant garde styling. In addition, the lyrical content steered away from the typical horror film type themes to a more cerebral base. However, upon the recording sessions for ‘Human’ and the learning curve from the previous album, it became apparent that the 1991 incarnation had finally honed its art to become an essential template for what other technical death metal bands aim to achieve and draw inspiration from.

The album aims for a complex blend of thrash and death metal, which can be rightfully argued as being something of a musical hybrid. As a result, this album can spark deep debate over whether it should be categorised as thrash metal, or death – because if one was to draw a venn diagram of this album it would err more towards the thrash metal side of the spectrum. Nevertheless, ‘Human’ is pretty much a near perfect example that’s in the higher echelons of extreme metal, that thoroughly deserves praise. The combination of DiGiorgio, Reinert, and Masvidal makes for a jaw dropping listen which blends together a bewitching and addictive brew of break neck riffing, thunderous drums and the feral roar of Schuldiner’s vocals underpinned by the dextrous bass playing of DiGiorgio making for the perfect musical backbone. The instrumental ‘Cosmic Sea’ is a  showcase that demonstrating insane levels of talent, fusing together progressive stylings and ferocity, while tracks such as ‘Vacant Planets’ show complex guitar riffing and elaborate guitar solos that never treads into the realms of self indulgence.

‘Human’ builds further upon the cerebral lyrical shift, tracks such as ‘Flattening of Emotions’ taking an existential narrative on society; while ‘Suicide Machine’ touches upon the topic of euthanasia with the lyrics “When it comes to living / no one seems to care / but when it comes to wanting out / those with power will be there”. In many ways, ‘Human’ comes across as a “Thinking man’s death metal album” which adds further depth and interest in what is already an incredible piece of musical art. In conclusion, ‘Human’ is an album that has become timeless, echoing through the ages and thoroughly imprinted into the very fabric of modern extreme metal, which is clearly evident when one listens to the likes of Obscura and Skeletonwitch that are essentially homages.

As a side note, ‘Human’ was reissued by Relapse Records and remixed under Morrisound studios that also includes bonus tracks. Legend has it that Sony had lost the original mixes of the album tapes, and it was deemed that a remix was necessary as a remaster of the original issue was deemed by Schuldiner’s estate to be a “rip off”. The remixed version features crisper drums and detail to the bass, while the original pressing would have certain camps deeming the mix to be somewhat dull and divide opinion while others would describe as a product of its time that should remain unaltered.  Whichever version is chosen is a subjective matter, that is best left to the decision of the listener’s choice.

Goth Mark

ATHEIST – “Unquestionable Presence”, Active Records / Music For Nations

When Floridian outfit Atheist released their debut ‘Piece of Time’ in 89 we were all pretty aware that we were witnessing the birth of a rather special band. Then bassist and song writer Roger Patterson died in a car accident. That was shit. 2 years later, working with the bass lines that Roger wrote, Atheist recruited Tony Choy and recorded ‘Unquestionable Presence’ – what is now considered one of the greatest Tech-Death Metal albums of all time. read more

Pioneers, no doubt – their influence can be heard in any current day Tech Death band. In ’91 this was a massive outlier in the scene – both compositionally and lyrically. The ‘Jazz’ word was brought up in review conversations, wacky time signatures and a progressiveness unheard of in the genre. Everything about ‘UP’ is simply astounding – the musicianship flawless, especially the drumming of Steven Flynn who along with Choy is responsible for the off-kilter syncopation and jazz like flurries that the band explores in intricate detail. It all sounds incredibly complex, hard to play and keep together. Then there is the uniqueness of Kelly Shaefer’s vocal approach – sticking firmly to the bands mantra of ‘nothing cliché’ Kelly’s work defies description in parts. Lyrically UP was also a departure for a Death Metal band – not that Atheist were ever a Cannibal Corpse themed outfit – but subjects about the human soul, psychology and alien visitation captured the albums overall deep thinking/cerebral feel. Add to this, incredible solo forays that add colour and depth, all wrapped up in a masterful Scott Burns production. Was super stoked to pick up one of 200 vinyl reissues last year – sounds as fresh, vibrant and masterful as ever. Absolutely ahead of their time! Mind blowing!

Released date: 30th August ,1991

Favorite tracks: Unquestionable Presence, Enthralled in Essence, Mother Man, An Incantations Dream, The Psychic Saw.

Kelly Shaefer – vocals, guitar
Rand Burkey – guitar
Tony Choy – bass
Steve Flynn – drums
Roger Patterson – bass (on tracks 9–15 on 2005 re-release)

Scott Burns – producer
Atheist – producers
Justice Mitchell – cover artwork


MASTER – “On the Seventh Day God Created…Master”, Nuclear Blast

1991 was a Killer Year for all types of Metal Releases! Many of my colleagues here at @BlessedAltarZin will share some of their favorites, and many more we will need to revisit at a later date. The album I chose was Master’s brutal second spinner “On the Seventh Day God Created…Master”! Master really was a band that was absolutely pioneering in the early days of Death Metal’s existence; a fact overlooked by most that they were creating their own recipe for disaster since 1983. read more

Many a Death Metal bands roots forming from the hardcore scene, while the modern versions of the genre also highly influenced by Slayer’s song structure; and the architecture of what we’ve had for sometime now. New band members in Master showcasing their relentlessness with intense repetition driven by Aaron Nickeas’s arrival on drums, and the brutal guitar sound with quite melodic soloing from Paul Masvidal(Cynic/Death). Ironically Death’s “Human” released this same year and was the only Death album that featured Masdival. Establishing that his early influence on technical Death Metal was gargantuan, not to mention the progressive styles on “Focus” as well. Add that to Paul Speckmann’s now guttural and quite distinctive voice and Master certainly created an instant classic, reminiscent to a cross of early Napalm Death meets Discharge? John Tardy lending some backup growls to Latitudinarian and Submerged In Sin to boot! Simply stated “On the Seventh Day God Created…Master” took a major leap forward from its self-titled debut only a year earlier. More complex song structures and extraordinary musicianship to go along with the shift in Speckmann’s vocal delivery significantly increased the sheer intensity and brutality to the overall performance of the recording and band!

Had this album been released a year later or earlier it would be discussed as being an essential album! But 1991 was a landmark year for the Death Metal scene and “On the Seventh Day God Created…Master” is sometimes lost in the 30 or so groundbreaking releases from this incredible year.

A band and album that require your attention and respect for their contributions to the genre as a whole. Revisiting has left my brain swollen from the dense and unrelenting pounding it just took! Highly recommended!

What Kind of God is Senseless and Weak…

Format Reviewed: Vinyl NB 054

DARKTHRONE – “Soulside Journey”, Peaceville Records

In 1991 I was 17 turning 18. My personal taste in metal evolved through the 80`s from Heavy metal to Thrash and then on to Death Metal. Around 89-90 I became aware of an evolving scene happening in Norway. Tapes where traded and copies where made from copies of copies. read more

Tapes from bands like Old Funeral, Embryonic and of course Mayhem`s Pure Fucking Armageddon where circulating at the time. The Cromlech demo (their 4th demo) was my first introduction to Darkthrone, and hearing that they had been signed to Peaceville where mind-blowing. At the time of release (13. January 1991) bands like Emperor, Satyricon and Enslaved still hadn’t released their first demos.

Going to my local record shop and picking up Soulside Journey on CD, was a gamechanger and a sign of what to come. The band themselves where not happy with the production, but to me it was the most intense album to date. The influences are all Death Metal legends and favorites like: Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Death & Nocturnus. This happening in boring Norway. The later shift to Black Metal, in itself worthy a longer article, has not taken away anything from this classic album. I think it probably is the most played album of my life.



PESTILENCE – “Testimony of the Ancients”, R/C Records

A few lines about this album chosen by me… It will be hard…
Such good memories from this time and listening to this album…

I admit that I only had knowledge this album in 93 when Spheres was released. Testimony of the Ancients was not the first one I heard from them but is the best one for me and the one is more marked in my memory. read more

The music…
Wonderful… Amazing… Spectacular… Excellent… Outstanding… Exceptionally good… Kvlt relic…

I remember trying to play the riffs on the guitar, especially the beginning from the “Twisted Truth” song…
I remember the times I heard this album with my beloved friend (The guy who introduced this band to me), doing headbanging in his living room. Drinking some beer. Trying to do the voice while we listen to the album.

The times I had the LP in my hand and looking to the front cover and admiring the same.
Talking and comparing them with other bands, especially Death.
Saying that we would like to see them live, but at that time in my country… Tchhhh… Especially foreign bands…

We had concerts, a few but we had. Remember that time that we were treated like criminals and drug addicts because we wore black clothes and we had long hair and earrings. ahahahahahahah. We didn’t care. Metal was our life.
Testimony of the Ancients marked me because of the music, they were different in that time. The riffs they used, the vocals, the songs they made…

I could write here a lot more memories, situations, the talks we had, but no need. The music talks by itself… Thanks for Pestilence for the good memories I have, thanks for the music that is amazing… Thanks a lot.

Thanks to my beloved friend who introduce Pestilence to me. I still have the LP in my home, and I already saw Pestilence 3 times. Rest in peace, my brother.

The Key Keeper

WHITE LION – “Mane Attraction”, Atlantic Records

WHITE LION’s classic lineup (Mike Tramp – vocal, Vito Bratta – guitars/backing vocals, James LoMenzo – bass/backing vocals & Greg D’Angelo – drums) gave the rock and metal fans worldwide, three absolutely solid albums between 1987 and 1991: “Pride”(1987), “Big Game” (1989) and “Mane Attraction” (1991). Some may say: “wait a moment: what about Fight To Survive?” While James and Greg were credited, they did not perform on the band’s debut album, which was recorded prior to them joining. Perhaps the most underrated album in the band’s history, “Mane Attraction”, the last to feature the classic lineup: shortly after it’s release (April 2, 1991), Greg and James left the band. Mike and Vito took on a brief album support tour, with Tommy Caradonna (bass) and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums). The band folded in September of 1991, after a final show in Boston. read more

Between 1999 and 2013 Mike Tramp attempted to revive the band: releasing some new and rerecorded material, and touring. However, without the classic lineup’s band members participation. All the classic lineup members of the band continue orbiting in music, with the exception of Vito Bratta, whom, for personal reasons, permanently retired from the music scene in 1992, at the peak of his guitar playing and song writing career. A great loss for the rock and metal world …

All twelve songs on “Mane Attraction” were written by Mike Tramp and Vito Bratta during the last two years prior to album’s release. Stylistically, the over sixty-three minutes of music on the album is a strong mix of guitar hooks oriented melodic hard rock (glam metal), with a few tastefully crafted ballads well placed within the album‘s flow. Thematically, the compositions were a continuation of the previous albums: political and social issues, anti-war, relationships, love and breakup. The album also contained White Lion’s only instrumental song, “Blue Monday”, a beautiful blues tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had died while the band was writing for the album. Four singles were released in 1991 from the album: “Love Don’t Come Easy”, “Broken Heart (‘91)”, “Light and Thunder” and “Out with the Boys” (rare promo single). Despite reaching #61 in the US Billboard 200 (the previous two albums both reaching top 20), and #31 in the UK charts, the album received little to no airplay, due to the arrival of Grunge. I’d have to say that the album was well received by the fans at the time of release, but unfortunately remained vastly overlooked by the masses of music fans. “Mane Attraction” was produced by the industry’s veteran, Ritchie Zito, credited with productions for: Joe Cocker, Cheap Trick, Bad English, Heart, Tyketto, Cher, The Cult, Poison, Ratt, Mr. Big, among many others. This great production remains relevant to this day, while offering smart and sensible lyrics and outstanding musical compositions, where Vito’s masterful playing fluidity and guitar tone, shines thru.

The genre enthusiast should also seek the 2004 released, limited edition, 500 copies – 6CD, boxset entitled “The Bootleg Series”, containing an entire CD of demos and preproduction tracks, under the title “Mane Attraction Start To Finish”.

Trivia: the album’s ballad tracks “You’re All I Need” and “Till Death Do Us Part” gained a huge amount of airplay in the Philippines. Not coincidently, these two love ballads remained on the global wedding playlists ever since.


Used by permission. © 2018 by Emil Chiru / UHF

RUMBLE MILITIA – “Stop Violence and Madness”, Century Media Records

Hailing from Bremen, Germany, the quartet  delivered their best album at all with “Stop Violence and Madness” and a totally overlooked by many thrash/crossover gem. The band actually encompassed much more than that. “Stop Violence and Madness” was their third length record by that time (plus some EPs) and delivered big time and pure pleasure for myself. read more

It was my first touch with the band. I still remember the times when I bought and listened the record for the first time. It was the late autumn of 1991, and I was crazy about getting new stuff constantly by walking around the pirate music studios in Sofia.

Few important facts. With the immigrants Staffi Agoropoulos (from Greece; guitar and vocals) and Hacki Onuk (Turkey; lead guitar) as core members of the band, and the times band was playing, it is obvious why the main topics of Rumble Militia have always been anti-nazism, anti-fascism and anti-commercialism. Even their coverarts showed a trend by that time with certain way of presenting the political ideas behind (think of Risk, Evildead, Sacred Reich).

Musically Rumble Militia always carried that punk and even -wave feeling in some of their tracks. This absolute variety can be heard in all tracks of “SVaM”. The album opens with the “Tubular bells”-sounding Intro which rapidly jumps into benchmarking aggressive thrash/cross over track”Boys In Blue” (- F*ck you!). The line is continued by “Reflection of Your Videoprogramme” (lyrically so ahead of it’s time back then), combined frantic and middle parts, with pissed vocals. Suddenly the album is changed by wave-risque and punky “You Sure”, the track which actually lit me up for this album in November 1991. The raging “Stop This Shit” is a track against the violence and experiments to animals; another ultra catchy and played superbly. Same goes about the “Save Yourself” (On mother earth which we’ll clearly destroy!/You have to kill, you have to die for those at the top/ Columbia, El Savador, Iraq, Isreal, Russia, Vietnam, South Africa/Everywhere it’s the same game, it’s burning/Why are we the victims of power?). “Way of Violence” and “Kindergarten’82” are also thrash tracks with punky patterns, absolutely against the violence and hate. “Waiting for Death” is super aggressive track in the total thrash traditions with slowly heavy, double bass parts and exploding middle. “Stop Violence and Madness” closes the album in the best possible way, completing the direction the band showed so far.

Many will say that there are certain influences in RM music by some of the biggest bands (Slayer, Sacred Reich, D.R.I, Gothic Slam, Voivod, Cro-Mags, Metallica, even Bad Religion), however I might argue with that. In times when the music was under development, all the new influences coming from Seattle, and when the bands were playing with big fire in their eyes, Rumble Militia delivered own ultra solid product, which unfortunately was missed by many. Reasons could be various. To wrap it up – it is an excellent combination of melodies, aggression, tempo and musicianship. Put on top all the memories. You got it.

For those of us who met this album on their path, it is full 10/10.

You’re looking for reason
You think its hate
You Fuck someone else up
You fuck yourself up everyday
Stop violence and madness
change your life to human life

Count Vlad


THERION – “Of Darkness….”, Deaf Records

Arising out of the early beginnings of the Swedish death metal scene with already a few EP demos, the Stockholm band Therion would release their first full-length album on Deaf Records called “Of Darkness….”. read more

Hearing out this classic death metal master piece on tape for the first time with its chunky riffing, monstrous & reverbed vocals with melodic solos and dark atmospheres, I knew at that point I had something unique here. At this time, this was not something that I was overly used to or familiar with but it truly took me by surprise. I was hooked and I knew from that point on this would be an influence for me and would also end up being one of the great old school death metal releases of its time. Even though Therion would start to change their style soon after in their career and begin to experiment, to eventually go on to the opera avant-garde metal style band they are now, “Of Darkness….” would always hold its place for me. It was and still is one of my favourite releases for 1991.

Eldritch of Death


BEHERIT – “The Oath Of Black Blood”, Turbo Music

While Norway often gets credit as ground zero for the second wave of black metal, the elements leading up the the explosion of the style were more of an international affair. Before 1987, black metal was a tag given to heavy metal bands like Venom from the UK, Mercyful Fate from Denmark, or Kat from Denmark. Even Sweden’s  Bathory, with the 1984 self-titled debut, was more of a thrash or speed metal album with blackened tones than a proper black metal album. read more

The album’s followup, The Return, would showcase some of the first proper black metal in terms of sound – the exceptionally raw production and thin tones cranked to the max, as well as the atmosphere that permeates the record all help provide the roadwork Quorthon needed to go through to pave the way to 1987’s Under The Sign Of The Black Mark. In the same year in Norway, Mayhem released their Deathcrush EP. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Sarcófago releases their debut album, I.N.R.I., which pushed the already haphazardly aggressive Brazilian style of thrash into a pro to black/death sound. In Canada, Blasphemy’s Fallen Angel Of Doom demo started making the rounds through tape-trading networks in 1989, followed by their first proper full-length the following year in 1990.

Enter Beherit, the brainchild of Finnish teenager Marko Laiho, known also as Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance. An active participant in the underground tape-trading network, Laiho began recording demos at the age of eighteen with him on guitar and vocals and supported by Sadomatic Slaughter on drums and Demon Fornication handling bass duties. Two demos, Seventh Blasphemy and Demonomancy, as well as two rehearsal demos came in 1990 and the band was offered a record deal with Turbo Music, who released Beherit’s Dawn of Satan’s Millennium EP in 1991, and gave about 50€ to the band for the recording of their debut full-length, The Oath Of Black Blood.

Even with the benefits of cheaper recording of our current time, it would be near-impossible to record a proper full-length with 50€, much less back when the bare minimum cost would be in the hundreds. Knowing this, Beherit wisely invested their money from Turbo Music in beer. Turbo responded by compiling the Dawn Of Satan’s Millennium EP and the Demonomancy demo and secretly releasing it as The Oath Of Black Blood without the band’s knowledge.

While technically a compilation, The Oath Of Black Blood is widely considered to be Beherit’s debut album, marking the beginning of a long and sporadic history of odd releases of an unorthodox discography, to say the least. Poorly recorded, sloppily played (it sounds like Laiho is learning to play guitar as the band is recording), and fully reliant on passion and aggression to deliver the music, Black Blood is an essential slice of the more primal bestial black metal style. The drums are not so much played as pummeled, beating the listener into submission as the deliciously guttural vocals vomit auditory black bile into the ears. The structure of the songs are haphazard and are more in line with that of grindcore than what is typically expected from listeners more accustomed to the more refined Norwegian Black metal style, or even that of the more whispered incantations on Beherit’s follow-up, the doomier and more atmospheric Drawing Down The Moon. In fact, no two Beherit releases are stylistically alike, aside from Laiho’s solo ambient works that followed DDTM.

While maybe not the most easily accessible work, The Oath Of Black Blood retains a special spot in the history of black metal. From being one of the most primitive and raw releases ever to be put to wax to the cover art design by Chris Moyen (aka Thorncross), who’s work would become synonymous with the style, designing cover art for similar bands such as fellow Finns in Archgoat or that of US bestial black metal tyrants Morbosidad. The Oath Of Black Blood stands as a testimony to all that is dark, evil, and above all, bestial.


If you liked what you read, now you can also listen to our YEARS OF DECAY: 1991 Playlist below. Enjoy great music and aways #SupportTheUnderground!

*due to unavailability of Beherit’s record on Spotify, we added a track from the “Drowing Down The Moon”,  which track seems closest to the style of “The Oath”


Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre

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