Various Artists – Death Is Just The Beginning, MMXVIII Review

Nuclear Blast’s Death Is Just The Beginning compilation series returns with a vengeance 7/10  

Death is Just the Beginning

In 1990 Nuclear Blast released the first Death Is Just The Beginning compilation which showcased their death metal artists, most of whom were fairly underground as death metal itself was a very new genre. As Nuclear Blast’s roster grew so did the compilations as they became 2 CDs packed with unreleased tracks by cult bands and newcomers like Dimmu Borgir, Amorphis and Meshuggah, helping to launch careers. By 2002 Death Is Just The Beginning was no longer about death metal bands and now included Manowar and Helloween, before it just vanished.

16 years later and Death Is Just The Beginning has arisen from the grave in its original form – 16 tracks of death metal and no compromises.

Benediction open the album with some slow heavy riffing to ease us in gently with the demo of new song Tear Off These Fucking Wings. I wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this album as I haven’t listened to death metal regularly since 1994 but Benediction remind me of why I loved this genre.  Kataklysm immediately switch gears with the far more frantic re-recorded version of The Awakener, so in the first two tracks we’re given almost the opposite ends of what death metal can be.

Hypocrisy‘s cover of The Exploited‘s They Lie is interesting and oddly illustrates how punk and death/grindcore aren’t too different from each other, something I’d never noticed before. The Spirit sound like they’ve stepped through a time warp from 1994 with their classic sounding black metal. Illuminate The Night Sky is taken from their Sounds of the Vortex album which was released last year, which black metal fans really need to invest in.

Unfortunately for Memorium, their offering is a rough demo sandwiched between The Spirit and Insidious Disease. It’s a good song and their fans will appreciate the inclusion here but it’s a track which needs to be listened to in isolation to appreciate it because it gets dwarfed by the tracks either side of it.

Possessed are so good, the demo of Abandoned leads us to Thy Art Is Murder. Again there’s a big contrast in styles here and I wish whoever compiled the album had made the transitions a less of a jump. Thy Art Is Murder are insanely heavy but next to Possessed it just sounds like noise.  Immolation have chosen to cover Morbid Visions which seems to be a really strange decision because a) it’s not really one of Sepultura‘s best tracks from that era b) they don’t really add anything to it and c) the production is only slightly better than the Sepultura version which sounds like it was recorded with a dictaphone from a mile away.

Nailed To Obscurity have a decent entry here and Bleeding Gods thankfully follow them with the insanely good Beloved By Artemis. Decapitated‘s cover of Meshuggah‘s Sane is enjoyable and is something different here as the sound is a breath of fresh air. I have an irrational hatred of prog so Aenimus‘ prog/death metal hybrid is not for me but they are talented and some of Before The Eons is very good. I’m sure fans of the genre will love this and Aenimus are so good that they could possibly convert death fans to prog.

Someone went very deep into the archives to unearth Paradise Lost‘s Frozen Illusion which hails from 1994! Ah back in the days when Paradise Lost and Anathema were both death/doom bands, there was no internet, buses were still red and Friends had just started. Oh those were the days! It’s a good song and a reminder of how solid Paradise Lost are, no matter what genre they wander into.

Likewise, Carcass are always great and A Wraith In The Apparatus from 2013’s Surgical Steel is a great addition to this compilation.

Unfortunately the compiler of this album decided to end it with Brujeria which is easily the  worst effort on here. Brujeria were interesting when they were alleged to be a group of drug dealing Mexican criminals but when the internet revealed that it was actually a “supergroup”, the mystique which made them interesting died. Brujeria aren’t actually bad but if you’re going to have someone impersonate Donald Trump then it’s probably an idea to get someone who sounds somewhat like him or just get the rights to use the sample of his speech. Without the intro and outro this would have been fine.

Death Is Just The Beginning was always intended to be a sampler for bands on Nuclear Blast and give listeners a taste of what was available. It was a great way to introduce new bands along with established bands and this volume has done a really good job of that, even if one of the established bands’ tracks is from 24 years ago.

The Good:

  • Newcomers The Spirit, Bleeding Gods and Aenimus really stand out here and Nailed To Obscurity also put in a good showing.
  • Carcass are so good that they can make even the best bands look bad. The person compiling the album has sensibly put them next to Paradise Lost who can hold their own.
  • Likewise Aenimus’ unique and intricate style means they don’t get overshadowed by Paradise Lost
  • Benediction
  • Insidious Disease
  • Memorium get the poo end of the stick with a demo and they get stuck in between two very good bands. Definitely give their song a play on its own as they are very good.

The Bad:

  • There can be a massive contrast between tracks rather than a natural ebb and flow. One minute you have slow guttural melodic death and the next ultra fast screeching.
  • Brujeria. At the end of an album you need a song which makes you want to play the album again, surely it would have been best to end with Carcass and put a different Brujeria song elsewhere in the album?

Overall this is well worth picking up and has made me interested in checking out a number of bands, which is the intended effect. One of the best things in life is finding new music and this is a great way to do so.