Various Artists

Deathmeister, Vol. 1

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At a time when death metal had gained widespread popularity throughout the world, yet also lost much of its pioneering spirit in that push towards mass exposure, Metal Blade Records sure weren't afraid to declare their continued faith in the genre with this 1998 compilation, Deathmeister, Vol. 1. And, to that purpose, Deathmeister, Vol. 1 was certainly well equipped, packaging a total of 15 songs by 14 bands (Ancient being the sole provider of two songs, one of which had no business being here -- more on that later) at a budget-friendly price of $5.98. These tracks also represented several different types of extreme metal popular at the time: crunchy but complex gore-grind (Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under); heroic, sword-wielding Viking death metal (Amon Amarth); post-Gothenburg melodic death metal (God Dethroned, the Everdawn); full-blown black metal of the stripped down, all-guns-blazing (Dark Funeral, Defleshed, Enthroned) and symphonic varieties (Ancient, Lord Belial, Hecate Enthroned, Midvinter, Mithotyn); and even, just plain poorly executed, crap death metal (Gates of Ishtar). As for that lone exception to the rule, that would be Ancient's absolutely painful "Morte al Potere"; a portentous and truly horrendous collision of flutes, acoustic guitars, harpsichords, and tuneless, warbling female vocals that one can't imagine sounding any less cringe-inducing in 1998 than it does today. But, hey, what's past is past and, that bizarre bit of stylistic miscasting aside, Deathmeister, Vol. 1 delivers an enticing cross section of that year's extreme metal pool, without quite leaving one wondering too much about why there never was a Vol. 2.

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