Various Artists

Earplugged, Vol. 2

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Earache Records was the premiere death metal and grindcore label for almost ten years. Although other labels eventually equaled their success, Earache still kept a fantastic group of musicians in its roster to keep them vital to the heavy metal underground. This sampler, an inexpensive treat for metal fans, showcases the various artists signed by the label. Grindcore godfathers like Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror stand nose to nose with violent techno terrorists Ultraviolence and reggae metal extremists Dub War. But despite the variety of music inside, the strongest tracks come from the more traditional artists. At the Gates steals the show with their raging black metal anthem "Blinded By Fear," a memorable and strangely catchy mix of speeding riffs and screeching vocals. Cathedral offers one of its very best Sabbath rips with "Stained Glass Horizon," while Carcass uses its twin-guitar attack to beef up their answer to Neil Young's "Rocking in the Free World," "Keep on Rotting in the Free World." The other true highlight is Godflesh's hypnotic "Circle of Shit," a percussion-heavy mix of Saint Vitus-style metal filtered through Ministry's industrial sound. Only Iron Monkey seems out of place with their long, dull doom metal track "Big Loader." Otherwise, this is competent underground metal that will please most fans of the genre.

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