Whether or not you need to acquire The Early Years: Dawn of Darkness depends on how much of a Witchery fan you are. If you have only a casual interest in Witchery, you can pass. But if you consider yourself a hardcore Witchery collector and a death metal historian, you need to own this CD. Why? Because Satanic Slaughter was essentially Witchery, but with Stephan Dark on bass instead of Sharlee D'Angelo. Dark was the Swedish headbanger who founded Satanic Slaughter, and when he parted company with the band's other members, a name change was in order. Nonetheless, Satanic Slaughter and Witchery are pretty much the same band; four of the five Swedes who are heard on The Early Years: Dawn of Darkness went on to play with Witchery. Not surprisingly, the '90s recordings on this 25-track, 67-minute CD (which contains the Satanic Slaughter and Land of the Unholy Souls albums in their entirety) are similar to Witchery's work -- similar, but not identical. Like Witchery, Satanic Slaughter is blistering but less predictable and more musical than other Scandinavian death metal/black metal outfits. And unlike some Swedish death metallers, Satanic Slaughter doesn't play at an ultra-fast tempo 100 percent of the time. The tempos vary, which keeps things from being so one-dimensional. The main difference between these recordings and Witchery's work is the fact that the latter is better-produced and more polished; Witchery owes more to the melodic metal of the '70s and '80s. The Early Years is very raw, which won't make it any less interesting to death metal/black metal historians and serious collectors.
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