It’s Day 2 of our retrospective across the 25 years of Earache Records, and today we’re charging through the mid-1990s with records from Brutal Truth, Sleep, Fudge Tunnel, Pitchshifter and At The Gates. Today we’ve even grabbed some expert opinions from some of the people who were working at the label at the time of the release, as well as some of the musicians who’ve felt the influence of these records right down to their riff-soaked bones.
Remember guys, we’ve got some rules for this list –
1) Only one album per year of the label’s existence.
2) Only one album per band.
In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 of the retrospective. How did you miss it? It was just yesterday. You’ve gone wrong.
1992: Brutal Truth – Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses
While Napalm Death arguably gave British and European grindcore their first formative templates to aspire to, it was Brutal Truth’s Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses record that ended up being the keystone release for many stateside practitioners of grind. By this stage in the label’s life, Earache was still regarded by many as a “grind label”, something that the label would eventually take steps to move away from in order to commercially survive, but in the early 1990s, the label was definitely still one of the premium purveyors of the nastiest, ugliest, most abrasive genres in heavy music.
1993: Sleep – Holy Mountain
We decided to go outside the immediate Earache family for a comment on the influence of Sleep’s Holy Mountain on stoner and doom metal. And who better than Jon Davis, guitarist/vocalist in our favourite Liverpudlian warriors of the riff, Conan, who Sleep themselves asked to support them in Oslo earlier this year:
“This album isn’t just a great album, it’s actually one of the most important albums in the style of music the press call ‘stoner/metal/whatever’. Despite the impact of Dopesmoker, the album cuts even deeper for me because of the variety of riffs on display. This album bridges the gap between classic ‘early’ style Sabbath and present-day metal, with its aggressive take on riffs and tone. Many bands have been influenced by Sleep and we are no different, so we are grateful for this album. Hail Sleep, long live Sleep….”
1994: Fudge Tunnel – The Complicated Futility of Ignorance
The third and final Fudge Tunnel record is a fine album, sure, but it’s not really why we wanted to include it in our retrospective. Fudge Tunnel are one of those bands who’s influence runs deep in heavy music not necessarily for their recorded output (we were always more partial to Nailbomb, the side-project of Fudge Tunnel founder, Alex Newport, and Max Cavalera, than we ever really were of Newport’s parent band). But Fudge Tunnel were one of the first bands Earache signed as part of wider scheme to expand outside the grind/extreme metal origins of the label, which is why we wanted to include at least include them in our retrospective – Fudge Tunnel’s presence on Earache characterises the label’s willingness to mutate to survive, which is clearly one of the reasons the indie label is still with us today.
1995: At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Soul
We asked Dan Tobin, Earache’s Label Manager, what his memories of At The Gates’ final album – and also probably their most influential, given the long shadow is casts over modern melodic death metal and the early instigators of Stateside metalcore – 1995’s Slaughter of the Soul:
“Everyone in the scene knew that At the Gates were the band to make something happen – they just had pushed the envelope so far with the songwriting on Terminal Spirit Disease, they’d really hit on a perfect mix of melody and aggression. I remember vividly listening to a couple of demo tracks in the car with Tomas Lindberg on a journey to London – I think it was the song ‘Under A Serpent Sun’ and we were just so pleased with it, it seemed to have everything boiled down into a perfect blend. On the same journey I remember we listened to Life of Agony’s Ugly album a lot and Tomas remarking about the lyric in the song ‘Lost at 22’ – when I heard his vocal on the Slaughter… track ‘Cold’ I knew (I think) where the “22 years of pain…” lyric came from. Everyone was inspired by all kind of things those days, the book was wide open…
“Another memory I have is picking up Mitch Dickinson from London after he had been to the mastering session of the album, he had the masters in his possession and he was just raving about the record and how awesome it was. And then…nothing much. It got a few good reviews and we blagged them onto a European tour supporting Unleashed, nothing glamourous 🙁
“And that’s how it went – they toured like crazy, the underground got it and responded but above ground little changed – no-one was calling it the future of metal or anything. The band split, In Flames got all the glory and then slowly but surely Slaughter of the Soul got the recognition it so richly deserved. Talk about a slow burner.”
1996: Pitchshifter – Infotainment?
We’ve already talked about Pitchshifter in recent weeks – although the period we looked at in our Midweek Bootleg a while back came after the band’s time with Earache Records. As with Barney Greenway from yesterday’s Napalm Death selection, these days there’s no love lost between Earache boss Digby Pearson and the band’s frontman, JS Clayden. Infotainment?, however, remains the important bridge between Pitchshifter’s earlier, slower, more industrial sound, and that of the faster, more cyber-ised (is that even a word? Whatever – you know what I mean), punkier approach that would see them reach their commercial zenith – something that wouldn’t happen until after the band had left Earache Records under the bitterest of circumstances.
We’re ten years into our year-by-year discography retrospective of Earache Records’ back catalogue – check out Part 1 if you haven’t already, and be sure to come back tomorrow for part three when we’ll be taking on 1997 to 2001