We’ve reached the mid-point of our retrospective across the 25 year history of Earache Records, and today we’re revisiting our own formative years with the label – that confusing period for metal from the late 90s through to the dawn of the new millenium. Today we’re tacking records from Iron Monkey, Cathedral, AxCx, Decapitated and….err….Mortiis, so it does go to show that not the entire metal world was embracing wallet chains and baggy jeans during this era.
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.
1997: Anal Cunt – I Like It When You Die
There’s an awful, awful lot we could write about the awful, awful man that was Seth Putnam. About the alleged four times he was pronounced legally dead. About the two years he spent in a drug-induced coma. About that ridiculously offensive photo of him shooting up with heroin while getting a blowjob. Or about his death last year from a heart attack aged just 43. Instead, we’ll just say that his band, Anal Cunt, were inarguably the most offensive band ever to find a place among the Earache roster, being the only band that the label decided to stop working with over matters of taste. Since I Like It When You Die was (apparently) Putnam’s favourite record by his band, we’ve picked it as our 1997 entry in our retrospective.
1998: Iron Monkey – Our Problem
There are no British sludge bands who can claim to be in the same league as Iron Monkey. They are peerless. We had a tough choice between picking this or their self-titled debut for inclusion in our list, but in the end we had to plump for Our Problem simply because it received its first release on the label (as opposed to Iron Monkey appearing on Earache as a re-release). The band split in 1999, and following the demise of frontman Johnny Morrow following a heart attack in 2002, we’ll never know if there was a chance that the forces of history would’ve eventually drawn them back together again. To put their long reach into perspective, we asked Paul Kenney from Fukpig/Mistress, to explain why Iron Monkey are so special to him:
“Without Iron Monkey I wouldn’t have created Mistress or Fukpig. Still to this day, Iron Monkey is the benchmark I go back to again and again. ‘Supagorgonizor’ is the starting point for nearly every song I write, and in fact, on the new Kroh album, I limited myself to only drum beats found on Our Problem.”
1999: Mortiis – The Stargate
So….Mortiis. For those of you young enough not to remember him, Mortiis was the bass player on the first ever Emperor album (Wrath of the Tyrant) but he left the band soon after that record’s release to follow a solo-career. A solo-career that mainly involved wearing a giant rubber troll nose and making electro-goth records. We asked Earache Label Manager, Dan Tobin, for his memories of The Stargate:
“Memories of this period are so varied. Its no exaggeration to say I became obsessed with Mortiis and all his recordings from the late 90s onwards. I was completely fascinated by the guy, by his reasons for quitting black metal after contributing to one of the genres pivotal albums and going out on a limb like he did. The whole concept of the prosthetics, the music, the image, the mystery, the solitary vision – I loved it.
I started writing to him and we built up quite a correspondence. I’d buy his records and he’d educate me a little on non-metal stuff, though we still had mutual Metal ground with Maiden and Venom and NWOBHM. Anyway he came to England to play the Whitby Goth Fest of all things so I took the chance, went up there and met him. It was actually a little disappointing that he was wearing a Killers T shirt and bullet belt, but we bonded over Newcastle Brown Ale and then I got to carry him onstage in a coffin so it all ended well. The show was amazing, a mix of the lunatic and the absurd.
When we eventually signed him the fun began. All the non-metal press picked up on it and Mortiis was happy to play along. It was ridiculous at times, but exhilarating to work something so different and that divided so much opinion. I remember one well known editor of a well known Metal publication telling me how he would ‘never feature that stupid troll in his magazine’. A couple of years later he was on the cover of said magazine, and nearly breaking the Top 40. To me that’s the true embodiment of Earache – taking the hated and the misunderstood and making it happen, changing opinions and doing the music we want much to the annoyance and sometimes mirth of others. Well fuck ‘em. Mortiis is cool as shit.
2000: Decapitated – Winds Of Creation
When the Thrash Hits writers were arguing amongst themselves over what album to include for which year in our retrospective, Tom Dare’s answer for the year 2000 was brief: “Winds Of Creation or GTFO”. And we can’t argue with that.
Winds Of Creation is, was, and always will be a flat-out astonishing record. The various then-members of Decapitated were aged just 15, 16, 17 and 18 during the writing and recording of this record, and given the sheer brutal technical wizardry on display, even now that fact blows us away.
Of course, a fatal bus crash struck Decapitated in 2007, which killed Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka and left then-frontman Adrian “Covan” Kowanek with severe head injuries that have left him virtually paralysed. But Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka continued drive to continue to honour the memory of his brother, Vitek, and to help raise money for the continued care of Covan show that there was always more to Decapitated than their prestigious talents – Decapitated was a band with more heart and soul than pretty much every technical death metal going.
2001: Cathedral – Endtyme
We could’ve picked any of Cathedral’s releases on Earache for our list – it was mere co-incidence that the choices we made for other years on our list forced Endtyme as our choice for Lee Dorian and co’s entry in our retrospective. The former Napalm Death frontman’s flexibility as a musician – being able to make the jump from a hardcore crust act to the godfather of doom isn’t something most metal musicians could ever hope to achieve – is enough on its own to warrant Cathedral’s inclusion in our list, but that it falls to the last album they released on Earache is just icing on the moody cake.
We’ve passed the halfway mark when it comes to our year-by-year discography retrospective of Earache Records’ back catalogue – check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already, and be sure to come back tomorrow for part four when we’ll be delving into 2002 to 2006.