The penultimate entry in our retrospective across the 25 years of Earache Records has us looking at two of our favourite albums the label ever put out. Yep, today we’re looking at releases from Cult of Luna and Akercocke. Oh, and Hate Eternal, The Haunted, and The Berzerker.
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.
2002: Hate Eternal – King of All Kings
Yeah…2002 was a pretty thin year for Earache Records. If it wasn’t for the fact that Hate Eternal’s competition for the 2002 slot on our list was decimated by our not-repeating-bands rule, they might’ve lost out on this one. King of All Kings is a fine record, sure, but it’s not a world-beater. But if a label like Earache is going to survive for two and half decades, expecting every album that they release to be a classic is a mistake. It’s records like King of All Kings – functional, bread-and-butter records – that keep labels surviving from day to day. For that reason alone , as a representative of all the non-classic albums that Earache have put out, but nonetheless helped keep the label going, we’re including it in our retrospective.
2003: The Haunted – One Kill Wonder
After Peter Dolving quitting The Haunted back in February, many fans of the band held out hope that there could be a reunion of the band’s Made Me Do It/One Kill Wonder era. Sadly this proved not to be the case, as a few months later there was an implosion of the rest of the band’s line-up. Those two albums saw The Haunted at their most bullish, with the band fronted at the time by Marco Aro, who’s overally style gave The Haunted some serious muscle. One Kill Wonder would also be the final album that Marco Aro recorded for the band as lead vocalist, before the return of the ever-controversial Peter Dolving for 2004’s rEVOLVEr, so in that respect for many fans it marked a high-point for The Haunted (or at the very least, the last point where fans weren’t arguing about a decline in the quality of The Haunted’s recorded output). That’s why we’ve picked it as The Haunted’s entry in our retrospective.
2004: Cult Of Luna – Salvation
Oh man. We have a lot of things we want to say about Cult of Luna’s Salvation. It arrived at a very strange time in our lives, and was the album that first introduced us to the Swedish post-metal titans. It’s a sprawling, complex album, that doesn’t lend itself to snappy descriptions in cheap hit-harvesting list items on sarky heavy metal blogs. It manages to continue the progression that Cult of Luna have so effortlessly laced throughout all their albums, while at the same time giving it a more considered, delicate tone that isn’t found on any of their other releases. Truth be told, we could’ve included any of Cult of Luna’s albums in our list and we would have considered them worthy entries, but Salvation has those personal memories of discovering what would later become one of our favourite bands to nudge it just out ahead of the others. It bags the 2004 spot in our list with ease.
2005: Akercocke – Rape of the Bastard Nazarene
Akercocke was another band we umm-ed and ahh-ed over their inclusion in our list. Not because they weren’t a great band – because they were a damn fine band (and you have no idea how much it hurts us to refer to them in the past-tense). No, our problem was deciding which of their albums to include.
Arguably, Rape of the Bastard Nazarene is Akercocke’s weakest album. It’s not a bad album, not by a long shot, but compared to say, Chronozon, or The Goat of Mendes, it’s still sounds very much like a band in their early stages. It doesn’t have the majestic Satanic polish of those later records. Sure, that slightly muddier production Rape of the Bastard Nazarene has isn’t without a certain squalid charm, but it’d still be the bottom of our list when it came to ranking Akercocke albums.
So why does it get a place on the list instead of those others? Especially given that it was a re-release, given that it was originally put out via Akercocke’s own Goat Of Mendes label? Well, partially because despite it being a re-release it was still Akercocke’s debut album, and partially because Akercocke represent that fact that during this period, despite being a label of international repute by this point in their history, Earache still made sure they were keeping abreast of British talent. That we had to fudge our list because we couldn’t fit Akercocke’s true first release for Earache (2003’s Chronozon) on here….well, sometimes you just have to roll with what you’ve got.
2006: The Berzerker – World of Lies
The Berzerker represented Earache’s continuing dedication to seeking out new extreme talent and giving it a worldwide platform. Since their arrival in 2000 as rubber-masked industrial-tinged speedcore grinders, The Berzerker set about trying to push the boundaries of what “extreme” music could be in a new century. Held together by the band’s frontman, Luke Kenny (who proved to be the only consistent live and studio member of the band throughout their decade of existence), The Berzerker quickly became one of the must-see live bands on the planet, at one point claiming they had the Guinness World Record for fastest live drumming. Although Luke Kenny took the band down the self-releasing route for the band’s final album, and eventually quit the music industry altogether to shoot underwear models for Australian mens’ magazines, World Of Lies still holds up as an example that even when a genre feels like it’s been played out, a canny label can still find new avenues to explore within it.
We’re nearly at the end of our year-by-year discography retrospective of Earache Records’ back catalogue – check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you haven’t already, and get set for tomorrow as the final part of our series concludes with 2007 to 2011.