Originally written by Ramar Pittance
For fans of death metal, it’s nearly impossible to not be intrigued by the pre-history of Death. For a band of such lasting importance, it’s entirely fitting that their back story be read like an epic novel. Chuck Schuldiner, a modern day version of the mythical Jason, embarks on a journey in search of musicians capable of aiding him in forging a sound that would turn the metal world on its head. In the process of doing so, a series of mis-adventures were bound to occur, and they are manifested in the slew of demos, rehearsals, and live recordings which preceded the release of the seminal Scream Bloody Gore. Mantas (the moniker that preceded Death) and Death demos are the stuff of legend for death metal fanatics, as they offer a glimpse into the formative years of not only Death the band, but Death the artform.
What better way to experience these little nuggets of musical history than via a shameless cash grab on the part of Karmageddeon Media? Fuck.
Unfortunately, Chuck Schuldiner’s passage into the grave hasn’t been a peaceful one. Realizing that there’s nothing more profitable than a dead icon, Karmageddeon Media (formally Hammerheart Records) have pursued multiple avenues to profit from the Death legacy. When their attempts to release the second, and still unfinished, Control Denied album were blocked by the Schuldiner family, Karmageddeon needed to find a viable income stream to make up for their inability to release the incomplete Schuldiner project. Where better to look than into the stacks and stacks of tapes Schuldiner had recorded prior to his first proper release? Hence we have Zero Tolerance, a compilation of the 1984 Death by Metal demo, the 1985 Reign of Terror demo, and a 1990 concert from Austin Texas; all of which sound like they were recorded into a Talk Boy.
All reservations about the motives behind this release aside, the material itself is almost unlistenable. Sounding as if the band was hopelessly stranded between two AM radio frequencies, classics like “Beyond the Unholy Grave” are rendered flaccid and lifeless by a production that would make even the frostiest of Norwegians blush. There’s no heart-warming nostalgia or sense of intimacy here, just this sad sense of a band stripped from their proper place and time and forced to stand at attention when all they really want to do is be left the hell alone. The compositions themselves are classic, but this will only add to your frustration as you struggle with with your equalizer to salvage something recognizable of “Pull The Plug,” “Zombie Ritual,” and “Mutilation.”
I’ll give you two reasons to avoid this release like a pox infested comforter. One as a critic, and one as a metal fan. As a reviewer, I’ll tell you that despite the brilliance of the songs, the bootleg quality recordings are not worth your money in the least bit. When the Control Denied album is done, which we all hope it someday will be, you can spend your hard earned cash on that. The metal fan will tell you that you’d have to be a fuck-wit to buck up for this abortion. Supporting Karmageddeon in this endeavor will be viewed as metal treason, and all offenders should be locked in a room with Carrot Top and forced to watch Step by Step reruns for no less than 45 years.. As far as the punishment I’d like to enforce upon Karmageddeon for this shameless display, I can’t even imagine, but I’m pretty sure it would involve honey, fire ants, and a starved and agitated Al Roker.
GREAT JOB on the cover art! It’s amazing what you can do in Microsoft Paint in 30 seconds, eh boys!