In the ’90s, there was a moratorium on even saying the word “metal” in the mainstream music press. They called it “hard music” if they even bothered to address it. People said it was dead. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In fact, it was thriving. Record labels like Earache, Nuclear Blast, Relapse, Peaceville, Season of Mist, Roadrunner and others, all names synonymous(at the time)with quality metal were pumping out thousands of stellar albums. It was impossible to keep up with the plethora of exciting new releases.
It was an experimental time for music in general, and metal was no exception. Yeah, people still made traditional thrash and power metal like the ’80s never ended, and that was great, but the genre was also splitting off into wild new directions and taking the music to new extremes.
New subgenres were being formed, and the smorgasbord of region-specific sounds available was truly astounding.
America had its own death metal sound with Tampa, Florida arguably at its epicenter with bands like the NY-transplanted Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Malevolent Creation(another NY transplant), etc. New York had its own unique muddy, guttural sound with bands like Suffocation, Immolation, Incantation, etc.
Stockholm, Sweden had the unique crunchy buzzsaw guitar tone created and utilized by such bands as Dismember, Entombed, Carnage and the like.
Gothenburg, Sweden, meanwhile, had cultivated a big “melodeath” scene with bands like At the Gates and In Flames. These bands typically featured growly or raspy death metal vocals over beefed up, heavier Iron Maiden riffs and leads.
Metal became more global than ever, with your typical underground metalhead boasting albums from England, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Italy, Finland, Poland, Germany, Spain, Israel, japan–anyplace you can think of.
Norway, of course, had black metal, a sound born of Bathory, classical music and some of the more extreme thrash of the ’80s like Brazil’s Sarcofago and and Germany’s Sodom, all glued together with an atmosphere of total nihilism. Bands like Satyricon, Darkthrone, Mayhem and Emperor embodied this sound.
I’ve been feeling nostalgic these past few weeks for that golden age of musical discovery, when I’d mail order some import cd that I knew that probably no one else in my city had ever heard of. It was all so exotic and mysterious, and reading all the underground mags I could get my hands on only fueled my desire to seek out more.
I’ve compiled a playlist on Spotify that encompasses the entire spectrum of ’90s metal–even plenty of stuff I don’t like. I’ve included entries from mainstream American “nu-metal” acts as well just for context. Static-X, Slipknot, Korn, etc were gateway bands for a lot of fans. Naturally, I’ve also included important contributions from established ’80s bands like Megadeth, Judas Priest, Slayer, Maiden, Testament and the like. Enjoy. Hey, it’s only 17 hours long!
Check it out here.