Guest Blog: Filmmaker Sam Dunn’s Extreme-Metal Soapbox, Part 1
Welcome to my brand-new weekly blog Extreme Metal Soapbox. As many of you know, all of us at Banger Films are running a second IndieGoGo campaign to create the Extreme Metal episode of Metal Evolution. And to bring awareness to the campaign the good folks at Revolver have given me the opportunity to present Extreme Metal’s All-Time Top 5 Albums. Here’s how it works:
Each week I will shamelessly pontificate about what I feel is one of Extreme Metal’s best albums. The album will be chosen on the basis of its impact, innovation, ongoing influence and, of course, how damn killer it is. Then all of you will have the opportunity to tell me whether I’m on the mark or full of shit. Really simple.
But I don’t want this to be a bloggy bitch-fest. This is meant to be an informed and passionate discussion for metalheads who care about Extreme Metal and how its history is told. I’ve met a lot of smart metallers in my travels who have great ideas – so speak up. The Extreme Metal Soapbox is yours for the taking!
To kick things off, here’s my first entry:
Celtic Frost “Morbid Tales” (1984)
Let’s get started by laying down one important axiom: There would be no Extreme Metal without Venom. Venom created a sound and aesthetic in the early 80s that was undeniably extreme: Cronos’ distinctive bark and the band’s quasi-Satanic-meets-Occultic imagery was thrilling for young metallers like myself who in 1981 thought Maiden’s Killers was the epitome of heaviness. And make no mistake, their music would influence legions of Extreme Metal bands to follow. But despite their legacy, there was a simplicity to Venom’s music that always left me - and many other young 80s metalheads – wanting more.
Enter Celtic Frost. It was 1985, I was 11 years old, and I was flipping through vinyl in my local independent record shop, looking for something to up-the-ante from my freshly purchased Black Metal LP. My eyes were immediately drawn to the cover of Morbid Tales: that unforgettable Escher-like tangle of symbols, swords and skulls. I took it home and as soon as I heard the vocal-drone of “Human” followed by the crushing opening riff of “Into Crypts of Rays,” I was hooked. CF was still Venom-like in its primitiveness, and to our Pro-Tools-conditioned ears of today it sounds almost laughably crude. But there was something more going on here than what Cronos/Mantas/Abaddon had to offer – bigger sounds, better musicianship, more complex imagery. In all, it had a vibe.
Check out a vintage performance of “Into Crypts of Rays”
To be clear, Morbid Tales was not a masterpiece nor an instant success. This was a band trying to find its footing on its debut album and when I spoke to Tom Warrior and Martin Ain about MT they emphasized that they were just kids from the ‘burbs and villages of Switzerland searching for that elusive sound. But despite its crudeness, Morbid Tales was exciting because it seemed to be giving Extreme Metal a new pathway, a broader horizon. It was suggesting that metal could be both brutal and artistic; raw and majestic. We didn’t know it in 1985, but we now know that it gave extreme music a future.