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Various Artists Metal Survival Kit Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A label whose pestilential back catalogue has never been more relevant.

Alex Deller 2010

Metal, it has to be said, is a serious business. Get yourself caught in a mosh and you’re risking black eyes, busted teeth or, at the very least, your favourite t-shirt being pulled out of shape and those once-pristine sneakers ruinously slicked in the viscous slime only to be found caking the floors of grotty rock clubs the world over.

Earache, having shaped 25 years’ worth of extreme sounds, are only too aware of heavy metal’s many inherent perils and have mercifully drawn on their knowledge to dish up the Metal Survival Kit: a three-disc audio guide to metal’s warty underbelly bolstered by a bangover-inducing DVD, a natty woven patch for your cut-off denim jacket and some earplugs to keep the dread tinnitus at bay.

Covering three distinct themes – Festival Faves, Future Classics and Under the Radar – the Kit represents a history lesson for young bucks who’ve cut their teeth on the latterday thrash of Municipal Waste, as well as a modern primer for those who’ve maybe strayed from the left-hand path and want to reacquaint themselves with what’s bubbling away south of the mainstream.

The first disc (tracklisting, left) demonstrates the immense impact the label has had on all things heavy, leading the charge for genres like grindcore (Terrorizer, Napalm Death, Brutal Truth), death metal (Morbid Angel, At the Gates, Entombed), doom (Sleep, Cathedral) and pre-empting the trend for epic post-metal with the brow-furrowed clank of Godflesh.

With Future Classics we find a throng of acts referencing bygone genres that Earache itself didn’t dabble in first time around, blasting out turbo-charged 80s thrash riffs or, in the case of Enforcer, Cauldron and White Wizzard, a return to the heavy metal classicism of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Elsewhere, modern manglers Insect Warfare and Wormrot fly the flag for the label’s early days, drawing on the bowel-loosening sounds of Terrorizer and Bolt Thrower to crush the skulls of a new generation of fanatics seeking audio extremity.

The final instalment scours the label’s back catalogue for overlooked gems of all stripes, taking in the caustic sludge of Iron Monkey, the feral thump of Fudge Tunnel and the terrifying modern grind of Narcosis, neatly showcasing a label that – Janus Stark, Ultraviolence and laughable troll Mortiis aside – has continued to deliver the goods and whose pestilential back catalogue has never been more relevant.

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