March 18, 2021

Merciless - The Awakening (1990)

*First pressing. 
Contains 8 tracks total.
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Thrash Metal, Death Metal
Label Number: Anti-Mosh 001

© 1990 Deathlike Silence Productions
Seems like it's been a while since I've done an Archive review, so let's talk about an album I happened upon a few days ago: The Awakening, by Swedish thrashers Merciless, the first band to sign onto the label of the infamous Euronymous. The early 90s is thought of as the start of thrash's decline, accompanied by the rise of extreme metal; The Awakening is the sound of that transition. Listening to it, you can hear a Teutonic thrash of the Kreator variety with death metal riffing taking it over.

Speed is what The Awakening is all about, with beats that alternate between rhythmic chug-support and furious blastbeats as the mood of the songs change. Appropriately for a band that signed onto a black metal luminary's underground label, one thing uniform about the songs is their atmosphere of fury and despair -- vocalist Rogga occasionally leaves his rough but disciplined vocal line to let out a tormented shriek, as if he can barely contain himself, and the combination of the guitars and drums rip into the listener like an explosion in a razor-wire factory. The title track's snarled vocals are especially good.

There's no attempt to provide more of an atmosphere than echoing vocals and furious thrashing can, and there are few solos either; the guitar leads that appear are mostly to accentuate the riffs. Those riffs had better be great, and they are, with a heavy emphasis on the end of each line to drive the point home, such as on Dying World, in which the despairing lyrics and slower tempo of the track suddenly switch to a blastbeat-driven bridge before returning to the same slow pace as before. Not that there's a lot of slow passages on the album outside of that song, needless to say. At the end of the album -- the original version of the album, anyway --, we get Denied Birth, what I feel is the track on the album that prefigures death metal the most. Alternating between blocky old-school riffing and a machine-gun clean attack, its time signature changes are more complex than most of the tracks on the album.

In a world where extreme metal has grown into so many subgenres since this album came out, The Awakening still sounds excellent twenty-seven years later, with Osmose Productions providing a reissued version on Bandcamp with with four live bonus tracks.

tags: merciless, the awakening, 1990, flac,

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