The mid-‘90s were a strange time for death metal. From its arrival in the late ‘80s, the genre quickly expanded, various tentacles reaching and sucking the marrow from the bones of (it seemed) every other form of metal to come before – and more. OBITUARY, IMMOLATION, NIHILIST; they all had their own definable sound, but were resolutely Death Metal.

It is into this world we return with Prelude To Obscurity, a compendium of the entire available output of EMBALM. Hailing from the unlikely lands of the upper Midwest, the foursome already had something going for them that they probably didn’t realize at the time. Being vastly separate from the “scenes” burgeoning in New York and Florida, and pre-internet, I’m sure EMBALM’s members were slaves to and celebrators of the tape trading culture, something that still thrives in the underground.

From the start I’m confused. I know the focus is on the band’s 1997 demo, but why then tack add a demo of 2 years before after? I’m assuming there wasn’t a transferrable copy of 1992’s Persistence Of Suffering, but even so, it would’ve made more sense – to me, at least – to flip the running order to chronological, so the growth of the band could be heard between those pivotal years.

Nevertheless, ‘Descend Into Extinction’ is instantly a rusted icepick jammed full force into your ear, the band clearly leaning more toward the Floridian and Gothenburg schools in the rumbling riffs, the vocal execution, a softly-picked interlude [2:47-3:15] showing EMBALM was taking those first furtive steps at expanding their sound while staying true to the style. ‘Exquisite Tenderness’ bristles, early DISMEMBERED (and even DISSECTION) influences proving the statement before. These guys were trying to get somewhere by now, it seems.

The ’95 demo is exactly what it purports to be – a demo. Still, this is one of the few cases where a remastering didn’t also cut the balls off of what should’ve been something fierce, something relentless; and it is that, surely.

With two utterly disgusting live tracks from 1998 at its end, reeking of sweat, blood and mayhem, EMBALM laid itself to rest, and death metal is the worse off for it. I’m not going to say these four would’ve changed the fuckin’ world, but Prelude To Obscurity (including a 20-page booklet of flyers/zine reviews/art, natch!) will make sure more gore-obsessed death-seekers know about ‘em, and rightly so.
Review By: Lord Randall

Prelude To Obscurity
20 Buck Spin
4 / 6