Way back in the late 1980's Digby Pearson started up a record label called Earache. If all you knew about the label was the name, would you be able to guess what kind of music they released?
They became most identified with death metal, although there were also hardcore acts thrown in the mix, and later more radio-friendly acts like Adema were introduced. Earache also had the occasional genre oddity like Dub War, who specialize in reggae-metal. To this day, Earache is a thriving record label, working with distribution through Caroline Records. Their upcoming releases include new albums from Deicide and Carcass
Among the labels releases is this video collection that originally saw the light of day back in 1999. It was a VHS release (DVD was still pretty young at the time), and collected a number of clips from bands on the label. It was a pretty barebones release with simple title cards in between the videos and limited credits. Now fans of Earache bands and the original VHS can relive the past with this 52 minute DVD.
My first impressions of the DVD are not all that favorable. Before you even get to the videos, the main menu has a cheap look and feel to it. There are no bonus features. Considering that fact, I was surprised to find that there was a 5.1 audio mix joining the original stereo. Frankly, I am sure they could have gotten a hold of at least a few of the included bands for some retrospective interview or something, anything.
Once you start the DVD, the cheap feel continues as this looks to be a straight port from a second or third generation VHS tape. The images lack definition; there is virtually no sharpness, and it just does not look all that good. For those fans hoping for a remastering or any sort of cleanup, you will need to keep waiting. As for the audio, it suffers as well, with little definition, often sounding muddied. You will probably be waiting a long time, as I doubt this will see another release for a long time, if ever.
DVD issues aside, one thing that becomes abundantly apparent is that the bands were working with very low budgets. Seriously, some of these videos are pretty corny looking and revolve around band performances in one setting or another. Not that this is a bad thing, but it is definitely interesting to see where they were coming from back in the day.
Funny thing, as I look over the list of videos and as I watched the collection, I discovered that while I am certainly aware of most of the bands, there are very few that I have ever actually listened to. To that end, the only song I can claim 100% that I have listened to before is Entombed's "Wolverine Blues." It was the only Entombed album I ever picked up, and I really like it. Funny thing is that the only reason I picked it up originally was because they had permission from Marvel Comics to have the X-Men's Wolverine on the cover.
Now, let's take a quick tour through the videos:
GODFLESH – "Crush My Soul" (from Selfless) This is a simple video featuring the band performing against red and black backdrops. It opens with a cock fight, and features a nearly naked man being strapped to a table. I cannot say that it does much for me, but the industrial guitar rhythm became somewhat hypnotic in its repetition.
DUB WAR – "Strike It" (from Pain) This caught me off-guard. I can honestly say I did not expect reggae-metal. The opening bassline reminded me of something by Urban Dance Squad. This video is pure performance with the band plying near the river in a city (I believe it is NYC). There is not a lot to the video, but I have to admit to really liking the song. It gets under the skin and is near impossible not to groove to.
ENTOMBED – "Wolverine Blues" (from Wolverine Blues) Opening with the Wolverine album cover "Wolverine Blues" quickly moves to the individual members playing with obviously blue-screened backgrounds with what appears to be Video Toaster effects to transition between them.The song is heavy, brutal, and accompanies a very bad video.
CATHEDRAL – "Hopkins Witchfinder General" (from Carnival Bizarre) This video is a bit more showy than what has come before and incorporates video clips from the Vincent Price movie Witchfinder General. The video has the band performing with dead tree cutouts in the back and scantily clad "witches" dancing around. The singer looks like a transitional figure between Ozzy Osbourne and The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins. I like the song, and the video is a throwback to the 80s.
NAPALM DEATH – "Greed Killing" (from Diatribes) Quickly changing gears, we jump into the death metal of Napalm Death with a video that seems to be a bit more ambitious than the earlier entries on the disk. It still centers on band performance, but has them being observed, as if in an asylum, by strange be-goggled spectators.
MISERY LOVES CO. – "My Mind Still Speaks" (from Misery Loves Co.) Prior to this video, I had neither seen nor heard of this band before. The sound has a bit more of a hardcore edge to it while still being metal. It, again, centers on band performance, but it weaves in a story of child abuse.
AT THE GATES – "Blinded By Fear" (from Slaughter Of The Soul) Music picks up in speed and intensity with this band performance video. The band is playing in what looks like an old warehouse. I like this. It is in your face and hard to ignore.
CARCASS – "No Love Lost" (from Heartwork) Carcass slows down the tempo, but seems to up the evil quotient. This guys voice is quite creepy and makes my skin crawl a little. Voice aside, the chugging music drew me in to the performance.
PITCHSHIFTER – "Underachiever" (from Infotainment) Stepping away from death metal, this band introduces industrial elements, reminding me of Fear Factory. The video is interesting in how it has some of the lens blocked off to simulate watching a television set through a television set while performing a song about the effects of television and media manipulation. This is a good entry, I should look into these guys a bit more.
SLEEP – "Dragonaut" (from Sleeps Holy Mountain) A closeup of an amp and a groovy bassline introduce me to Sleep. Shot in grainy black and white (although some of the grain may be a result of the poor transfer, the actual intent cannot be discerned), "Dragonaut" has a strong Black Sabbath vibe to it as it grooves along with some evil sounding undertones.
BRUTAL TRUTH – "Godplayer" (from Need To Control) Industrial metal takes over in this low budget science fiction infected video. Notable for being founded by former Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker, this song lives up to the band's name, it certainly is brutal music, although I found the video to be kind of boring.
FUDGE TUNNEL – "Rudge With AJ" (from The Complicated Futility Of Ignorance) You have to love that band name. The video follows a bald man in an orange jumpsuit walking around in between band performance clips and sped up images of moving through traffic. There is nothing terribly exciting to be found here.
MEATHOOK SEED – "Famine Sector" (from Embedded) This is very nearly a straight up live video. It is compiled primarily of live concert footage with plenty of flashing lights. This features the worst audio of the DVD, to the point that it was ruined because I was unable to get any idea of what they were doing.
Bottomline. If you are a fan of these bands, it would be worth picking up, but for the casual fan, there are other collections that would be more worth your time (like the Metalmania sets). I would have really appreciated some sort of remastering to make it look and sound better. I understand that being a low interest title, the expense was likely not a priority.