I like a good old fashioned tribute LP and that’s exactly what Earache Presents: Masters Of Misery* is, a bunch of bands on the, truly fearsome, Earache Records paying tribute to gods and progenitors of all that is/was/will ever be heavy.
Originally released in 1992 solely in Japan**, it was released in 1995 in other territories and then finally on vinyl for the first time for RSD 2014 on a run of 800 copies.
Masters Of Misery includes all the usual Earache suspects Cathedral (twice), Pitchshifter, Iron Monkey, Godflesh, Sleep and some more outlandish chaps like Scorn and OLD who chuck a bit of electronica into the mix, amongst all the shouting. The 2014 vinyl version is missing 3 tracks from the 1992 release by Fudge Tunnel, Cadaver and ‘Shock Wave’ by Cathedral. The 1997 rereleases also feature tracks by Ultraviolence and, those fondly remembered favourites of your elderly relatives, Anal Cunt.
Beginning the LP with a loud sniff^ Sleep kick open the doors with ‘Snowblind’. It is a really good cover from a young band very much in thrall to the masters; ‘Feeling happy in my pain / Icicles within my brain’. Two points though, without OO’s essential flatness of tone you simply don’t get the true sense of the numbing arctic winds and great though Sleep are, they still only sound like Sabbath dancing in lead clogs; nobody, but nobody ever seems to understand that what really set them so far apart from everyone else is the rhythm section’s nimbleness and lightness of touch – particularly at their heaviest. Some excellent guitaring here though.
Cathedral drop two tracks here, ‘Wheels Of Confusion’ and ‘Solitude’. Now I don’t own any other Cathedral at all, but I really think I should. Cathedral’s ‘Wheels … ‘ may not grind with the same primordial rightness as the Sab’s but they definitely do turn at a smart lick here, when the tune soars so do they. Better by far is their cover of ‘Solitude’, a real favourite Sabbath tune of mine, Cathedral play it a little more assertive and less ethereal than the masters but it is a goodie.
Scorn, the dark ambient dudes who sprang from the ribs of Napalm Death, make a real hash of ‘The Wizard’; viva la difference as we say in Wales, but it’s no Silver Rain Fell. OLD, who confusingly were once a proper thrash band^^ and feature Jason Everman of Nirvana/Mind Funk /US Military service fame, give us a suitably dark and synth-led ‘Who Are You’ that I might like more than the original.
Confessor’s ‘Hole In The Sky’ is just an exercise in reproduction and falls a little flat for me, whereas Pitchshifter’s ‘N.I.B’ changes too much to be good; 1537 = fickle. Godflesh ‘Zero The Hero’ is a long drawn-out scary death, these guys always did frighten me too much to listen to them.
Far better are the two heaviest tracks on Masters Of Misery, Iron Monkey ‘Cornucopia’ and Brutal Truth ‘Lord Of This World’. The latter is a pulverizing grinding sludge-fest that I wrote sounds like ‘Satan having a particularly difficult bowel movement’ and the former is a screammyy heavy treat.
Tribute LP’s by definition are a bit of a happy-go-lucky grab bag, an awful lot of them seem to solely exist on cheap CD’s and tapes and so it is a treat to pick up this vinyl version of Masters Of Misery and although there’s a couple of needle-joggers present, it can give me a gloom-on if I’m in the mood and the lighting is nice and low.
*shortened hereafter to Masters Of Misery to prevent me having to ride the wheels of confusion.
**under slightly altered title Masters Of Misery – Black Sabbath: An Earache Tribute.
^odd way to start a song about the weather, if you ask me.
^^the name was an acronym for Old Lady Drivers and I almost bought their first LP from a market stall in Leeds once.