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Editorial: Ten of the sickest metal songs

Pestilence's "Consuming Impulse", one of the vilest and sickest albums ever.
Pestilence's "Consuming Impulse", one of the vilest and sickest albums ever.
Credit: Encyclopedia Metallum

Winter is about to be in full swing here in San Antonio, and with winter comes cold and flu season, which has unfortunately struck this writer like an oncoming train. Fortunately, the glorious genre of heavy metal is full of songs detailing infections, sickness, and general unpleasantries of life, so to help out any San Antonio metal fans who are feeling under the weather, the San Antonio Heavy Metal Examiner has compiled a play list of ten extreme metal songs that deal with various illnesses to give listeners something to listen to while laying in bed with a hacking cough. If you guessed that this list will mostly consist of death metal, you win!

Song: Sickness
Band: Obituary
Album: The End Complete

Coming off the oft-overlooked “The End Complete” album is one of Obituary’s most underrated songs, the mighty “Sickness”. “Sickness” starts off in the typical Obituary dirge style before kicking things into high speed with the vile vocals of John Tardy screaming about (what else?) sickness. Obituary’s ambience was always that of filth, with that trademark guitar tone that made those first three Obituary albums such masterpieces. You could make the case that something from “Slowly We Rot” or “Cause of Death” should make this list, and while “Infected” or the title track of “Slowly We Rot” would fit this list, I decided to go with a dark horse on this one, since “Sickness” is such a good track that no one seems to bring up when Obituary is discussed.

Song: Ridden with Disease
Band: Autopsy
Album: Severed Survival

Autopsy put out two of the greatest death metal albums of all time, “Severed Survival” and “Mental Funeral”, and they’re poised to be making a comeback after a superb performance at Maryland Death Fest 2010. “Ridden With Disease” is one of their well-known songs, and for good reason, since it contains just about everything good about early Autopsy into one sickening package. The bass work on this album was actually provided by virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio, who’s played with just about everyone. What really makes the track stand out, though, is the dark guitar riffs and growls of drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert. His wretching vocal tone is truly unique among classic death metal vocalists, even if he isn’t always following along with the lyrics in the booklet. There’s no word on if the Autopsy reunion will take them to San Antonio, but if it does, seeing them would be highly recommended.

Song: Vomit the Soul
Band: Cannibal Corpse
Album: Butchered at Birth

One of the most unpleasant results of sickness is described in Cannibal Corpse’s “Vomit the Soul”, this time dealing with a zombie who has quite literally puked up his soul (Captain Obvious has his work cut out for him while reading this article). The song itself is very typical early Cannibal Corpse, with a sharp guitar tone backed up by Alex Webster’s bass playing, Paul Marzukiewicz’s rock-solid drumming, and Chris Barnes’ guttural vocals. Deicide’s Glen Benton actually provides backing vocals to this song, providing an added edge to the already excellent song. Side note: “Bloody Chunks” would also have been appropriate for this article, although it would probably make a lot more readers queasy, including my mother. Sorry, mom!

Song: Regurgitated Guts
Band: Death
Album: Scream Bloody Gore

Do I really have to explain this one? Let’s move on, shall we?

Song: Chronic Infection
Band: Pestilence
Album: Consuming Impulse

These Dutch death metal masters had quite the fascination with sickness and bodily ills, and “Chronic Infection” is one of their finest moments from their unquestionably greatest album, “Consuming Impulse”. Those maddening, murky, atonal riffs hit the listener like a punch to the gut from a glove filled with Spanish flu, and Martin Van Drunen’s vocals are the icing on the cake. Pestilence have the gift of writing atonal music that is weirdly very catchy, as evidenced by the verse riffs and their other masterpiece, “Out of the Body”. The recurring theme of illness would show up all over the place in Pestilence’s discography, but it was never as convincing as whenever they had Martin on vocals, as he was truly one of the greats.

Song: Just about anything
Band: Carcass
Album: Take your pick

The gods of goregrind Carcass focused almost exclusively on medical-related lyrical themes throughout their career, and you can pick just about any of their songs and it will fit your mood if you’re feeling under the weather. Their early work is especially recommended in this case, with their debut “Reek of Putrefaction” being especially notable for its filthy guitar tone and unintelligible vocals. There are twenty-two tracks on the album, and all contain medically oriented lyrics that are quite fascinating even if you can’t understand a word the vocalists are saying. However, their “Symphonies of Sickness” album is the one that’s most recommended to those afflicted with a case of the flu, because it’s every bit as vile as the title suggests. In any case, you can’t go wrong with Carcass (unless you dislike “Heartwork”, where they switched to melodic death metal) if you’re under the weather, so fire up Amazon - since you won’t want to go outside and get everyone sick - and get to hunting!

Song: Operating Theatre
Band: Impaled
Album: Mondo Medicale

So you finally caved. Your illness has persisted to the point where you’ve manned up and gone to the doctor only to be told “you need surgery”. The strap you in to the chair, there are loads of people watching you, and you notice that they haven’t given you any anesthesia! This is the terror captured by Impaled, and “Operating Theatre” is arguably their best song. The song is a microcosm of everything good about Impaled, and while some dismiss them as a mere Carcass clone, they still put out amazing music, with “Mondo Medicale” standing out as a highlight of their discography.
Side note: It’s known that several members of Impaled play in Ghoul, who are coming to San Antonio next week as part of the Rites of Darkness II Fest. Ross Sewage of Impaled was also in Morbosidad as a guest, and Morbosidad will also be playing the fest. As another side note, “Ross Sewage” is an excellent stage name.

Song: Pestilent Decay
Band: Repulsion
Album: Horrified

This was a tough one to pin down, and while I could have gone with the obvious “Festering Boils” (again, sorry Mom), I felt that “Pestilent Decay” would be a more appropriate choice for this list, since I already covered “Festering Boils” when I wrote about Repulsion for Maryland Death Fest. “Pestilent Decay” is perfect early scummy grind: It’s fast, furious, distorted, and only a minute long. You really have to listen to the entire “Horrified” album to get the full effect that Repulsion has to offer, as is the case with a lot of grind albums, but the patient listener will be rewarded with a masterpiece of early grind that shouldn’t be overlooked by any metal fan (or sick person looking for some music to coincide with their mood).

Song: Opus Dei (The Morbid Angel)
Band: Watain
Album: Casus Luciferi

Anyone who has attended a Watain show is well aware that it isn’t exactly the most sanitary environment, what with the goat’s blood and the generally putrid stench that permeates any venue that will hold them. However, this is one of the many things that sets Watain apart from legions of other black metal bands, and it’s done for genuine reasons, not some mere theatrical presentation. This song is a particularly good hymn, with absolutely disgusting guitar tone and some excellent black metal vocals done by E. Watain. Close your eyes, and you’re at a Watain show, and then the stench hits your memory and you open your eyes and reach for the Febreze. Black metal was never meant to be pretty, and Watain are unquestionably the real deal. Watain’s last two albums are masterpieces, but if you’re looking for something a little rawer and grimier, “Casus Luciferi" is right up your alley.

Song: Take As Needed For Pain
Band: Eyehategod
Album: Take As Needed For Pain

The atmosphere of Eyehategod’s music is one of the bleakest and darkest one could imagine. It’s so bleak, in fact, that the average sufferer of sickness might not be able to relate to the aural chaos that is “Take As Needed For Pain”. This song is one of many Eyehategod songs with excellent riffs that capture the despair of the depths of the human race, and somehow feels just right to listen to when you’ve been in bed all day hacking up a lung. Admittedly, having a whooping cough isn’t nearly as severe as the withdrawal sickness that’s captured by so many EHG songs, but the song fits nonetheless. Eyehategod plays San Antonio on December 10th at the Korova, and if you aren’t attending the Rites of Darkness II Fest, you should be at Eyehategod, because they’re a force to be reckoned with in the live environment.

For more info: Albums from these fine bands (and many more) can be found at San Antonio’s Hogwild Records. Heading there to support local, underground metal would be in any metal fan’s best interest!

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