Released this month in 1991, Massacre’s full length debut, From Beyond, came out at a time when the death metal scene — and particularly the Florida scene — was bursting at the seams. Bands like Death, Immolation and Atheist all dropped new albums that year, and both genre stalwarts and quite a few up and comers found ways to make noise that year. Massacre had been around since 1984 as a heavy thrash band, but once Kam Lee came aboard, the band veered firmly into death metal. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Recorded at Morrisound Studios at a time when the studio was the hottest thing outside of the swampy humidity, From Beyond aimed to rocket Massacre to the top of the death metal pile. Kam Lee, long credited as the originator of the death growl, was on top of his game throughout. Rick Rozz had an otherworldly guitar tone that could rip a hole straight through the middle of the earth. And finally, the rhythm section of Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums was positively astounding.
With each member of the From Beyond lineup having also spent time in Death, the band was accused being ripoff artists. They were no boundary pushers, but they were almost admirably straightforward in their approach to death metal, with lyrical themes ranging from gore and brutality to otherworldly beings. It was the kind of death metal that required you to move, bang your head or whatever it is you do when you hear an infectious groove and a thick crunchy guitar riff. Take the opener, “Dawn of Eternity.” The song starts off with a doomy intro mixed with razor-sharp guitar lines, then progresses into an onslaught of full-speed-ahead death metal. Lee’s vocals are hard to top in general, but they sound particularly brutal here.
Several examples of the classic “Morrisound groove” can be found throughout the album, but from start to finish, “Cryptic Remains” is the best. Rozz has been accused of being too repetitive over the years, but repetition serves this song particularly well. The grooving “Chamber of Ages” is similar, but its dramatic intro is a bit overlong and ends up detracting a bit from the rest of the track. (At least to me.) And then for straight ahead, skull-smashing speed, the title track and “Succubus” simply slay, with the former showcasing one of Rozz’s best solos on the album.
Andrews’ performance behind the kit stands a bit high in the mix — though not overpoweringly so — and propels the band through “Biohazard” and the classic, death-metal double-time arrangement of “Corpsegrinder.” And like napalm spreading through a jungle, Butler’s bass sprays a nasty undertone that lends a thick, beefy presence to the album as a whole. Really, if any one of the instruments here had been mixed differently, the results would have been catastrophic for the album as a whole.
Massacre would go on to release two subsequent full-lengths, but never really recaptured the magic of this release. So take a listen back to this relic and enjoy a band at the absolute peak of its powers.