THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of band appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!
Formed in 1987 between Wrocław musicians vocalist Rob Bandit, guitarists/songwriters Python and Bastard, bassist Edi and drummer J. Rakowicz this Polish quartet might be best known for their bestial thrashing death metal style but their original formation was a punk, 70’s heavy rock, and NWOBHM influenced heavy metal band. From speed metal to death/thrash metal in the matter of maybe two years the ‘big event’ from Magnus‘ history comes fast and hard then their death metal output generally develops with varying results from that point on. Think of Magnus as you might Dragon, except their style was influenced by an entirely different set of extreme metal with a debut full-length that will make fans of early Sepultura and Massacra flip their shit. Thankfully almost all of this bands brutally morbid material has been preserved through respectful reissues and remasters over the years so even their roughest recordings are available with some searching. Most of what I know about early Polish metal comes from being a member of a forum with true advocates of the old tape trading scene (such as zuchu666) so bear with me if I’ve only retained some of the knowledge out there, or if I mistranslated a thing or two. Hey! I’ve done my best to research as much as I can but please feel free to message me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment if I’ve left out anything vital or gotten something horribly wrong!
|Title [Type/Year]||Power Metal [Demo/1987]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
This first tape from Magnus not long after forming came as a cluster of fairly memorable heavy metal songs that often dipped towards German speed metal and NWOBHM melodies as was fairly typical for Polish metal bands of the time. Though the tape is named ‘Power Metal’ it really is just a typical heavy/speed metal record from the era and with really amateurish vocals. Their style reminds me of the self-titled Inquisidor (Mexico) debut because of the kicks into speed metal and the semi-melodic but kinda flat vocal style. For the first demo from a newly conjoined group they did a fantastic job with this ambitious demo but it sounds completely unrelated to everything they did afterwards.
|Title [Type/Year]||Thrash Speed Blood [Unofficial Demo/1988]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube|
“Record of two recording sessions from 1987 (?) – 1988, consisting of the material ‘Trash Speed Blood’ distributed by Kris Brankowski. To this day, the band does not recognize these recordings as the official demo tape, and the songs themselves were recorded in a doorstep studio for the promotion of the band on the air of Polish Radio. The sounds contained here are the basic version (8 tracks) of the material. There was also a full version in the distribution, which is a complete record of both sessions with songs recorded for the “one hundred” in Polish and English.” –zuchu666 The ‘one hundred’ could refer to the Lućmierz forest massacre of one hundred people in response to the killing of two gestapo officers in 1942 during World War II, but I cannot confirm this assumption. It could also just be a poor translation on my part and might just mean they made one hundred copies. The first two of Magnus‘ demo years saw intense countrywide touring and essentially playing every show they could but by 1988 their style would change drastically and a new drummer was an essential pivot point. ‘Thrash Speed Blood’ is the result of replacing J. Rakowicz with drummer Jaras and for the most part his frenzied and aggressive style was the most notable change beyond the now wailing thrash metal vocals of Rob Bandit as he took Tom Araya’s performance on ‘Reign in Blood’ to another level of shriek. It sounds like the band was momentarily interested in becoming a hardcore/grindcore type of band while they targeted Poland’s underground but the material would be strong enough that they would be signed to short-lived label MiL Records.
|Title [Type/Year]||Scarlet Slaughterer [Full-length/1989]|
|Rating [4.25/5.0]||LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Road tested and pretty much putting in full-time gigs throughout the last three years by the end of 1989, Magnus would take a break in November to record new material they’d likely written on the road. They took thier crazed extreme metal troupe to Izabelin Studios in Warsaw to record what would be their debut album, ‘Scarlet Slaughterer’. This is unarguably the first death metal full-length from Poland unless you consider Dragon‘s ‘Horda Goga’ from earlier that year more than a thrash record, that’d be quickly released through MiL Records in December. At some point folks started comparing this album to early Sepultura and Sarcófago and it stuck, sure the comparison fits but frankly they sounded a bit more like Turbo at the time but with some of that really brutal drumming Slashing Death and the whole underground was doing. Sure, credit is due to the Brazilian villains and all that, but the Polish underground was full of incredible bands doing wild things with grind, thrash, and death at the same time. The definitive version of this album comes from Reaper Metal Productions and it is now up on their bandcamp as of I think 2017 at least. If anyone every says “Vader was the first death metal band in Poland” shove this (and Imperator) in their face and kick their balls.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Gods of the Crime [Demo/1991]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
The band moved quickly beyond that first full-length and got right back to touring. It sounds like the need to evolve stylistically (and their unreasonable tour schedule) soon had members dropping out. Between March/April in 1990 big shows in Russia would be followed by some key line-up changes again resulting in a new second guitarist and then two new bassists until they’d grab Open Fire‘s bassist “Greg” who they probably met at Metalmania ’89. The new line-up would produce a third demo, ‘The Gods Of The Crime’, that according to non-official sources originally came out in May 1990 but everywhere else sources and images say 1991. Here’s the thing, by 1991 Poland was already competitive in the realm of European death and thrash metal underground so a fairly standard death/thrash demo like this wasn’t all that exciting to folks who’d heard ‘Scarlet Slaughterer’. In every way this was an upping of the death metal side of things this time following Vader‘s lead in some respects and sounding a bit too much like ‘Necrolust’ if you ask me. The songs they’d write for these sessions would be a prelude to a very confusing 1992 where two versions (one re-recorded) of the same album would be released by two different labels. For what its worth, this demo is a step down from the exciting brutal thrash of ‘Scarlet Slaughterer’ in my opinion.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Gods of the Crime [Full-length/1992]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||See: ‘I Was Watching My Own Death’|
With their demo well circulated and death metal soon receiving attention from smaller labels in Poland 1992 was the year Magnus were meant to get their ‘break’. New songs were ready after sharing festival stage space with bands like Napalm Death, Deicide, Atrocity and Gorefest. The guys went back to Izabelin Studios and recorded eleven songs that would become Magnus‘ second full-length ‘I Was Watching My Death’, released by the Swiss label Blackend Records. Here’s where everyone gets confused and I don’t blame them. Carnage Records released 8 tracks from that same session under a different title, ‘The Gods of the Crime’ and this was NOT the 1991 demo of the same name as a cassette only license. Not only does the ‘The Gods of the Crime’ full-length lack three tracks from those recording sessions but it was the exact same sessions and not a re-recording. You can go spend 30+ Euros and import a bootleg from Poland to try and prove me wrong, but it won’t be worth it as I’ve done the work for you!
|Title [Type/Year]||I Was Watching My Death [Full-length/1992]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on Deathrune Records’ Bandcamp|
Consider the follow up to ‘Scarlet Slaughterer’ just as jarring as Massacra‘s move from ‘Final Holocaust’ to ‘Enjoy the Violence’. They’d moved towards more traditional influences and a good punch of Florida death metal ideas alongside their own classic thrash metal influences, you’ll even heard hints of ‘Arise’ (“The Dictator”) throughout. This superior and complete version of the sessions that’d also be used for the ‘The Gods of the Crime’ (non-demo tape version) finds Magnus at their most brutal with an album that’d serve as a perfect companion piece to Vader‘s ‘The Ultimate Incantation’ though the drumming here actually moves at a more reasonable death/thrash pace that is closer to Incubus or Messiah around that same time. All of the blasting bestial grind of the first album took a backseat to Slayer-isms and popular brutal thrash of the time that amounts to a full listen that plays great, sounds great, kicks ass but doesn’t feel like it was built upon three years of work. It all holds up and this is a fantastic early Polish death metal record with a strong thrash metal foundation, it should be counted among the best the country would produce in the early 90’s.
|Title [Type/Year]||Alcoholic Suicide [Full-length/1994]|
|Rating [2.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube!|
Hot off the heels of their well-received second album Magnus spent much of 1993 touring before they’d begin recording their third album in October of that year, once again at Izabelin studios. ‘Alcoholic Suicide’ is a fucking shit record, basically some kind of Motorhead (and punk?) influenced death/groove album that reads somewhere between Prong and Godflesh as it shits the bed. That year they’d appear at Metalmania ’94 with bigger name bands like Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse but nothing about their new sound would particularly impress anyone. It is almost as if they’d been listening to ‘Chaos A.D.’, The Exploited, and Suicidal Tendencies and made a record combining all of those things terribly. After the release of this weird-ass record (crossover/death/groove metal?) Magnus began work on a record of punk rock covers featuring songs from The Exploited, Youth Brigade and Stiff Little Fingers but the project was shelved and little of their activity beyond that was recorded. The band eventually split in 1997.
So, they’d given up on thrash metal in early 1993 and when the gamble of ‘Alcoholic Suicide’ didn’t pay out nobody would pay them any mind. Magnus would reform with most of that post-1990 lineup in tact and release another album in 2010 but I wouldn’t say it was as notable as anything they’d done prior. Say what you will about the weird direction they took at the peak of death metal popularity in creating a terrible cornball groove/death album but the legacy of Magnus was an important one for late 80’s death metal in Poland and between ‘Scarlet Slaughterer’ & ‘I Was Watching My Death’ they sure as hell put out two of the best (and most underappreciated) death/thrash records from the country’s very impressive extreme metal history. Try them both and if you think they suck, Fuck You!
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