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!
Named after an inside joke (Ted was a cat, a demented cat) among band members early in their formation, Demented Ted is just one of many forgotten gems resultant of the booming extreme metal scene within the Chicago, Illinois area in the mid-80’s. As with any scene there were folks who were just along for the ride as they developed musical ideas and I’d say a broader look at Demented Ted‘s evolution saw a group of crossover kids evolving too fast to last; This paired with a poorly managed career and separates them meaningfully from earnest die-hards and innovators like Paul Speckmann or the folks in Devastation, who’d cooking up some of the earliest death metal in the United States nearby. Though I’d concede their too-eager to keep up with the times ambition would demolish any earnest legacy, their sole full-length remains one of the absolute best death metal albums ever recorded. Go figure. Anyhow, this was a band that originally ‘got it’ as a Forbidden/Dark Angel-riffing hellion that’d clearly devoured every bit of death metal they could at the time ’til they’d recruit a capable enough set of guitarists to set them over the edge. The progression is clear enough, they thrashed their asses to death, and died under a different name as a mediocre industrial metal band. I’ve sourced some information from a Tough Riffs interview with guitarist Ken Cutler, who only elucidates the ’91-’95 era of the band. Thanks to original bassist Mark M. for extra info! 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]||Demo 1987 [Demo/1987]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube | “Rambo”|
This is quintessential mid-80’s Chicago thrash and it makes good sense that this tape came from the same circles that’d entertained Abomination, Aftermath, and wasn’t far from where Num Skull and their ilk were nearby. It wasn’t death metal at all, of course, and it has a major swing of hardcore punk from front to back. I’d always heard a bit of that Holy Terror melodicism in this tape, too. I believe the second song on the first link I’ve provided is entitled “Thermal Pulse” and it is probably my favorite song from the tape. This early version of the band, often labeled as Demented T.E.D., should be a shock to folks who only know this band from their full-length but a death/thrash evolution isn’t far off. Thanks to some information from original bassist Mark M. we now know that this tape (which the band called ‘Shotgun Bitch’) included “Rambo” and “More Than One”, and it was recorded at Zem Studio in Cicero, IL by a fellow who was better known for recording the “queen of polka”, who I assume would be Vlasta Krsek?
|Title [Type/Year]||Demo 1988 [Demo/1988]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||LISTEN to “Thermal Pulse” on YouTube|
Although I have never gotten my hands on a physical copy, or a direct rip, of this 1988 tape from the band each of the songs included appear unchanged from their 1987 tape version. I had initially speculated that this was a pared down version of the 1987 demo that removed their inside joke songs (eh, well “B.I.N.G.O.” is still there…) but this was a new recording which took place at Tanglewood Studio in Brookfield, IL.
|Title [Type/Year]||Demo 1991 [Full-length/1991]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN to “Liquid Remains” on YouTube|
No doubt they’d graduated from Dark Angel influences to fully embracing the raw power of Demolition Hammer, Malevolent Creation, Atheist and the jump to this death/thrash metal style was thanks in no small part to guitarist Ken Cutler, who joined the band in ’91. This is where the ‘riffs or die’ crowd can rejoice, especially if you’re a fan of early Loudblast as I find this tape to be a nice analogue to the ‘Sensorial Treatment’ era. This is the demo that opened doors for the band as they’d play their first Milaukee Metal Fest that year as well as filling the local opener slot for Pantera, Wrathchild America, White Zombie, and Morbid Angel. The crowds were convinced and the rabid death/thrash sound generated enough of a response that they’d lean towards death metal for the next few years. This demo is referred to by the band as the ‘Liquid Remains’ demo.
|Title [Type/Year]||Despair [Demo/1992]|
|Rating [4.25/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube: Side 1 | Side 2 | “Geneticide“|
All paths lead to Morrisound Studios in this era of United States death metal and Scott Burns knew exactly what to do with these technical death-thrashing rippers from Demented Ted‘s peak: Make it sound like Malevolent Creation. Yeah, I mean this band will forever be compared to the Florida scene of the time because they fully adopted the major traits of that sound to fit into it. I hear shades of Deicide, Malevolent Creation, and far less of the Disciples of Power and Atheist level of intricacy that’d perked my ears on the ’91 demo. No doubt ‘Despair’ would have done just fine as a demo if they’d never gone to Florida with it but, it was the right move in terms of getting signed as this tape would gain the attention of Pavement Records who’d taken note of the band’s ’91 demo prior and signed them to a one record deal with the option of four more. For many people this is the the best release from Demented Ted‘s whole discography because it has some of the most inspired death metal riffing out of Chicago, ever, and that Morrisound Studios raw burliness really sets it off. Plus the bass guitar tone is just fantastic.
|Title [Type/Year]||Promises Impure [Full-length/1993]|
|Rating [5.0/5.0]||LISTEN on YouTube | BUY Repulsive Echo [Reissue]|
Pavement Records (later Pavement Entertainment) was built upon the rise of sludge metal (Crowbar, Tungsten) and a few promising oddities of death metal (Carbonized, Gorefest) as it formed in ’92 and one of their earliest signings was Demented Ted. Straight up, ‘Promises Impure’ is one of my favorite death metal albums of all time so I won’t gush over it like an idiot too much. Instead of going to Scott Burns the band were wooed into Mark Pinske‘s Pro Media Studios for the favorable 30-40 days of studio time provided in the deal. They’d clearly been angling into a piece of the Florida death metal sound pie as Pinske was also working with Malevolent Creation for ‘Stillborn’ and would also produce the “We’re over it” album from Atheist, ‘Elements’. The heralded Zappa producer did wonders with each band, perhaps best understanding Demented Ted‘s groove-driven, thrashing style. Some of the charm comes from the flat mastering which makes ‘Promises Impure’ more blunt in their attack. The drumkit from the ‘Stillborn’ sessions was infamously used and the snare hits just as hard. If you’ll remember how much I love Loudblast‘s ‘Disincarnate’, this is the closest any band ever came to that sound (see: “Liquid Remains”). Lots of folks point to ‘Necroticism…’ era Carcass when talking about this album but that is far too superficial, and I’d say look to bands like Atrocity, Loudblast, and ‘Erosion of Sanity’ era Gorguts.
Repulsive Echo reissued the album in a slick, but very limited, digipack back in 2016 and I’ve seen rumors of a remaster attached to this but it is just a case of a modern transfer to CD offering more clarity as far as I can tell. Why doesn’t Demented Ted get more praise? Well, I can only suggest how it looks from 1994 onward: Their original bassist was booted for whatever reason, Ken Cutler left, and they would disband out of ‘disinterest’ only to reform (minus Cutler) as Beyond. Beyond was an industrial metal band that nobody noticed in 1995 though ‘Reassemble’ is far from the worst in the sub-genre. Basically there was no money in death metal anymore so they tried to keep up with the Fear Factory type of stuff before realizing they had a whole new hill to climb in a brand new band. I still get a kick out of the crossover thrash to brutal thrash to death/thrash to technical death metal evolution of this band and even if you only ever listen to ‘Promises Impure’ you’ll be better off for it.
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