Various 20 Years of Century Media: 1991 - 1995

This fully enjoyable double-disc set is the first in a series of four (to be compiled as a box set when they're all released) that Century Media is putting out celebrating their 20th anniversary. 1991 to 1995 was an interesting time in extreme metal, when death metal drove itself into the ground, new subgenres started to emerge and labels started going for a classier look with artwork and design. Production values were also changing, as a listen to this two-and-a-half-hour compilation proves. Classic death metal dudes Morgoth get things started excellently with their primitive death, with nary a dynamic in sight; it's quaint, has a very blocky snare drum sound and is a perfect example of how death metal used to sound. Then track two is Demolition Hammer's classic "Infectious Hospital Waste," quite possibly the only death metal song to ever talk about a "school of fish." It's a great way to get things started. There are no unreleased tracks or rarities, which is a wise move; we don't need to hear demos or reject songs, we just want to hear the best of this diverse label, and we get it, with the death of Asphyx, Unleashed and Grave, and the sludge of Grief and Eyehategod stealing the show. There are some forgotten bands (the cult doom of Penance, Graveyard Rodeo's second-tier NOLA effort), weirdo proto-goth metal (Tiamat, Samael, Moonspell) and a fully strange submission from hardcore heroes Cro-Mags, who were going through some growing pains. Then there are bands that are so intrinsically tied to the history of this label, like Only Living Witness, Nevermore, Strapping Young Lad, the Gathering, Iced Earth and Sentenced, who here are just about to enter their hilarious and excellent "Metallica on Finnish rock" phase. All told, a great look at a super era in this label's history. But Stuck Mojo still suck. (Century Media)