Sunday, August 26, 2012

Black Sunday: Mantas - Death by Metal (2012)

In keeping with its subject, this Black Sunday is decidedly brief and lo-fi. There's no flashy packaging, no gloss, no color, even, in Relapse Records' proper release of the genesis of death metal, Death by Metal by Chuck Schuldiner's seminal Mantas.

Death by Metal as proper product is presented with a no-frills package designed to emulate photocopied demo materials and is a minimal, charming bare-bones affair. A simple matte jacket, white sleeve and 12x12" two-sided insert, all black-and-white, is all there is. Notes from death metal chronicler Ian Christe dominate one side along with a reproduction of the original Death by Metal cassette demo insert, the Emotional 7" sleeve and a review of the demo from way back when. The other side offers some recollections from guitarist Rick Rozz, a nice group shot and a copy of a hand-drawn advertisement for the demo (just four buck to Chuck's house in Altamonte Springs would have landed it in your hands).

If it all feels a little slight, perhaps it is. Really, though, all we have is a total of seven tracks, duplicated here to a total of fourteen with two versions of the demo making up the first nine numbers and a five-track rehearsal from 1984 rounding out the record. Death by Metal is at once raw and aged. It's still presented as a humble production as if it remains unaware of its influence. This is not material for an audiophile but instead artifact for the metal archeologist. It's an origin that deserves appreciation and, thanks to Relapse Records, it's one that has now moved beyond museum piece, out of the display case and into the record crate.

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