It’s not that they ceased to be after its release in 1991. They sputtered on with an EP, Inhuman Condition, in 1992, but took a few more years to put out their disastrous sophomore effort Promise. The ‘90s metal scene, populated by grunge and weak riffs, caught up with Massacre and they flatlined shortly thereafter. Vocalist Kam Lee would disown and ridicule Promise in interviews, and the band faded out with the promise they had shown turning into an afterthought.
Earache Records reissued From Beyond a handful of years back, so it’s out there for those novice death metal listeners who haven’t sampled the album yet. What’s there to anticipate from a band featuring past members of Death? Well, it has that Death air to it, though more the Leprosy era than something from Spiritual Healing or Human. That may have to do with Massacre guitarist Rick Rozz performing on Leprosy, as well as being one of the first members of the band when they were known as Mantas.
What is interesting (and it may just be all in my weird head) is the almost reverse order of the track listing. Instead of opening with a heavy-hitting track, they go the opposite route with the subtle build-up of “Dawn of Eternity.” They save their fastest material for the redone version of “Corpse Grinder,” which was first recorded back in 1984 on Death’s Reign of Terror demo. Massacre disengage any semblance of tempo variety by the time the last few songs come up.
This twist of momentum works in From Beyond’s favor, easing the listener into the album before jamming death metal down their exposed throats. Cheesy synths in “Chamber of Ages” aside, the album sounds great, though Rozz lays on the screeching Kerry King-styled guitar solos a bit too much. It’s his go-to solo technique, and there isn’t much difference between the first time he does it and the fifth time.
Rozz does have a pile of solid riffs to work from, and “Defeat Remains” has a superb main riff backing it. Lee is also one of the main attractions, his deathly growls are a stand-out. Lee has been credited as an innovator of this vocal style, and he spills bile all over the music with his tongue lashings. Years of experience between his time with Death and this album are put to good use, as his voice affirms the lyrical stock of violent imagery and devilish misdeeds.
Though the band dissolved in the mid ‘90s, they reunited a few times before seriously starting up again in 2011. Rozz and bassist Terry Butler return from the original incarnation, but Lee and drummer Bill Andrews are not involved. This version of Massacre has put out new material, releasing an EP Condemned to the Shadows in 2012, and planning a full-length for sometime in 2014.
From Beyond came a couple years too late, lacking the impact it could have gained had it been released in 1988 or 1989. It’s a volatile record, no doubt, though it doesn’t have the finesse and throat-strangling intensity of some of its peers. For being a strong death metal debut that didn’t get the band the success they reached for, From Beyond gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.