ASTHAROTH  Gloomy Experiments + Demos  2 x CD   (Dark Symphonies)   13.99

I still have copies of the Polish import Metal Mind reissue that just features the album itself along with eight bonus tracks taken from the demos, and is beautifully packaged in a glossy digipak. The more recent Dark Symphonies reissue expands upon that with jewel case packaging and a 20 page booklet loaded with new liner notes, album and recording info, pics, and complete lyrics, but even more importantly, a second disc that is packed with demo, studio, and live material, much of which has never been previously released. Very nicely done. I myself had to upgrade to this one just because of the whopping 65 minutes of additional recorded material on a second disc.

Here's my older review of the music from the Metal Mind reissue :

Another older Metal Mind reissue that I'm just now discovering, Astharoth's 1990 debut Gloomy Experiments is a lesser-known prog-thrash obscurity from this Polish outfit that I just recently discovered after reading about them on some "weird thrash" list someone had posted online. Being someone who can never get enough oddball thrash, I went looking for this album after seeing them described as an unusual Voivod-influenced outfit, and Experiments turned out to be a great discovery. This stuff is a highly confusional brand of progressive thrash metal, pretty wonky stuff actually, and additionally stands out for being one of the few European thrash outfits of the time to have a female lead guitarist (Dorota Homme), who also contributes vocally for a really unique and eclectic style.

These guys were obviously drawing heavily upon both the otherworldly, spaced out dissonance of Voivod and the pummeling Teutonic thrash of bands like Kreator and Destruction with rampaging tempos and ferocious buzzsaw riffage, but that was then filtered through a quirky, somewhat spaced-out vision that rendered this into something much more unique. The guitars have a lush, textural feel, the vocals are a youthful snarl that matches the energy of the music, with introspective lyrics, and the songs shift between that furious thrash metal, strange almost jazzy guitar explosions, wild shredding, groovier rocking moments, some obvious post-punk influences, icy dissonant chords, all wound together into a set of nine sprawling, elaborately laid out songs that are delivered with an energetic, not too polished delivery. Intricate and brainy metal with lots of surrealistic atmosphere. Can't say I've heard anything quite like this album. The experimental, ambitious aspects make this something that fans of classic prog-thrash a la Coroner, Watchtower, Voivod, Mekong Delta and the like would want to check out, but Astharoth are much more prone to slipping out of their thorny thrash into sequences of chorus-drenched progginess that leads their album into unexpected directions. While Astharoth's Gloomy Experiments aren't essential if you're into progressive / weirdo thrash metal, their stuff is certainly interesting if you're into the weirder fringes of late 80s/early 90s thrash metal. This reissue pairs the album up with an additional seven bonus tracks that were recorded after the band relocated to the US in the early 90s, much of which gets into even more Voivodian territory.

OK, so on to the second disc that comes with the Dark Symphonies reissue. This one is awesome, with loads of unique, non-album material. You get a total of fourteen tracks, remastered versions of every demo the band ever did. This stuff varies in quality both in terms of songwriting, performance, and recording quality, but it's all crucial listening if you are a fan. I love the chronological track order, tracing their music from the early, chaotic roots through to the more sophisticated prog-thrash of their album-era material. The songs that feature the combination of female and male lead vocals are really great, too: "Wisdom Of The Blind" sounds as much influenced by the punchy post-punk of Killing Joke and Ghost Dance as it is by Voivod, Watchtower and Testament. Actually, in some ways this band feels like it shares more genetic material with Anacrusis than anyone else I can think of. The non-album songs prove to be pretty intriguing, with some of this demo material going even deeper into prog-rock territory than they did on Experiments. You get the 1991 Wisdom Of The Blind demo tape ("Wisdom Of The Blind", "Misplaced Senses", "Nameless"), the 1992 Limits demo tape ("Limits", "Egos Of Myself", "Accused"), the 1994 Cycles Of The Sphere demo tape ("Cycles Of The Sphere", "Denial"), and the 1990 Self-Hatred demo tape ("Toll Of Hypocrisy", "Self-Hatred", "Gloomy Experiments", "Circles Of Confusion"). There is also a previously unreleased song, "House Of Frustration", and a live track ("Drunk Hate ") that appeared on the Metalmania '89 compilation that came out on the obscure Polish cassette label Atomica.