Asbestosdeath
Dejection Unclean

For every two mediocre black-metal records that they press, Southern Lord releases a truly phenomenal band that demands attention. Recently, fans have been graced with phenomenal albums from Earth, Clown Alley, Boris, Lair of the Minotaur, and now Asbestosdeath. This San Jose quartet released two seven-inchers; Unclean was self-released by the band, and Dejection was released by Profane Existence) in 1990 before going their separate ways, and Southern Lord has lovingly committed both out-of-print EPs to CD for the first time.

Most noteworthy, however, is the line-up: bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarists Matt Pike and Thomas Choi, and drummer Chris Hakius. Choi went on to form ItisI, a doom/grind band that put out a single album on Dwell Records (released around the same time as Soilent Green’s Dwell debut, Pussysoul) before Choi moved on to join stoner-rock act Operator-Generator. The rest of the guys, of course, formed the almighty Sleep and pioneered stoner rock itself along with Kyuss and Monster Magnet—then went forward to expand the subgenre in the Sabians, High on Fire, and Om. Ergo, these recordings as Asbestosdeath stand as testament to the incredible potential that this pre-Sleep band held, not to forget the concepts that they would bring to the studio as Sleep proper.

“Nail” has huge jagged chunks of riffage with an off-kilter bass line that will immediately remind SoCal metal fans of Dystopia without the grind parts. At the 1:50 mark, Choi and Pike lapse into prog-rock chords lifted from Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato.” “Scourge” is another creeper, containing a bass riff at the 3:30 mark that would be streamlined in Sleep, though this track is more justifiably the template for what would become Choi’s ItisI. Though “Scourge,” “Anguish,” and “The Suffering” would be overhauled somewhat radically for inclusion on Sleep’s 1991 debut album, Volume 1 on Tupelo Records (possibly due to the addition of second guitarist Justin Marler), these early versions chronicle the musical vision and depth that Asbestosdeath unknowingly bestowed upon the metal world. Dejection Unclean is a must-have for all fans of early doom and especially those who skipped over Volume 1 in beginning their Sleep explorations.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
June 18th, 2007

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