Thursday, 30 June 2011

Agoraphobia - Germany's best death metal band???

Germany, the beginning of the 90’s. The country has just lost their leadership in Europe as the thrash metal best scene. Bands like KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, SODOM, LIVING DEATH, DARKNESS, ACCUSER, ASSASSIN, MINOTAUR, TANKARD, DEATHROW, VENDETTA have had their best time already behind them. And so the new generation of bands arose. They’re death metal masters – MORGOTH, ATROCITY, PROTECTOR, DARK MILLENIUM, IMMORTALIS, TORCHURE, BLOOD, DESPAIR, FLESHCRAWL… These were the bands, that captured the attention in the underground. But to some point the German death metal scene was disappointing. Country, which had such a big impact on the thrash metal in the 80’s, country which has the biggest death metal labels – NUCLEAR BLAST, CENTURY MEDIA – have produced only very few really great death metal bands. Let’s be serious – only MORGOTH and ATROCITY, maybe PROTECTOR and TORCHURE also, really were worth mentioning as some of Europe’s best names. FLESHCRAWL’s albums were yet to come…
Of course there were also many bands, which never really made it; which only managed to record some demos and then – with the death metal popularity going downhill – they ceased to exist and now remain almost forgotten – GENITAL PUTREFACTION, R.U.DEAD?, DEFUNE... Another such band is AGORAPHOBIA. The band never really managed to make the breakthrough, but I have to admit that their musical legacy – a demo tape and an EP, which they left from the early 90’s are the thing to remember them for. It’s a shame then that so little information is left about them. One would really have to dig through the old fanzines if wanted to find any informative articles about AGORAPHOBIA. A shame really. Their moniker clearly must have been taken from PROTECTOR song – at least I think so – AGORAPHOBIA was formed in 1989 in Meckesheim-Mönchzell. The guitarist Michael Schmitt, vocalist Boris Stefan, drummer Bob Schätzle and bass player Andreas Rigo have completed the first line up. Already one year later this band have collected few songs and recorded them in July 12-18th, 1990. Three tracks have created a debut demo titled “Premature Inhumation”. Musically the band was very traditional for the European death metal – there were many parallels to MORGOTH, PROTECTOR, PESTILENCE, MASSACRA – but AGORAPHOBIA had also a clear progressive / thrash metal touch, which especially could be noticed in “The Beast Within” track. Anyway, the demo was a very fine piece, so soon after the band got a chance to record an EP. “Wailing of Souls” was released in 1991 by Greek label BLACK POWER Records as a 12" Mini-LP on a clear vinyl. At the time the band had new guitarist: Heinz Steinhauser and a new singer, Tim Eiermann. The music became more brutal and less progressive, but surely it was an effective material. Myself, I love it! Pity then that AGORAPHOBIA didn’t survive these times and soon in 1993 – with reason unknown to me – the band has split up. The guys started to play in different acts like DEATHTRAP, TE DEUM, Tim Eiermann played in PYOGENESIS, Steinhauser in CREMATORY… But AGORAPHOBIA stayed inactive for almost 14 years, when the band suddenly came back, only with Schmitt and Steinhauser from the old line up in the band. But musically this reformed AGORAPHOBIA was barely a shadow of the old, musically much different, mixing various elements from death metal, thrash metal to even a lot of modern hardcore / nu metal, so everything which isn’t in my interest at all. AGORAPHOBIA has two self-released albums “Sick” and "The Fire Inside" in their discography, but they’re far from the old school death metal feast we have on the old recordings. Shame, once upon a time there was a German Death Metal band called AGORAPHOBIA…

Premature Inhumation (demo 1990)
Recorded: Recorded July 12-18th, 1990
Recording line up: Michael Schmitt – Guitars, Andreas Rigo – bass, Bob Schatzle – drums, Boris Stefan - vocals
This demo is a pure death metal worship. I cannot say anything bad about it, really! It’s been recorded in the times, when death metal was starting to get a worldwide recognition. Bands like DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, OBITUARY, AUTOPSY were ruling the underground and many new bands started to either record their demos or already coming up with a full length. Anyway, death metal wasn’t infected yet by stagnation and most of the recordings had the vitality, fresh ideas and energy, which in the future has been lost for some time – at least according to some opinions. AGORAPHOBIA is an excellent example for the early death metal from Europe. The band takes as much from thrash metal and bands like PROTECTOR and MASSACRA, as from US death metal classics like DEATH and POSSESSED. At the same time their songs have clear European vibe, which is present on the albums from bands like TORCHURE, early MORGOTH, ASPHYX, THANATOS... The production on the “Premature Inhumation” demo is really good – it has the raw edge, but is clear enough and professional even for a full length. Unfortunately there are only three songs on it, what must have been a little disappointing for the tape listeners, as the B-side has got just one track, which is instrumental. “The Beast Within” is actually quite interesting, because it shows how AGORAPHOBIA was going into the more progressive sound at that time. While the other two tracks are rather standard death metal songs, this one has some intriguing ideas like keyboards, effective guitar solos, some more technical, quite thrash metal influenced riffs. And of course it is instrumental track. But personally I prefer the other songs. The opening one, “Deface the Culprit” is just smashing. All the riffs are just classic and I almost have a feeling like I’ve been listening to one of the old time favourite albums. Really, the quality of AGORAPHOBIA music is undeniable. Interesting is the fact that their songs are quite long – “Premature Inhumation”, the title track, is 6 minutes long, but luckily there’s no feeling of repetition within it. The last thing I have to say about are the vocals. They’re not so usual death metal growlings, but something in between death and thrash metal style of singing, which sounds pretty original and cool. Great demo, then!
Best song: “Deface the Culprit”
Final rate: 80/100

Wailing of Souls (7”EP 1992 – BLACK POWER Records)
Recorded: unknown
Recording line up: Michael Schmitt – Guitars, Andreas Rigo – bass, Bob Schatzle – drums, Tim Eiermann – vocals, Heinz Steinhauser - guitar
The first impression I got from listening to this EP was that AGORAPHOBIA really made their music more brutal and stronger. Shit, the production is damn heavy and much more “in your face”. And the vocals… The singing style of Tim Eiermann, new vocalist, is more classic death metal, close to BOLT THROWER for instance and it does fuckin’ work for me! With all that – new sound and vocals - the music got a boost AGORAPHOBIA needed, and although the demo was already really good, it has no chance when confronting this EP. The progress the band made within a year is just amazing. My favourite song is the massive, slow, but fuckin’ heavy title track. “Wailing of Souls” has the best elements of both ASPHYX and MORGOTH, starts with great melody and then shreds with the slow riffage, crushing vocals and memorable chorus. There’s even keyboard playing in the background of that song for a while! Anyway, the effect is just astonishing and I love the song! To me it is perfect example for early death metal excellence – catchiness, dark atmosphere, heaviness... But the other two songs, “Amorphous Creature” and “Harassed Consciousness” aren’t any worse! “Amorphous…” is just excellent as it has both mid paced and slow riffing, while “Harassed…” is just a total mosh-friendly motherfucker with few DEATH-influenced riffs. Listening to the entire EP must be just a pleasure for every death maniac. AGORAPHOBIA music has everything that was essential for early death metal albums. I can honestly say that even years after this music has been recorded, it still sounds excellent and fresh and it is just a shame and something I cannot understand why/ how such a good band like AGORAPHOBIA remained unnoticed. I don’t think many fans got a chance to know their music at that time and unfortunately also the labels seemed not to be interested in signing yet another death metal band, despite the fact they had such a quality stuff recorded. Shame and a great loss! Luckily some fans saved these songs from being forgotten.
Best song: “Wailing of Souls”
Final rate: 95/100

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