12 Songs, 36 Minutes

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About Spinal Cord

The fall of Communism in Poland in the early '90s has had a positive impact on the country's music scene. A wide variety of artists have flourished in post-Communist Poland, and that includes everyone from traditional East European folksingers to bubblegum Europopsters and teen popsters (some of whom sound like Britney Spears or Hilary Duff singing in Polish) to hard bop jazz improvisers. The end of Soviet-style government has also been great for Poland's underground yet increasingly competitive death metal/black metal scene. One of the numerous extreme metal bands that came out of Poland in the late '90s was Spinal Cord, whose sledgehammer recordings are best described as death metal with thrash metal references.

Spinal Cord's work is not part of the trends that have been termed "melodic death metal" and "symphonic black metal"; those styles (which have thrived in the Scandinavian countries in the '90s and 2000s) seek to push death metal/black metal in a more melodic, musical, intricate, nuanced direction -- and Spinal Cord's ferocious work is not melodic or nuanced. However, Spinal Cord is not a one-chord grindcore band, either. Spinal Cord, unlike true grindcore bands, offers a lot of tempo changes, and some of their flashier guitar riffs show an awareness of Testament, Megadeth, and other thrash metal bands that emerged in the '80s (although Spinal Cord is a lot more extreme). There are also occasional hints of power metal and even progressive rock on some of the Poles' recordings; nonetheless, Spinal Cord is, like most death metal and black metal bands, primarily an exercise in hammer-to-the-skull bombast.

Spinal Cord (which writes in English exclusively) was formed in Busko Zdrój, Poland, in 1999, when lead singer Michal "Barney" Bachrij (who sings in a deep, guttural, demonic-style growl) joined forces with bassist Michal Dobaj, aka Boba; drummer Sebastian "Basti" Luszczek (formerly of the bands Devilyn and Hell-Born); and two guitarists, Piotr Smodrzewski (also known as Smoq) and Krystian "Dino" Wojdas (another former member of Devilyn). When Dobaj left Spinal Cord in 2003, he was replaced by bassist Novy -- a veteran of the Polish death metal/black metal scene who has played with the bands Behemoth and Dies Irae but is best known for his long association with Vader. One of Poland's earliest death metal outfits, Vader goes back to 1986 (which was before the fall of Communism and the demise of the Eastern Bloc).

The first thing that Spinal Cord recorded was a three-song promotional demo titled A.D. 2000, which they circulated in the early 2000s. Spinal Cord recorded their first full-length album, Remedy, in late 2002 and early 2003, and it was around that time that they signed a three-album deal with Empire Records (a Polish metal label). Empire has had a licensing deal with the Phoenix, AZ-based Crash Music, which released Remedy in the United States in 2004. ~ Alex Henderson

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