Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ Twentieth Anniversary and Beyond

With all the recent (and excruciatingly gushing) talk about the twentieth anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ now starting to recede, it’s worth remembering that there were more than a couple of equally landmarking  albums released back in 1991 – and no, I don’t mean ‘Stars’ by Simply Red.

Almost making the cut is the majestic thrash-pop of Skid Row’s ‘Slave to the Grind’; the relentless riffs of Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ and, of course, the angst-ridden howls of Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’. But those are the runners-up; these are my winners (click the title for an AllMusicGuide review):

Sepultura – ‘Arise’

This is the album that propelled Sepultura into the mainstream. After the raw and gritty shred-fest that was ‘Beneath the Remains’, the Brazilian metal gods bolted huge girders of fat riffs to their powerhouse thrash foundations and constructed a heavy metal skyscraper of epic proportions.

‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ and ‘Altered State’ are the indisputable classics here, and today they still pack a punch as powerful as a spanking from Mr. T circa. 1983.

Put simply, this album ROCKS…HARD; something that can’t be said of Metallica’s 1991 effort, which proved only that they had lost their bottle, lost the plot and forever tarnished their legacy with the plodding, repetitive drivel that is the ‘Black’ album. (Don’t bother to write any letters; you all know full well it’s awful.)

The KLF – ‘The White Room’

Before they went all controversial for controversial’s sake and started burning millions of pounds for preposterously pretentious reasons, The KLF released the definitive acid-house album. From the head-crushing sirens of ‘What Time Is Love?’ to the machine gun notes and ZX Spectrum bleeps of the toe-tapping ‘3AM Eternal’ to the beautifully haunting chill of ‘Build A Fire’, it’s a record that proves the early-90s house scene was about more than Global Hypercolor tees and spotting Jerry Sadowitz in The Shamen’s ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ promo.

Oh, and a tip that my fellow music obsessives and Discogs-addicts will endorse: be sure to track down the original COMA release and not the edited Arista edition…U2 are childish spoilsports…unsurprisingly.

‘The White Room’ is serious, funny, twisted and emotional – accolades that can’t be bestowed on Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch; all of whom somehow broke 1991’s Billboard Hot 100 with vibrations that were anything but good.

Cathedral – ‘Forest of Equilibrium’

Although they later embraced all that was groovy and tuney, Cathedral were once boomy, doomy and gloomy in proportions matched only by Pentagram and Black Sabbath in their pomp. ‘Ebony Tears’ is a hypnotic descent into sludge hell and while you’re down there scratching out your eyes, ‘A Funeral Request’ kicks off and almost numbingly bashes your ears to a pulp.

Only ‘Soul Sacrifice’ threatens to wake you from a deep somnolent slumber before you’re scared shitless by the crazy flutes of ‘ Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain’. Excellent stuff.

Although ‘Forest of Equilibrium’ doesn’t match the progressive metal magnificence of ‘The Ethereal Mirror’ or ‘The Carnival Bizarre’, it’s one of the most uncompromising and provocative releases of the year, even though more people seemed to prefer ‘Woodface’ by Crowded House, of whom it goes without saying that some good soul really should have torched the fuckers.

So those are mine – but what are yours? Please let me know…

An edited version of this article appeared on the music website RoomThirteen.

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