Review Summary: Unearthed Swedish death metal treasure.
A lot of you are probably looking at the name of this band and either thinking two things; “Who the *** is this” or “Band name sounds like a noobs username on Sputnikmusic”. Nirvana 2002 were simply a Swedish death metal band, no frills added. Playing during a time period when thrash was on it’s way out and death metal was ripe with up-and-coming bands, Nirvana 2002 began their career as Prophet 2002, later changing their name to Nirvana until it was brought to the bands attention that a small Seattle band had released a 7” under the same name. Quickly tacking on 2002 to the end of their name, the band never quite established itself, only releasing a small collection of studio recordings that never added up to much more than a few promos and demos. By the time 1991 rolled around, Nirvana 2002 had packed it in without a single live show played under their belts. Fast forward twenty years later when Relapse Records decided to offer the band a one-album deal where the band had an opportunity to clean up all of their old demos and promos and release the entire thing as a compilation package. Thank God we have labels like Relapse Records who continue to revisit the past through a stellar line-up of bands. Now they can also add another notch onto their belts for uncovering a Swedish death metal gem.
If Swedish death metal is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. Right off the bat, the listener will notice the diversity in the tracks; not so much in the style of death metal that never really offered diversity to begin with, but through the production instead. Drawing a line down the centre of the album, the first half is filled with properly produced studio recordings, including a couple of face melting tracks like “Slumber” and “Snake” that weave horrifying melodies into their perfectly executed fuzzy guitar tones and base-snare-base rhythm attack. In fact, these first six tracks could have been considered classics had they been released twenty-five years earlier. The last half of this compilation is basically a bunch of restored cassettes where the dust was blown off, but never given a proper clean up. In other words, these are raw cuts of the first six songs that went straight from tape to digital. Surprisingly, these tracks don’t sound so bad and actually give you a glimpse into the bands history as you can feel the bands raw intentions captured in a single take in the studio. Even more surprising, most of these tracks benefit from a grainy production captured through these raw studio sessions as opposed to the first half of the album that has been run through the production wash. Either way, it’s an interesting look into how production can greatly change the feel of a song. The one cut on here that doesn’t fit the studio sessions is a track recorded live in 2007, a one-off show to promote the release of a fantastic book that captures the essence of Swedish death metal. It’s nothing spectacular, but you can certainly hear that the band hadn’t lost their edge from the good old days of jamming.
A question that should be asked about this album is as follows; “Even though Nirvana 2002 recorded most of these track between 89 and 91, how well do they hold up next to a generation of clones or even their peers who still keep on trucking such as Dismember or Entombed?” The answer is simple; if this compilation had been released twenty-five years earlier, this would have stood the test of time in the eyes of the metal community. However, sounding too much like Dismember, old-school Entombed and Grave as well as releasing your album 20 years after the fact, the relevance of this album feels more like the same old to the metalheads who need diversity in their music. Under the suspicion of taking one more kick at the cat, I’m thinking that Relapse Records saw this opportunity and took a chance at the sub-genre that has been well worn for the past 20 years, thus giving us diehard fans of the sub-genre that one last remaining gem that should be included in our elitist music collections.