The essential guide to Cacophonous Records

One of the most influential and respected British labels in underground metal history, Cacophonous Records had a huge impact on the nascent black metal scene in the ‘90s. Thanks to early releases by the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, the imprint became synonymous with metal’s darkest shadows and has been greatly missed since receding from view a decade ago. The good news is that Cacophonous are back, relaunching in 2016 and once again hell-bent on unearthing the very best in dark, gothic and extreme music. This gives us the perfect excuse to pick out some gems from the label’s first crack at the whip, as we start getting exciting about the sonic nightmares to come…

Psychic Pawn – Famine Of Egypt
(Decadent Delirium, 1994)

Generally omitted from most death metal histories, Psychic Pawn were gruesome maniacs with tons of technical flair. One of the earliest Cacophonous releases, the Americans’ only album Decadent Delirium was a thrilling rush of untutored aggression and vein-popping fretwork that, with hindsight, clearly paved the way for death metal’s creative rejuvenation in the early 21st century. Brilliantly twisted stuff and a telling statement of intent from Cacophonous.

Cradle Of Filth – Summer Dying Fast
(The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, 1994)

The album that brought that mischievous scamp Dani Filth to our attention, the first Cradle album sparked a revolution in the UK metal underground and set its creators firmly on a path towards commercial success and great notoriety. Until this point, black metal was viewed primarily as something produced by Norway and (to a lesser extent) Sweden, but Cacophonous’ endorsement of homegrown efforts made a huge difference to all concerned. Classic devilry.

Primordial – Infernal Summer
(Imrama, Cacophonous, 1995)

Still one of the most powerful and distinctive bands in metal today, Primordial opened their account with the stirring, rapacious Imrama two decades ago, scoring another early triumph for their label masters in the process. Singling out the truly momentous from the hopelessly mediocre is something that most legendary labels do well, and Primordial’s subsequent rise to legendary status says it all about the Cacophonous crew’s prescient passion.

Bal-Sagoth – To Dethrone The Witch Queen Of Mytos K’unn (The Legend Of The Battle Of Blackhelm Vale)
(Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule, 1996)

Masters of dark, intricate and extreme fantasy metal two decades before Game Of Thrones officially turned the world into one giant geek-out, Bal-Sagoth were too ambitious, too weird and on the wrong side of insanity for many metalheads, but their entire catalogue stands up today as a celebration of eccentricity and artistic verve. Their second album for Cacophonous is simply a classic: barking mad and light years ahead of its time.

Dimmu Borgir – Dodsferd
(Stormblåst, Cacophonous, 1996)

Second only to Cradle Of Filth in terms of hyperbole and reputation during black metal’s mid ‘90s crescendo, Dimmu Borgir were Cacophonous’ first venture into Norwegian darkness. Raw and vicious but undeniably epic, Stormblåst remains a genre benchmark. And no one needs to recount how utterly huge Dimmu Borgir subsequently became. A milestone for a legendary band and another Cacophonous bull’s-eye.

Sigh – 12 Souls
(Hail Horror Hail, 1997)

Never mind Babymetal – Sigh are the true guardians of Japan’s demented metal spirit. Their second album for Cacophonous brought psychedelia, prog rock indulgence and an underlying sense of psychological chaos to bear on black metal’s monochrome blueprint. It still sounds utterly mind-bending today.

Meanwhile, the first band to be signed to the all-new Cacophonous Records are UK purveyors of “monolithic metal” The King Is Blind. Last year’s debut EP The Deficiencies Of Man was a thunderous opening salvo, but fans of brute force and dark atmospheres should brace themselves for the groove-drive, malevolent enormity of the quintet’s forthcoming debut album, Our Father, which is due to emerge early in 2016. For a taste of what’s to come, here is the band’s full set from Hammerfest 2015. We were there. It was killer.

The King Is Blind premiere new track Fragility Becomes Wrath

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Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.