DB HOF NO. 90
The making of Nuclear Death’s “Bride of Insect”
label: Wild Rags
Nuclear death were one of those bands that you really had to be there for. Formed in the depths of the Arizona desert in 1986 and dragged kicking and screaming through metal’s collective consciousness until 2000, the original trio was still in high school when they concocted what was to become their most beloved and influential recording. Bride of Insect was released in 1990, and introduced the rest of the world to the band’s dissonant cacophony.
Helmed by the inimitable Lori Bravo, who still stands as one of extreme metal’s most brash and brutal female vocalists, Nuclear Death began as a bastardized version of thrash and bled into an evil hybrid of proto-death and early grindcore– “deathrashardcorextreme music,” as drummer Joel Whitfield put it. They took their inspiration from Venom, Motörhead, Discharge, Witchfinder General and the Plasmatics, filtered it on through their own aberrant perspectives, and from there, it all went horribly wrong–or horribly right, depending on which side of the death metal fence you were standing in 1986. The ultra-raw production emphasized the barely contained chaos and gonzo song structures, summoning echoes of Horrified in its spare, primal effectiveness. Half the time, the band sounds as if they’re on the brink of an absolute breakdown–until they snap back from the edge and grab you by the throat once more, usually in three minutes or less. Whitfield’s use of primitive blast beats was revolutionary, and his constant barrage served as an anchor for Phil Hampson’s manic riffing and the ugly, distorted wall of noise they created.
The music is so dark, twisted and obscure that one could hazard comparisons to multiple strains of ensuing extremity; both Conqueror’s merciless onslaught and the feral blast of Scum conjure up the same oppressive, anarchic feel. The lyrics match–if not surpass–the music’s filthy intensity. In a time when extreme bands were ranting about the government or bumping fists with Satan, Nuclear Death chose to delve into the depths of human depravity. Murder and sexual deviancy were the order of the day, as incest, bestiality and necrophilia were all celebrated in loving detail. Bravo, a classically trained singer, tore her vocal cords to shreds on this record with her schizophrenic invocations–gruff, painful growls met high-pitched howls and left outsiders wondering, “Wait, is that really a chick?” You bet your ass it was, and one with the kind of brass cojones that most of us can only dream of developing.
Twenty-two years later, the band’s members have scattered and moved on to pursue other projects, but the festering sores Nuclear Death tore into the still-smooth face of American death metal have yet to heal. Tracking down all three original provocateurs was a challenge, but at the 11th hour, the last piece of the puzzle came crashing into place, and now it is with great pleasure that we induct Bride of Insect into the Hall of Fame.
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