DB HOF NO. 098
The making of Rigor Mortis’ “Rigor Mortis”
Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an album are just as important to its status as a Hall of Fame inductee as the music itself. As you’ll read in the pages that follow, this is definitely one of those instances. Not to diminish the band’s musical talent, but Rigor Mortis—originally started by high school friends Mike Scaccia (guitar), Casey Orr (bass) and Harden Harrison (drums) in 1983—found themselves on the receiving end of some fateful circumstances (both good and bad) that not only had a dramatic effect on the arc of the band’s career, but helped make their teeth-jarring debut the kvlt thrash classic it remains today.
Certainly the addition of vocalist Bruce Corbitt in 1986 was a watermark event. Corbitt only appeared on one Rigor Mortis album—he was sacked not long after the release of the debut—and, not coincidentally, that’s the album we are celebrating. But there are other pivotal moments along the way—the support of a local promoter, Capitol’s odd choice for a producer, the band’s eventual dismissal from the label—that played major roles in the album’s curious mythology. And did we mention that two members of the band—Corbitt and Harrison—were stabbed in a brutal backstage brawl while they were in the midst of negotiations with Capitol? Rigor Mortis were not only flying the flag for a faster, gorier and more brutal form of metal; they were living and breathing it.
This is, however, first and foremost about the music, and for a thrash metal band to arise and distinguish itself from an era that most agree was not the height of the genre is impressive. By 1988, most of the acknowledged thrash classics had been recorded by Slayer, Metallica, Exodus and Testament. Megadeth were working up to theirs, but there were more uninspired, second-gen copycats than truly great bands. Rigor Mortis were that exception. Perhaps due to their Texas origins, they emerged with a fresh take on a tired style. Rigor Mortis sounds like no other album from that era—from the songwriting and playing to the actual production. It’s violent, raw and punishing from the first sludgy notes of the opening instrumental “Welcome to Your Funeral” to the closing pummel of “Slow Death.” This is an album more disturbing and vicious than most indie records of the day, and it was released on the same label as the Beatles. Here’s how it all happened.
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