So, pretty much what happened to "extreme" metal in the '90s and '00s is that it kept getting nastier and nastier, uglier and uglier, harder and harder to take -- thrash to death to black to grindcore, more or less -- until somebody had a better idea. And real often, that somebody was Polish-born, Germany-bred Waldemar Sorychta, who started the typically aggressive Grip Inc. with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo in 1993, but within a couple years was producing a spate of European bands and constructing stained-glass cathedrals of metal architecture while doing it.
Seemed like he'd been studying plenty of '70s art rock, '80s goth, '30s Carl Orff (a cover of whose "O Fortuna" opens this mix), possibly even '90s Enigma. But whatever it came from, the alternately depressive, hopeful, anthemic, expansive sound he brought to albums by Portugal's Moonspell, Sweden's Tiamat and Samael, Finland's Sentenced, and Holland's gorgeously female-vocaled The Gathering (followed by subsequent lady-fronted outfits such as Tristania, Lacuna Coil and Flowing Tears) went a long way toward defining gothic "dark metal" of the early 21st century. This playlist collects 20 tracks for which Sorychta has turned the knobs, many proving that headbanging can be just as beautiful as it is brutal.