Before there were Enslaved and Theatre of Tragedy, there was Phobia. A short-lived death metal band with roots in the early '90s which featured the likes of soon-to-be Enslaved's Grutle Kjellson, Ivar Bjørnson, and now-defunct gothic metal darlings Theatre of Tragedy drummer Hein Frode Hansen. Young teenagers at the time and part of the short-lived pre-second wave Norwegian death metal scene, Phobia's sound was notably atmospheric and "spooky." The band's two 1991 demos, now compiled in the The Slaughterhouse Tapes compendium, offered the roots of what would eventually become the Enslaved sound, but in a roundabout way. Phobia was a death metal band, after all, and both Kjellson and Bjørnson had much ground to cover before discovering the sound they would herald on their first effort as Enslaved: the Nema demo which would be released later that year.

Disciples of Helvete and Euronymous' teachings (though it was a conversation with Immortal's Demonaz which inspired the shift to black metal, one which would lead to the band taking their name from an Immortal song, "Enslaved in Rot"), it was only a matter of time before these future Enslaved members, then young teens (Bjørnson was actually 13 when Phobia dissolved), would abandon death metal entirely in favor of black metal and a reverence for Norwegian history and lore. Even so, these Phobia demos and other ephemera are relics of a bygone time; Norway's growing pains were apparent and the small Haugesund scene (Kjellson and Bjørnson would eventually relocate to Bergen while Hansen would move to the United States before returning and starting Theatre of Tragedy) even moreso. Even so, Phobia's demos contain characteristics of what was to come, be it the overwhelming sense of atmosphere, the songs' inherent moodiness, or the blasting aggression which ported over to their next project's earlier works. Named for the community center, the Haugesund "Slaughterhouse" or "Gamle Slaktehuset," a haven for young bands in which these demos were recorded, The Slaughterhouse Tapes recalls a transitional period in Norwegian extreme metal history and a turning point in metal overall. Listen to the first official Phobia compendium, featuring both demos and three unreleased tracks, below.

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The Slaughterhouse Tapes is out now on Nuclear War Now! Productions.

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