“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good And Evil

Ok, class…as I’ve touched on a few times before, the late 80’s and early 90’s were pivotal times for the world of what many deem “extreme” music. Like many cities in the U.S., Indianapolis, Indiana had its own growing army of bands ready and willing to thrash us all into violent oblivion. Crossover death-dealers, Radiation Sickness, rose quickly among those ranks, using the underground tape-trading network to gain ground with fans worldwide. They have shared the stage with the likes of Repulsion, Impetigo, Cannibal Corpse, and Suffocation, and will continue that tradition later this year, when they share a bill with Deicide. Fuelled by the human experiences involved in addiction, depression, death, and the general fondness for sounds that crush the listener into paste…the creations of Radiation Sickness have stood the test of time. Holding tight to their inspiration from the likes of Napalm Death, The Accused, Cryptic Slaughter, and Slayer, the band recently returned from the grave, and unleashed a long-awaited new record. Since then, they have continued to carve their name even deeper into the pages of extreme music history books with more live annihilation and more recordings…such as this anthology of material from the Radiation Sickness heyday.

The Madness Begins (1987-1990) (Negative Reaction Records) essentially serves a dual purpose. For long-time fans of Radiation Sickness, it presents a harrowing flashback of sorts to the early days of the band’s very own journey into insanity. Meanwhile, for those new to the RS assault, this collection offers an old-school glimpse into where these guys came from. It also grants a universal comparison between the older material, and the new joint (the first in over two decades), Reflections of a Psychotic Past. Presented with a more modern treatment, what you’ll hear on this recording is a thirty-eight track collection of raw and ravenous demo, 7”, live material, and previously-unreleased goods filled to the brim with sick-of-life, misanthropic, crusty death-grind mayhem. At first listen, you’ll likely be swept back to the days (if you were alive back then) when you’d pop the tape in and thrash around your room until the cops were called, for whatever reason.

Where Reflections of a Psychotic Past involves more of an old-school death metal approach, The Madness Begins (1987-1990) contains a decidedly punk/thrash element (through varying sound qualities) that’s sure to invoke thoughts of D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies. The songs manifest as a  nearly complete list of American society’s assholes and urban legends. Cyclonic opening track, “Stop” serves as a plea to stop the hate, violence, government, and terrorism that plagues the planet. “Elvis Ain’t Dead” touches on the notion that the so-called King of Rock n’ Roll never died on the toilet, but is instead bumming Camels at the market. Meanwhile, “Paid Harassment” is the Radiation Sickness version of “Fuck tha Police” and “Heavy Metal Mama” takes a stab at Mötley Crüe groupies with a humorous slant. There’s even a slamming rendition of the Eric Clapton-covered hit, “Cocaine”, during the second half of this beast.

Aside from the obvious purpose of listening to generally rage, The Madness Begins (1987-1990) also provides a way to more deeply see and appreciate the madness that spawned this band in the first place…and where they’re gonna keep taking us all. Radiation Sickness…from the vapors about!