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By 1997 lead guitarist Rob Oorthuis had joined Inquisitor, and his unique riffing style called for a vessel all its own. Retaining its anti-Christian sentiment the newly formed Centurian adopted the Chaos theme. Forgoing its thrash metal influences Centurian aimed for a denser and more technical death metal sound. “Of Purest Fire” is the band’s first independently released demo that showcased the band’s chosen style, and included a pair of covers from its main inspiration Morbid Angel and its predecessor Inquisitor.

‘Intro: Evoking Demonstorms’ samples the invocation scene from “Hellraiser IV: Bloodline”. ‘Hell At Last’ sounds like a leaner, meaner version of “Covenant” era Morbid Angel with grunted/shrieked vocals of prime era Deicide. ‘Soultheft’ is one of the stronger cuts of the demo, and it would appear on the band’s debut album in re-recorded and vastly superior form two years later. ‘Better Off Burning’ has a couple of worthwhile riffs but it can be heard why it was discarded at a later stage. The same goes for ‘God Got Killed’. Of the tracks exclusive to this demo the title track is among the stronger ones. ‘Outro’ would be re-written as ‘Damned and Dead’ on the band’s “Choronzonic Chaos Gods” debut a mere two years down the line. The liner notes specifically hail Glen Benton, Trey Azagthoth, Pete Sandoval and (second line-up) Marduk drummer Fredrik Andersson.

That isn’t to say that these cuts are any less worthwhile, but rather that it was understandable on the band’s part why they weren’t refurbished later on. It stands to reason that ‘Hell At Last’, ‘Soultheft’ and the pre-production idea for ‘Damned and Dead’ are plainly stronger than the remaining songs. As a historical document it is interesting in that it is the missing link between Inquisitor’s cult debut album “Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust” and the Centurian debut from 1999. An argument can be made that “Of Purest Fire” on various fronts is stronger than the following debut. None the least the demo was superior in terms of production work and overall presentation. As far as Deicide and Morbid Angel influenced death metal go Centurian was leagues better than a lot of its imitators and copycats. Not only due to the extreme speed at which they played, but more importantly thanks to the hellish drumming of Wim Van der Valk and the chaotic, mesmerizing lead playing of guitarist Rob Oorthuis.

Like the preceding Inquisitor album “Of Purest Fire” was recorded as a trio at Q.S.A. Studio with Vincent Dijkers producing. Despite being a production of limited funding the demo for the most part sounds better than the album that would follow two years later. This rings especially true for the drums that sound a lot more powerful and gritty here. “Of Purest Fire” is the first of three Centurian records with very similar artwork. The creature in the drawing that first appears here would return in various forms over the next two albums. Some of the thrash metal architecture would be carried over on “Choronzonic Chaos Gods”. Centurian would reach its creative apex on its lauded second album “Liber Zar Zax” after which they abruptly split due to mounting interpersonal conflicts.

“Of Purest Fire” was originally released independently in 1997 on cassette by the band. It was first re-released in CD format as an EP through American black metal specialist label Full Moon Productions in 1998 when Centurian signed for its debut album. It was re-issued once more most recently by American underground metal label imprint Hells Headbangers Records in 2014, to capitalize on the renewed interest in the band’s backcatalog after they had announced to return to active duty. Judging by the quality of the demo it isn’t very surprising that Centurian ended up getting contracted and eventually having its music reach audiences in Europe and North America alike. Uncompromising to the extreme “Of Purest Fire” has one of Holland’s most promising units in its formative stages, and they would only make an upward trajectory from there on forward.

Before drummer Wim Van der Valk formulated Centurian, he was part of the transitional outfit Inquisitor. Not only was the band famous for its condemnation of organized religion, Catholicism in particular - but also for featuring guitarist Erik Sprooten who would make a name for himself with Ancient Rites a few years down the line. Inquisitor existed from 1992 to 1996, and in that short time they released two studio demos, a live demo – and its sole cult album “Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust” through Belgian label imprint Shiver Records in 1996. The devilish, nearly hysterical falsetto vocals of Alex Wesdijk, and boycotting of shows helped in establishing the band’s reputation.

1545795_143139552523389_429390673075033842_nPrior to cutting its debut album Inquisitor released two studio demos “Blasphemous Accusations” (1992) and “Your Pain Will Be Exquisite” (1993). A live demo tape “Crush the Holy Church” was released in 1993 to stir further industry interest. Like many a debut “Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust” consists mostly of songs from the previous demo tapes, except ‘Deluge (The First Final Judgment)’ and ‘A Lifetime’s Lie’ that were omitted for a hitherto undisclosed reason. In many respects “Walpurgis” functions as a best-of anthology including three new songs. Even though Alex Wesdijk is a clear-cut speed metal singer Inquisitor is on many fronts of a more death metal persuasion.

A number of songs sound like Centurian songs in waiting, primarily cuts as ‘Consuming Christ’, ‘Jehova’s Downfall’, ‘Crypt Of Confession’ and ‘Fallen Missionary’ but they are thrashier than the latter. ‘Trial Of Denial’ has a more pronounced Iron Maiden influence in terms of riffing and bass guitar licks in its slower parts. The solo sounds as something you’d hear on Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All”. ‘Consuming Christ’ and ‘Cry Of the Christians’ are the shortest tracks of the record. ‘Chaos In Eden’, ‘Unholy Seeds’ and ‘Inquisitor’ are far more compositionally dense in comparison to the rest of the album, the second of these is custodian to one of the album’s best solo moments.  Inquisitor plays much faster and heavier than the average thrash/speed metal band. For all intents and purposes they were a contemporary equivalent of Dead Head’s “The Feast Begins At Dawn”.

One of the record’s biggest strengths is just how unhinged and uncontrollably chaotic it sounds. Each of the songs is more decimating than the next, and the nearly hysterical falsetto vocals contrast heavily with the almost death metal that the band plays. Wesdijk and Van der Valk are the band’s calling cards, whereas Erik Sprooten plays far more evil sounding riffs at a truly relentless pace than his later work with Belgian death/black metal icons Ancient Rites would ever allow. Recurring in the post-Inquisitor band Centurian is the strong anti-religious sentiment but the latter outfit would draw inspiration from newer bands in the genre. Even though Inquisitor released a sole album in its original run said album was enough to establish its cult metal band reputation.

10496107_143110855859592_2102872788656278206_oThe album was recorded and mixed over a two-month period at R.S. 29 with Oscar Holleman and the band co-producing in 1995. Much like the Acrostichon album “Engraved in Black” it has a functional production that nevertheless is rough around the edges and not very tonally defined. Holleman’s production is adequate from a technical standpoint as all the instruments are distributed evenly in the mix - but in reality is nothing more than a slightly superior demo production. While the drum tone is far from the most optimal the crunchy guitar sound, and thick sounding bass guitar tone are what truly sells the record. Misja Baas was responsible for the amazing artwork. He had made a name for himself by providing visuals for the Marduk album “Those Of the Unlight”.

That Inquisitor only released a solitary album before its membership moved on to a full-blown death metal unit has only strengthened its cult status. The band’s entire recorded history: “Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust”, and its three preceding demos, were recently re-released by Dutch extreme metal label imprint Hammerheart Records. Even though its key members made a name for themselves with lauded bands as Ancient Rites and Centurian, Inquisitor reunited in 2014, with original bass guitarist Alex Bakker, and over a decade of inactivity seems to have only made them more dedicated and hungry.  With the renewed interest in traditional metal and the 20th anniversary of Inquisitor’s lone album coming up in 2016, it seems we haven’t heard the last of these Dutchmen.