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Centurian – Of Purest Fire

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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 As a historical document it is interesting in that it is the missing link between Inquisitor’s cult debut album “Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust” and the Centurian debut from 1999.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.

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