Genre: Black/Death Metal | Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Location: Kansas City, MO| Listen: Bandcamp
Box sets are a curious release – they’re usually aimed at the diehard fans of a band, but a lot of the time, said fans already own a good chunk of the band’s discography. Not only that, they’re expensive, so they really need to offer something unique, be of high quality, and/or contain hard to find material that would make it worth the purchase. When it comes to Order From Chaos, the now defunct cult black/death metal band from Kansas City, MO, their “Frozen In Steel” box set has to be one of the most gorgeous and complete releases I’ve ever seen.
Back in 2008, Nuclear War Now reissued both the band’s full length albums on vinyl, including a beautiful diehard edition of each. I was already bit by the OFC bug at this time, so I was sure to purchase both, and I’ve even gone as far as reviewing both previously on MA with very high rankings. I won’t be going into as much detail about each release included in the “Frozen In Steel” box set, so feel free to refer to those reviews for further details. In addition to both of those albums, the box set includes every demo, EP, and mLP the band released, plus a slew of live and rehearsal material throughout the years. If you have the diehard edition of the box set, there’s extra live/rehearsal material, including a live set from their reunion in 2010. It’s a lot to take in across 9 LPs – 12 if you have the diehard edition – but it’s truly a complete package.
The demo material ranges from raw to fairly listenable, and offers an early look at the band’s thrash origins, which are on full display in their formative years. One of the unique things about Order From Chaos was that they were always refining their songs, which means there are several versions available. Early demo tracks like “Crimes Against the State” later became “Labyrinthine Whispers” on the Dawn Bringer mLP, for example. They also did a lot of live in the studio recordings, offering rougher previews of what was to come on their full lengths. As such, listening to this box set in one sitting could get a little repetitious, never mind the fact it’ll cost you an entire day of listening.
As I mentioned, I already owned the two full lengths the band put out, and I also have a CD version the “Dawnbringer” mLP. The EPs, such as “Plateau of Invincibility” and “And I Saw Eternity” have long eluded me, so I’m very happy to finally have these tracks on a hard copy. Compared to the demos, these EPs (much like the full lengths) are much more black/death metal oriented, with furious riffs, unrelenting drums, and some of the most venomous vocal performances of all time. The cover versions of Venom and Sodom songs are definitely more bad ass than the original recordings. When you listen to all this material, you can really hear the maturation of the songs, the performances, and the attention to detail in the production. Everything just keeps improving, and they pretty much hit death metal perfection on the final album, “An Ending In Fire.”
The presentation of this box set is phenomenal. Each LP is housed in a proper gatefold jacket, with original artwork and liner notes inside. NWN made sure to include some bonus items such as a flag, patch, poster, and stickers. However, the most stunning part of all the extras has to be the hardcover book that was included. All members of the band collaborated to accurately cover the history of Order From Chaos, with discussion of all the recording sessions. There’s plenty of unseen photos, gig posters, and pieces of interviews within it, giving the fans something unique to this box set. If you’re familiar with the Mystifier box set that NWN put out, it’s a huge improvement, as that one didn’t contain proper LP jackets and its included booklet was flimsy in comparison.
Some of the live and rehearsal material here gets a little monotonous, and ranges in quality. Although that material only takes up 3/9 of the LPs on the regular edition, it’s takes up half of the box set with the diehard edition. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of when considering if this box set is worth it for you or not. I will fully admit I don’t listen to all of the material offered in equal amounts, but sometimes it’s just cool to hear some classic OFC songs performed in cites like Omaha, NE or Manassas, VA. That being said, compared to the diehard version of the Mystifier box set, all the extra material here is far better than the terrible live LP that was included with that one.
Nuclear War Now knocked it out of the park with this box set – I’ve never seen such a gorgeous release that’s been put together with such detail before in my life (yes, there’s the Emperor box set, but I’ve never actually seen real photos of it, just rendered previews). Despite owning their main releases, having all the EPs, demos, and extra live/rehearsal stuff together in the set alongside the incredible hardcover book makes this release worth it for me, and it’s easily the most impressive release in my collection. I ended up receiving the CD version from the band themselves, and it contains all the material on the regular vinyl edition across 5 CDs, and is definitely a more affordable option for curious ears who don’t want to break the bank.