I don't like being that kinda person who whines that things in music aren't what they used to be, and that only the old times were good, claiming that Metallica were good only with Cliff Burton or that Lady Gaga was true only in her first 7" and then sold out. Still, it is perfectly true that Relapse Records has ceased to be of any actual interest for many years now. Gone are the times when they had in their roster perhaps underground metal's most interesting bands, released amazing grindcore and made brave incursions into more experimental territory. Who can forget their sublabel Release Entertainment, which was responsible for bringing to the ears of many metalheads and punks artists like Merzbow, Masonna, Robert Rich, Brighter Death Now and so many others? I still remember their old website up to like 2004, black background and green letters, with an excerpt from Tribes Of Neurot's "Belief" as background music that made me always keep an open tab on the website just to hear that sample for hours on end. Not to mention their great mailorder that introduced my punk high-school years to numerous noise, industrial and ambient works.
One of the greatest releases of Relapse was this cd by the Australian duo Halo, consisting of drummer Robert Allen and bassist/growler Skye Klein (also working solo as Terminal Sound System). I discovered this album from a metal zine when I was 16 and it was one of my first tastes of what would be called "drone metal," which at that time I just called experimental sludge (I might not have yet listened to Sunn O))) at that time) and I was blown away by the oppressive heaviness and the totally bleak atmosphere it evoked. The music here is a mix of slow, repetitive rhythms, somewhere between Godflesh and doom metal, with heavy doses of early Swans misery and destruction (the singer could also be described as a mix between Michael Gira and Justin Broadrick), bass-drone stasis, and some more experimental/psychedelic moments to lull you before you go again deeper into madness. But, who wouldn't get into an album taking its title from the great philosopher Felix Guattari, huh?
Halo would go on to release another album for Relapse, Body Of Light, which was a bit cleaner but also more Swans-y, did some tours with grindcore bands and then disappeared. Relapse would eventually become a cash cow through Mastodon, would lose almost all of their good bands, would buy off the Death back catalog and would start releasing crap after crap stoner rock and technical death metal.
2001 cd on Relapse.