Since their founding in 1983, Vader (named for Star Wars’ dark lord, of course), Poland’s premier death metal band, have been through many lineup changes. Only founding vocalist/guitarist Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek remains from the original incarnation. Along with the many personnel changes came musical evolution: Vader were founded as a power metal band who quickly embraced thrash, then speed metal, before embracing their ever-evolving, always-brutal brand of death metal. Perseverance was key: They toured Eastern Europe and issued only self-released outings for a decade — which included Morbid Reich, a cassette demo that sold some 10,000 copies and scored them a deal with Earache for their proper studio debut, 1994’s The Ultimate Incantation. After relentless touring and issues with the label, they went on their way, cutting and releasing records wherever they could. They signed to Metal Blade for 2000’s breakthrough Litany and remained there until moving over to Nuclear Blast for 2009’s Necropolis. 2016’s The Empire, issued 33 years after they formed, proved so successful that the band stayed out for two full years to support it globally. In 2020 the group issued their 16th long-player, Solitude in Madness.

Vader formed in 1983, toiling around the European death and thrash circuit while releasing demos into the metal tape-trading circuit. Their 1990 demo, Morbid Reich, became a huge hit in the underground, leading to a record deal with Earache in 1992. This made Vader the first death metal band from behind the Iron Curtain to sign a record deal outside of their native Poland. The same year, they released The Ultimate Incantation, a large success in the metal underground. They toured with Bolt Thrower, Grave, Deicide, and many other groups to bring their live performances to American audiences. They left Earache the next year and issued two more albums, Sothis (on Repulse Records) and The Darkest Age: Live ’93 (on Baron Records).

Vader tried to continue touring despite the declining popularity of death metal and the lack of a consistent recording contract. In 1995, they signed a deal with Impact Records, allowing them to maintain a regular album release schedule. Hammerheart Records issued their Necrolust and Morbid Reich demos on CD in 1998, as the band were enjoying their biggest success up to that point with the archival release Reborn in Chaos. They also recorded a live album, a mini-album (Kingdom), and a VHS video that year, and signed a new record deal with Metal Blade. By the time 1999 rolled around, the band were opening for Slayer and had their first headlining American tour.

In 2000, Vader released Litany and the Reign Forever World EP via Metal Blade, the former of which received a Fryderyk nomination. Arriving in 2002, the well-received Revelations also garnered a Fryderyk nomination, as did subsequent studio long-players like Impressions in Blood (2006), Necropolis (2009), and the Nuclear Blast-issued Welcome to the Morbid Reich (2011), the latter of which took home the award for Heavy Metal Album of the Year and charted in seven countries, including the United States. The Go to Hell EP preceded the release of the band’s tenth full-length outing, Tibi et Igni, which was followed in 2016 by the much-anticipated and aptly named Empire. During their two-year tour in support, Vader reconceived their debut long-player and cut The Ultimate Incantation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut release. It was available only on tour, and its homemade packaging misspelled the titles of two tracks in the liner notes.

After a break, the band re-emerged in 2019 with the five-track EP Thy Messenger, followed by the full-length Solitude in Madness in 2020. ~ Bradley Torreano, Rovi