Local metal spotlight: A brief history of Timeghoul

The early ‘90s is often remembered as a period of major creativity in American death metal. A sea change in extreme metal was occurring in the genre, with bands pioneering a progressive and highly technical sound, an evolution from death metal’s more thrash and speed-metal influenced origins in the 1980s. The celebrated Tampa Bay scene from this era gave rise to iconic bands like Atheist, Death, and Morbid Angel, with Florida as a whole becoming a hotbed for death metal much in the same way the San Francisco Bay was for thrash in the 1980s.

Although the Tampa Bay scene understandably gets the most recognition in contemporary circles, the progressive death metal revolution was not limited to Florida alone. Over 1000 miles westward, in the sleepy town of Foristell (population: 550), Missouri’s own answer to the tech death boom emerged: Timeghoul. Although active for only four years (from 1991-1995), Timeghoul has developed a significant cult following over the years, with contemporary and similarly cosmic-themed bands like Blood Incantation and Cryptic Shift citing them as an influence.

A vintage picture of Timeghoul

Timeghoul was formed in 1991 by friends Mike Stevens and Jeff Hayden. The band was originally known as Doom’s Lyre, named after one of the earliest songs they wrote together.

“Me and Jeff [Hayden] met in high school. I played guitar, so eventually he got one and Timeghoul was formed,” Stevens told us. “It was difficult to find members, because our music wasn’t trendy. We kind of didn’t fit the mold. Skoal-dipping ugly dudes just wasn’t cool!”

Hayden and Stevens eventually recruited a drummer, Tony Holman, and bassist, Chad McNeely, giving rise to the original Timeghoul lineup.

“Tony and Chad, who was actually a guitarist turned bassist, came into the picture later. We already had songs by that point, so through hours of practice, Timeghoul was born,” said Stevens. “I know me and Jeff had never been in any bands before that. We basically learned to play together.”

Timeghoul would go on to record two EPs during its brief lifespan: Tumultuous Travelings(1992) and Panaramic Twilight (1994), both of which were originally self-released on cassette. The tapes provide a showcase for the band’s eclectic approach to death metal, featuring blast beat drumming, shredding solos, unusual scales, and frequent meter changes. Guitarists Stevens and Hayden were the primary songwriters for all of the band’s material.

“The process [for writing the demos] was pretty much always jamming and improvising between myself and Jeff,” said Stevens. “Most of the main riffs were created for both demos by Jeff and I.”

Ambitiously, Hayden and Stevens wrote harmonies intended for three guitars playing simultaneously. When Stevens eventually left Timeghoul, Hayden recruited guitarists Gordon Blodgett and T.J. Oldani to help him finish recording the demos.

“After I left for personal reasons, Gordon and T.J. helped Jeff finish his vision of three-guitar harmonies,” Stevens told us. “Jeff composed those three-guitar sections plus vocal harmonies.”

Twilight is arguably the more ambitious of the two releases, featuring two lengthy songs (“Boiling in the Hourglass” and “Occurrence on Mimas”) that each deliver a bizarre and cryptic sci-fi tale. “Hourglass” tells the story of a man who transcends time and space, traveling to “Grynpholg Mountain, lair of the Timeghouls,” achieving omnipotence and destroying Earth in the process (“The heavy hands of clocks strangle babes and men/…Earth’s matter and light mathematically blur”). “Occurrence” is apparently about Mimas, a moon of Saturn, crashing into Earth in ancient times, giving rise to a subterranean race that eventually swarms the Earth’s surface to eliminate humanity (while “mounted on evolved dinosaurs,” no less).

“I believe we created something very different, incorporating clean vocal harmonies, doom sections, and improvised passages all within most of our songs,” said Stevens. “We definitely were not copying anyone. The song ‘Gutspawn’ is, I believe, the first song written about an actual Dungeon & Dragons campaign, which Jeff created.”

A vintage picture of Timeghoul

According to Stevens, the tapes received little recognition when they were first released, describing the response as “a mixed reception.” Timeghoul would develop a cult following only years later, when their demos began being shared over the internet. He describes the low turnout for their early shows, stating that their style of metal was not especially trendy in the Midwest at the time. Stevens told us that most St. Louis bands in the early ’90s played thrash or more traditional heavy metal, as opposed to death metal, which was still relatively niche.

“I remember opening for Nuclear Assault and only one person was on the floor watching. It was kind of hilarious,” said Stevens. “We did have a small following, but death metal was just starting to pick up steam, especially when Obituary and Malevolent Creation came to town.”

Timeghoul only played locally during their active period. Club 367, an independent music venue located in Moline Hills in North St. Louis County, was a hotspot for underground metal at the time. Many of the crucial early death metal acts played there, including Carcass, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse. Timeghoul played there at least three times, in July, August, and November of ‘92: footage from one of their Club 367 performances is available on YouTube.

Sadly, Timeghoul would eventually disband in 1995, not long after the release of the Panaramic Twilight tape, and the group has not played together since.

“The simple answer is we were frozen in time,” said Stevens about the band’s breakup. “I think life just kind of changed for everyone. We did attempt to collaborate on new material, but unfortunately Jeff was not interested, and without him it seemed impossible.”

“A few of us talk on Facebook. It definitely sucks, but life has separated us. We live in different states, have different interests and family responsibilities, etc.”

So how did an overlooked Missouri death metal band from the early ’90s eventually receive the recognition they deserve? Like many underground metal bands at the time, Timeghoul was active in the tape trading scene, an unofficial network in which bands and music fans would distribute demos and bootlegs through the postal system. Although the advent of the internet made physical tape trading obsolete, eventually Timeghoul’s original cassettes were uploaded and shared through file sharing and streaming services, earning them the cult following that had eluded them when they were active. In 2012, both cassettes were re-issued on CD and vinyl by Dark Descent Records under the name 1992-1994 Discography, which is also available on Spotify.

The cover art to 1992-1994 Discography

Although overlooked in their own time, Timeghoul has become a highly respected name in death metal, and its members have certainly earned their spot in the Missouri metal pantheon. Stevens is proud of the band’s achievements, and regularly corresponds with contemporary metal artists, who pay homage to TImeghoul in their own music. He is active on the band’s social media pages, where he often recommends new music using the affectionate alias of “Grandpa Ghoul” (a few of his recommendations: VoidCeremony, Devoid of Thought, and Desolation Realm). He also continues to release music through his Bandcamp page under the name Grevlar.

Now, about that Timeghoul reunion? “Timeghoul A.D.,” Stevens joked. “Maybe, but that’s probably not going to happen.” | David Von Nordheim


  1. A band way ahead of their time. Jeff and I worked together back in the early 90’s and I gladly bought their self released cassettes as they were available–they blew my mind.

    I still enjoy listening to their EP’s. Check out ‘Occurence on Mimas’…one of my favorite songs.

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