Death metal has seen quite a facelift in the recent years after the slump of the early 2000s, and a lot of bands have finally got hold of the perfect way of staying murky while having a clear production. This year has seen some very good death metal releases, and following are my favourites.
- Aum – ‘Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum’
Aum plays black/death metal that is somewhere between raw and cavernous, something like a rawer Grave Miasma. Depraved riffs and dreary vocals lay over some solid drumming whether it’s the doomy sections of the galloping war metal parts. Aum explores Vajrayana Buddhism (and maybe Shaivism since they are rooted in the same Tantra) as a topic of interest, and the aesthetic is successfully developed because of the cavernous nature of the death metal punctuated by throat chanting mantras. Aum have created an interesting premise here and is to be followed into whatever they would create next.
- Reptilian – ‘Perennial Void Traverse’
Reptilian’s debut album is a classic murky rotten Norwegian death metal affair. Perennial Void Traverse is an album that Autopsy would write if they took the Obliteration stylized OSDM revival technique. Plenty of face-melting riffs, savage vocals that resemble inhumane outcries and drumming and speed that packs a punch all together form the primary features of the album. Absolutely filthy production adds to the careless attitude of the album in general. If you are looking for patient writing or spacious production, then this is not for you. The riffs are in forefront here, and you will be blasted enough with them.
- Phobocosm – ‘Bringer of Drought’
Phobocosm continues to create the chaotic post-death metal atmosphere with old-school death metal and death doom writing, and this time it’s even more sickening. The focus is again on suffocating ambience more than the riffs, although they are nothing short in that category as well. The production is spacious enough for the timbre required, yet murky enough to be cavernous. Four tracks of relentless oppressive death metal with no respite.
- Zealotry – ‘The Last Witness’
Zealotry’s recipe consists of the right amounts of dissonance, technicality, progression and brutality to create a delicacy of sorts that has the potential to be groundbreaking. Zealotry adds a bit more of atmosphere for The Last Witness, and it clearly gives a different personality to the band. The old-school tech death bass is audible, and some of the clean guitars reminds me of early Cynic. The highlight of the album is surely the intricacies hidden that reveal themselves after multiple listens.
- Irkallian Oracle – ‘Apollyon’
Apollyon, as rightfully named, is the beast that takes you down a slow lonely pathway to death. Unnerving at all times, the blackened death-doom magic works immensely well as the ritualistic ambience encompassing the bludgeoning drumming and dry tremolo guitars pummels you into the abyss. Not everybody will that the patience to sit through this, as the sometimes tribal sometimes martial drumming pace makes no haste, but the savoury fruit at the end of it is worth it.
- Church of Disgust – ‘Veneration of Filth’
‘Veneration of Filth’ is what rotten old school death metal was at its peak. The riff writing of early Morbid Angel and the stench of Autopsy – this abrasiveness is most welcome in death metal. Lovecraftian monsters take shape in a conventional horror scenery through the vile soundscapes of the album. Veneration is more than a tribute to the old times, and while this album will thoroughly fill your nostalgia meter, there is enough material to stand on its own accord.
- Blood Incantation – ‘Starspawn’
Sci-fi and space related themes usually inspires boring tiddly-widdly tech death, but Blood Incantation’s cosmic journey runs on the old school death metal engine. The sound of Starspawn is echoey and vast, and the interplay of morose riffs and melodic leads is mischievous. The pace is a lot more held back than I expected it to be, somehow poetically relating to the timeless void of space. The perfect analogy for the amalgamation of the Timeghoul-esque old school writing with a futuristic theme is a space-cowboy fantasy.
- Chthe’ilist – ‘Le Dernier Crépuscule’
Chthe’ilist’s demo in 2012 turned several heads as something that could resurrect the Finnish death metal style. The band re-records all the tracks from demo for their debut full length album, adds a few more banging tracks and wraps it up with a fuller production. The Demilich/Timeghoul/Crematory inspiration has been talked about enough, so I’m not going to into it. Several people prefer the demo over this album because of the closer resemblance to old Finnish demos, but personally, for it to have emulated the atmosphere and technical writing with the thick yet clean mixing is a feat.
- Verberis – ‘Vexamen’
Verberis is another special band from New Zealand. After a very promising demo in 2014, Verberis returns with a banger of an album. Glaced with blackened overtone, Vexamen has the temperament of the devil. The riffs are dread inducing, especially when emphasized by the doom-laden sections. The black metal aesthetic works perfectly for the vile diegesis of the album. This hour of vicious and dark attack is possibly the best debut full length album this year.
- Howls of Ebb – ‘Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows’
I have always considered Howls of Ebb to be one of the most unique extreme metal bands of recent times, and Cursus Impasse is yet another album of the likes unheard of. The riffs are jagged and oddly shaped, and the messy psychedelic aspects invoke demented thoughts. A superposition of playful craziness and nightmarish mysterious neurosis is something you would experience from this. Cursus Impasse is quite different from their first release, which received splendid acclaim as well, hence it is possible that fans of the first one may not find this to their liking, but this deranged monster can stand on its own.
Krypts – ‘Remnants of Expansion’
Stomping and claustrophobic death/doom from Finland.
Soulburn – ‘Earthless Pagan Spirit’
Brilliant blackened death metal from the band that branched out of Asphyx.
Setentia – ‘Darkness Transcend’
Ulcerate like dissonant tech-death/post-death from, again, New Zealand.
Witch Vomit – ‘A Scream From The Tomb Below’
Fantastic old school death metal from Oregon ala Autopsy.