Welcome once again to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet, yada yada. Ugh. Your eternal servant of Death is tired. Why is this, you don’t ask? I’ll tell you anyway, you miserable tourists (which reminds me, no flash photography). You see, I have recently come into possession of a hellhound of the most diabolical bent. He is a dark, menacing beast who consumes rations from my stores at will, has chewed all of the bone furniture to bits, and howls like the demon he is far into the eternal night that consumes us all. Observe his ferocity:
He is the absolute worst, and my suffering is great indeed. But this is Hell, after all. So… touche.
As ragged as I have been run by this ceaseless horror, I am bound by duty to share with you the entertaining and forward-thinking sacrifices to the death metal gods that were presented during the month of May. A good time it was indeed. Last month was chock full of excellent debut records from bands I had not heard of until very recently, which was both puzzling and deeply rewarding. Count me among the sinister overjoyed, as more than once I found myself in that enviable position of “very pleasantly surprised”. Progressive/technical and melodic death metal all experienced shining moments, and this month I will be covering six of these excellent albums in shorter fashion than normal, as there is a great deal of exceptional death metal to cover. So grab yourself a… okay, he ate the chairs. Sit on the floor, it won’t kill you. Let’s begin.
Cream of the Crop:
Sentient Ignition – Enthroned In Gray
It’s hard to gauge the trajectory of a debut album based on 15-minutes of music on a demo. But if this band’s early work was any indication, it was speculated that they would be one to watch. Their debut album proves this sentiment several levels of correct. This is a very good album in nearly every metric. The musicianship is exceptional, with technical prowess bleeding from every corner of this 45-minute beauty. The songwriting is diverse and engaging, blending melodic and technical death metal elements seamlessly in an amalgam of incredibly catchy songs that seem at this juncture to be infinitely re-listenable. Hailing from the dark corners of the San Francisco death metal scene, Sentient Ignition pull together disparate elements from bands like Obscura and Dark Tranquility into a cohesive whole that feels both individual and unique while maintaining a thorough reverence for the work of the bands who came before. This quintet is going places, and there is no better time to jump aboard the hype train than now. A thoroughly assured and deeply enjoyable debut.
Best of the Rest:
Suffering Hour – In Passing Ascension
We’ve already been treated to exceptional technical and dissonant death metal records from Artificial Brain, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Hour of Penance, Ulcest, and Replacire. What more could a fan of these branches of death metal ask for? Well, how about a technically masterful and harrowingly dissonant debut record from Suffering Hour? Yes, I think that will do. Never heard of them? Well, you’re in good company. This band took me completely by surprise last month, and I’ve been singing their praises since. In Passing Ascension is a dark and brilliant combination of styles that is in equal measure odd and vicious. Throw in some stalwart musicianship and technicality, add a dash of dissonance, and sprinkle some black metal on the top for good measure and you have the makings of an excellent record. Suffering Hour take each of these elements and give them a prominent seat at the table, and rather than sounding like an unholy mess it instead sounds absolutely terrifying. Essential listening for fans of all tendrils of death metal. Blood Harvest is on fire as of late (and honestly most of the time). Keep an eye on this band.
Post Pulse – Halls of the Damned
Another debut, this time from Finland. May was on a roll with the new stuff, and may every subsequent month ever be so. Post Pulse play a fairly standard interpretation of the revered and always interesting Finnish style of death metal. This is in no way intended as an insult, but rather an emphasis on what the band do well. Because what they may lack in inherent sonic originality they make up for in straight up groove-infused savagery. Halls of the Damned is an absolutely punishing listen that will get your blood pumping and your head banging. Where Post Pulse particularly excels is in creating a distinct and potent sense of groove, which bleeds through in nearly every track. There are some melodic passages as well, combining well with the more bludgeoning elements of the album. Overall, Halls of the Damned focuses less on wowing the listener with technical wankery than with punching your face in with groovy, well-written Finnish death. An unsung band that needs recognition. Get on it.
Triumvir Foul – Spiritual Bloodshed
Cedentibus and Ad Infinitum are best known for their work as two of the masterminds behind California black metal outfit Ash Borer. What is less known is that they are also the sole members of death metal destruction-bringers Triumvir Foul. This little known fact should become common knowledge, in my opinion. Their latest album Spiritual Bloodshed is absolutely vile, filthy, and decadent. All of which are high compliments when discussing death metal of this caliber. This is no mere side act for members of a bigger band. In fact, portions of this record eclipse those of even the best of Ash Borer’s material. The production is flat-out oppressive, the drums rumble and bellow with a deep and particularly savage ferocity, and the guitars generate a wall of sound this is suffocating to the point of complete and total obliteration. This is not an album for the death metal beginner, but a fundamentally sound entry into that seldom perfected world of dark, oppressively produced old school death metal. Great stuff.
Unbowed – Through Endless Tides
Melody, melody, melody. It’s either the bane of existence for most death metal fans or a life giving substance that cannot be lived without. For those in the former camp, skip a beat and head over to the next album suggestion. For those who love their death metal jams slathered in melodic goodness, meet Unbowed and their impressive album Through Endless Tides. Hailing from Ontario, Unbowed pull influence from the catalogs of bands like Nailed to Obscurity and Evocation to create a sound blend of melodic and brutal elements that make their sophomore album an entertaining and worthy addition to the melodic death metal subgenre. Of particular note is the interplay between the drums and other instruments, which throughout the record allows the guitars to either chug or lilt while maintaining a distinct atmosphere of heaviness that blasts and roils beneath the soaring melodies that populate the guitar work. The vocals here are also a highlight, throwing in some hardcore elements that bring an additional level of raw aggression to the proceedings. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album in most every regard, and is essential listening for those that like their death metal drenched in melody. Many thanks to Heavy Blog’s very own Matt MacLennan for bringing this album to my attention.
Ensnared – Dysangelium
In my objectively correct perspective, Dark Descent Records can do no wrong. They are gods of metal and all should bow to their small label ascendancy. Sweden’s Ensnared have done nothing to dissuade me from this perspective. Their debut record Dysangelium is a feast for all those whole love their death metal manically heavy and distinctly Swedish. The eleven tracks contained on this record use and abuse the listener with an appropriate level of incredible guitar work that zips in, out, and around the distant yet immediate pounding of the drums with the assurance of a band far beyond its debut record. There isn’t much else to say in regard to the album’s sound. It’s Dark Descent, and you already know how hard this thing goes from that simple fact alone. It’s a solid death metal debut that fans of the old school tradition will relish and enjoy.
Tracks of Note:
Pyrrhon – “The Happy Victim’s Creed”
Holy lord. Listen to this now. It’s Pyrrhon. You really don’t need much deeper of an explanation. It’s everything that makes them great. Cannot wait for What Passes for Survival.
Heresiarch – “Storming Upon Knaves”
Dark Descent just has this ability to find and sign bands that are next level aggressive. Think early Incantation with just a bit of extra venom. Heresiarch bring the house down in a fashion befitting their label compatriots with “Storming Upon Knaves”, which will be on their upcoming record Death Ordinance. This is some straightforward, old school death metal of the most savage and heavy of varieties. I like it a lot. You might, too.
Seismic – “Comorbidite interne”
Yeah, this came out in March. But this is my column, so whatever. Seismic play a frenetic and crushing style of technical death metal that is as disorienting as it is engaging. “Comorbidite interne” is a compelling example of tech death done right. Mixing heavy grooves with a crisp production aesthetic and heavy-hitting technical guitar work, the track never once becomes less than enthralling. Very excited for more material from this band.
Now, it’s your turn. Bring unto us thine death metal content. Until next month!