Welcome to Death’s Door. Wipe your snowy boots on the mat. Which, I mean, is obviously a joke. Because there’s no snow anywhere on this godforsaken rock. It’s a million degrees outside and all of humanity is hurtling toward ecological destruction. How delightful. Pull up a bone chair and get comfy, it’s time for our last standard Death’s Door installment in the Year of Our Infernal Underlord 2017.
November tends to be a mixed bag when it comes to new releases. Gearing up for the holiday push and the glut of year-end lists that come with it, many bands opt for earlier release dates so that they can be considered by the most ridiculously early of lists (cough DECIBEL cough). Debating whether or not year-end lists matter at all is a topic for another time, but it would be illogical to assume that the potential for year-end exposure did not have some impact on a band’s decisions regarding a release date. But we’re in 2017, where death metal’s bloodiest of cups runneth over day after day, so you can bet your ass that there were some fantastic releases in this most unpredictable of musical months. In fact, a few of them may make my own year-end list, which at this late stage in the game is saying something regarding the sheer quality of death metal this year.
This installment finds your bedraggled gatekeeper joined by none other than Heavy Blog’s very own master of the metals Simon, who brings to you a duo of hellish releases that saw release later in the month but are as gnarly as any you’ll hear this year. So strap in and prepare yourselves for more death metal goodness.
Cream of the Crop:
Desolate Shrine – Deliverance from the Godless Void
As some of you may know, I already reviewed this bad boy. So why do it again? Because it’s the cream of November’s bountiful crop, that’s why. Finnish death merchants Desolate Shrine have been releasing quality album after quality album over the last six years, and Deliverance from the Godless Void takes the cake as their best and brightest, putting on display all that makes the band special and powerful in the world of death metal.
More so than any of the band’s previous releases, which incorporate a bludgeoning mix of death, black, and doom metal, Deliverance from the Godless Void sticks pretty firmly to the blackened death camp. Rather than being dull or one-note, this focus on blackened death stylistic archetypes allows the band to fully and deeply explore the depths of filth and depravity present in both of these metal subgenres. This record is absolutely thick with devastating riffs and unhinged blasts over its nearly one-hour runtime, presenting the listener with an utter bombardment of riches to plunder. “The Primordial One” sets the stage in rousing fashion with a barrage of riffs that are as satisfying as you will hear in the genre. Furthermore, the guitar tone on this record is absolutely fantastic, highlighting the deepest and sharpest tones the instrument can provide. “Unmask the Face of False” and “Demonic Evocation Prayer” put these tones on full display, and also present some of the most ferocious and tight songwriting of the band’s career. Every track on here is gold, as not a single moment is wasted throughout the album’s lengthy runtime.
What else is there to say? If you love death metal and have been holding out on this record, I just don’t understand you. Stream it. Download it. Snag that vinyl. This album is well worth your time and attention, and is my favorite death metal release in the month of November.
Best of the Rest:
Convulsing/Siberian Hell Sounds – Split
We here at Heavy Blog have been following the career of Brendan Sloan with great interest over the past few years. From his incredible work with Dumbsaint to his stunning and utterly vicious solo project Convulsing, Sloan’s seemingly endless well of talent continues to produce memorable, entrancing, and utterly immersive extreme music. Following the release of Convulsing’s debut album, Errata, it’s fairly obvious that we’ve been eagerly anticipating a follow up. We now have it in the form of a two track, forty-minute split EP between Convulsing and Siberian Hell Sounds. Prepare yourselves. You’re not ready for this thing.
The split’s first half consist of the twenty-minute behemoth “The Breath of the Beast”, performed by blackened crust/grind outfit Siberian Hell Hounds. It’s expansive, engaging, and punishing. Starting off ominously with a minor-key solo guitar passage that boils and blossoms with the addition of percussion and atmospherics into a full-on blackened grind assault at the two-minute mark. The track remains essentially relentless from there, but never feels stagnant or dull. This is an expertly composed track that gives this split a truly memorable and fundamentally aggressive opening. But, I mean, this is a death metal column, you protest (too much, I might add). Why is it included here? While the Convulsing side of the record brings the pain more thoroughly in the death metal department, there are plenty of scrumptious tidbits sprinkled throughout this track that should make any fan of extreme metal foam at the mouth. It’s a backbreaking display of angular ferocity that should under no circumstances be overlooked.
Convulsing kicks off the split’s second half with “Engraved Upon Bleached Bone”, a blackened death metal assault which is perhaps the most expansive, intricate, and hateful track Sloan has yet composed. Riffs slither in and out of focus like so many hallucinations. Sloan screams, spits, and rages his way through the track with the vigor of a man possessed, handling each instrument with expert precision and loading each scream and bellow with all the bile a human can muster. There’s a point at the halfway mark where the proceedings slow down to a slow simmer, filling the entire track with an uneasy tension until Sloan explodes with an unearthly scream followed by some absolutely insane blasting, exemplifying perfectly the constant tension present between haunting atmosphere and absolute brutality. An utterly masterful track.
This is without question one of the most cohesive and truly soul crushing splits I have heard in a long time. The sheer hatred and intensity bleeding from these tracks is unreal, and will put a dour look on the face of every person that hears it. Listen in an open field to avoid putting a hole in your living room wall from the endless flailing fits this record will most certainly induce. Prepare for one helluva time.
Crypts of Despair – The Stench of the Earth
We’re approaching the end of 2017, and the old school death metal revival continues unabated. Praise be. The year’s latest slab of Incantation-inspired goodness comes from Lithuania in the form of Crypts of Despair. Their debut record, The Stench of the Earth, is brimming with all the things that make this resurgence meaningful and fun, and is also one of the most assured death metal debuts of the year.
While not pushing their music into uncharted territory, Crypts of Despair reverence their forebears with such skill and energy that one can forgive any seeming lack of originality. It’s easy to pick up strains of early Incantation in the album’s opening, title track as well as its follow-up “Path to Vengeance”. In a similar fashion to Dead Congregation, Father Befouled, and other modern bands revitalizing this sound, the production is cavernous and murky, allowing guitars, bass, and drums to bleed together in a steaming pool of filth. Additionally, the first few tracks on the record exhibit a distinct tinge of death-doom, allowing the music’s slower moments to pound listeners into powder for the first few moments. The pace changes quickly though, bringing to mind the more martial aspects of OSDM popularized by Bolt Thrower. “77”, “Fleshless Eternity”, and “Enslaved in Blasphemy” are fantastic throwbacks to War Master and The IVth Crusade, peddling a delicious level of heaviness, mixed with varying degrees of speed and bludgeoning mid-paced riff-building. “Possessed by Astral Parasites” even feels like mid-career Morbid Angel, pulling once again some of the best elements of death metal’s early days. All of these elements continue through the album’s devastating finale, “Dead Light”, which drags the listener down into a final abyss of old school death metal mayhem.
For a band that is relatively new to the game, Crypts of Despair pull no punches. They wear their influences on their sleeve, but perform these songs with such obvious love for the music and instrumental prowess that the album feels delightfully nostalgic rather than overly repetitive. Curious to see where the band takes their sound from here, but for now I’ll be jamming The Stench of the Earth until they give me more stuff to love.
Degial – Predator Reign
Predator Reign is an album that almost defies listeners to settle into any expectations. There’s a really wide pool of influences that have clearly gone into their sound, from the chunky riffing of Altars of Madness- and Blessed Are The Sick-era Morbid Angel to the angular stabs of melody that Immolation built their sound from to the sewage-murk repetition of Portal to the chromatic buzzsaw shredding of Krallice‘s Mick Barr to the black metal formality of Dissection. It’s impressive to drink an ocean, but what’s even more impressive is how seamlessly Degial have pissed it out into a cup. (I’m sorry for how strange and vaguely uncomfortable of an analogy that is, but I suppose it fits with the album.)
Obviously not every influence of theirs is as omnipresent as that of the early Morbid Angel riffing style, but every different facet of Degial’s sound finds its place and doesn’t crowd out anything else – something that’s a virtue in its own right, honestly. The main core of Predator Reign is a steadfast, solid combination of death metal intensity with the vision and grandiosity of black metal that creates something much more existential and overbearing – looming might be a better word – than typical death metal grimness, trading out the personal scale of serial killers and horror movies for something grander and far more apocalyptic in scope. Each track finds Degial building off of this combination in different ways, though, and the end result is an album that is miles beyond its peers in terms of its diversity, but never struggles to find a foothold for its own identity to shine through. Predator Reign is an excellent example of how to integrate experimentation into a classic extreme metal structure, and with it, Degial showcase that they’re ready to take the international death metal scene by storm.
Ossuarium – Calcified Trophies of Violence
First off, can we talk about how fucking excellent of an album name Calcified Trophies of Violence is? Like, really, have you ever heard anything that screams “I AM DEATH METAL” more than that? Add that to a completely black and white cover that’s designed for a cassette j-card rather than a digital album and song titles like “Chapel of Bone,” and what you have is pretty much the Platonic ideal of the death metal aesthetic.
Thankfully, Ossuarium are completely capable of delivering the goods promised by their excellent presentation. This Portland quartet describes themselves as “festering, tombstone dragging DEATH” and it’s hard to imagine a more apt description of what these guys do. This is lumbering, monolithic mid-paced death metal that eschews any need for experimentation or deviation from the form in favor of the sledgehammer intensity that comes par for the course with a no-bullshit approach to the genre. These guys certainly operate under the KISS Principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Calcified Trophies pulls heavily in sound from the crusted, moldy texts of greats on the slower side of the genre (Incantation, of course, comes to mind immediately) and adheres to what’s been done before, but it’s hard to fault them for this when they pull it off with such aplomb. Each riff feels meticulously crafted to hit as hard as possible, and Ossuarium transitions between various parts with well-practiced ease.
There’s just absolutely zero bullshit here, which is almost impressive on its own at a time when death metal is brimming with acts that don’t do anything beyond imitate the greats; however, Ossuarium doesn’t need a gimmick or new approach to justify their music being worthwhile. This is meat and potatoes death metal, make no mistake, but god damn are the ingredients good, regardless of simplicity. The lesson here: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And Calcified Trophies of Violence is certainly proof that the death metal formula is far from broken.
Vitriol – Pain Will Define Their Death
Listening to Vitriol’s insanely ferocious debut EP Pain Will Define Their Death for the first time is how I imagine being mauled to death by a pack of rabid hyenas would feel like. I think about it often. Essentially every time I listen to this excellent record. Which is pretty much all the time. Seriously, how in the hell have you not heard this yet?
Vitriol are a death metal band from Portland, Oregon. Their style is a rich mixture of the most ferocious and destructive elements of bands like Dodecahedron and Mitochondrion, spliced into the DNA of Altarage and Suffering Hour. It’s technical, brooding, and brutish. It’s, in essence, got dang amazing. Consisting of three tracks that rage by in just over ten-minutes, Pain Will Define Their Death is the most assured and insanely compelling death metal debut I have heard in years. Each track stands on its own as an inventive, captivating, and mind-melting experiment in death metal extremity, but also work together very well, creating a cohesive whole that is as amazing as it is unrelenting. The EP’s second track in particular, “Victim”, is as brutal and uncompromising a death metal track you will hear this year. The guitar and bass work, drums, and vocals in no way indicate that this is the band’s first outing together. The level of symbiosis present between band members on this EP is scary, and I can only imagine what an eventual full-length will sound like.
Stop reading this and go purchase this record immediately. Vitriol are here to stay, and it’s hard to imagine a more aggressive and confident introduction. One of the most vicious and inspired death metal releases of the year.