Death’s Door – February 2019

Welcome, Hellions, to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat, pull up a bone throne and wallow with me in the misery of February. Frankly, this month is terrible for a lot of reasons, but musically it always tends to be one of the least exciting for yours truly. This month was no exception. But instead of the musical world offering nothing of inherent value, I found myself bogged down by work-related issues (Hell needs tending, you know how it goes) to the point that I was unable to fully explore the riches that the death metal landscape has once more provided.

Thankfully, we have Scott and Simon to rely on for the distribution of premium content. Praise be. Both are here to offer their own selections of grim and gruesome death metal from February as well as some material we missed from last year, and Satan knows where we’d be without them. Probably just listening to Wachenfeldt on repeat (which you should do immediately).

As is tradition, let us know what albums melted your faces this past month. There’s plenty of quality content out there that my apathetic ass has yet to hear. Enlighten me, o doers of deeds. I await your thorough education.

Death metal forever.

Jonathan Adams

Apostate – At the Tomb of Sanity

One of my favorite things new death metal bands do is give me reason to look towards both the past and present. Obviously, the bands we write up for this column are frequently compared to bands of yore, as will be the case for this resounding recommendation for At the Tomb of Sanity. But what Apostate accomplish with ease is not only referencing genre legends, but providing plenty of reasons to put off revisiting classic albums to instead enjoy what they’ve created here in the present. And across its run time, At the Tomb of Sanity has an abundance of riffs, solos and songwriting that prove this point effortlessly.

If I were to imagine a perfect synthesis of Legion-era Deicide and Effigy-era Suffocation, it would sound almost exactly like At the Tomb of Sanity. The interplay in styles this creates is unique and punishing. You have Suffo’s unrelenting brutality of proto-slam riffing running headfirst into the clever, tremolo-heavy songwriting that defined Deicide’s golden years. Of course, with a combination of styles as interesting as this, Apostate infuse a great deal of personal flair into the proceedings, bringing together an old-school approach with tighter, faster drumming and distinctly heavy-but-audible production.

Also notable are the album’s song lengths, most of which hover between the two- and three-minute marks. It gives the album a heightened, faster pace, almost like a deathgrind album without the grind. There’s still plenty of time for the band to unleash some new ideas and experiment, though, especially on the latter half of the album. “Onan” has a brief, proggy bass solo that acts as the centerpiece to a flurry of breakdowns, blasts and slightly angular riffing. It’s one of several subtle surprises that accent a strong, heavy foundation of old-school death metal goodness.

Scott Murphy

Astriferous – Raise High the Sceptre of Indulgence

It’s not difficult to find points of comparison for Astriferous. They aren’t particularly original, even as far as modern death metal goes – to put that more diplomatically, they stick to a pretty tried-and-true formula – but it’s hard to see the downside in that when they’ve seemingly immediately figured out how to do death metal par excellence. To whit: a dash of early Morbid Angel or Pierced-era Suffocation’s free-wheeling technical flair meets bludgeoning Incantation-indebted riffs for an experience that takes sounds you know intimately and grafts them together in ways that bring out nothing but the best in both.

This four-track demo is composed of pretty much nothing but high points. Riff after riff, groove after groove, Raise High the Sceptre of Indulgence starts off with nuclear-inferno-level energy and never really lets up. Not content with merely worshipping the oozing core of American death-doom present in the sound of the aforementioned Incantation, this Costa Rican quartet exalts and transcends the work of their influences by incorporating just enough different sounds from within death metal’s canon that nothing feels forced or unnatural. Small bits like the brief acoustic passage in “Mind Bending Distortions” or the strange interplay between sludgy guitars and off-kilter drums in the cavernous first half of “Veil Not Your Vices In Virtuous Words” show that Astriferous is committed to their craft and understand that in a world of clones, it’s the beautiful details that separate the best from the rest.

This is absolutely a band to keep on your radar. (Also, man, is Costa Rica gonna be the next death metal hotbed? Between Bloodsoaked Necrovoid and these guys it’s looking like the place to be if you’re looking for quality OSDM.)

Simon Handmaker

Continuum – Designed Obsolescence

As much as I love gruesome, gritty production and avant-garde ideas, I have to be honest – I absolutely adore tech death. Ever since I blind-purchased a copy of Incongruous by Beneath the Massacre, no style of death metal has brought me more immediate, intense joy than hyper-technical, blast-heavy death metal. If I just want a burst of heaviness and technicality, I instantly turn to bands like BtM, Archspire, Origin, etc. I can now add Continuum to this list, as I spun Designed Obsolescence more than any other album in February. It’s basically the perfect encapsulation of what I love about this strain of death metal, and I’ve found it effortless to hit reply again and again. It probably helps that the band is a supergroup of sorts, featuring current and former members of heavy hitters like Decrepit Birth and Animosity.

The appeal of Continuum’s brand of tech death is obvious, but I’ll narrow it down to the two key “B”s: blasts and bounce. As much as I love bands like Gorod and Obscura, they frequently take proggy detours that don’t quite fit the niche I look for when I want a fast, hard-hitting tech death album. But with bands like Continuum, their take on the genre is defined by snare abuse of the fastest and tightest variety. That percussive push is the main driver of any great tech death album, and  Ron Casey (Inanimate Existence, ex-Rings of Saturn) more than capably takes up the helm.

On top of this, guitarists Chase Fraser (ex-Animosity, ex-Decrepit Birth) and Ivan Munguia (Deeds of Flesh) approach their riff writing with a focus on this aforementioned, crucial “bounce.” Beyond sheer technicality and well-written riffs, both players infuse these elements with a distinct, fluid grooviness. Whereas tech death guitar can often feel like masturbatory, neoclassical showmanship, what Continuum’s duo excel at is reminding fans about the “death” in tech death. Their guitar work is heavy and catchy in equal measure, with vibrant energy to every riff and flourish of notes. The entire package is a celebration of these traits, and it makes for one of my favorite tech death albums in some time.

SM

Wachenfeldt – The Interpreter

Being what one might call a death metal “enthusiast”, it can be difficult to go through a month where the overall release landscape is bare. But Wachenfeldt saved me from the true death metal doldrums with their absolutely fantastic record The Interpreter. There are so many things that go right with this album that it’s hard to know where to begin. But begin we shall, because this is a band worthy of the time and energy you’ll expend on this release.

One of the most notable and immediately noticeable aspects of Wachenfeldt’s music is its overwhelming sense of atmosphere. From the creepy, horror-adjacent opening of “Spirits of the Dead” to the instrumental grandeur of “Intermezzo – Aiwass” or the opening of “Colophon”, The Interpreter is a record that seeks to immerse you in its seedy world in a fashion similar to that of Imperial Triumphant (though these albums differ wildly in sound and approach). But atmosphere is no solid foundation to lay an album on. In death metal, the riff is kind, and Wachenfeldt deliver them in abundance. “Arhan” and “The Ladder” hit as hard as anything you’ll find on a Morbid Angel or Hate Eternal record, and do these bands one better through an impressive stretch of technicality that is consistently a marvel to the ears. The band deftly mix memorable songwriting with technical precision in a way that allows a lengthy album to feel almost too short.

High, emphatic praise to Wachenfeldt and The Interpreter. Rarely does an album do so many things this well, and just serves as another shining example of death metal’s continued vitality. Give this thing a listen or twelve. You won’t regret it.

JA

Warp Chamber – Abdication of the Mind

(This came out last year. It didn’t end up in our collective eye til this past month because of some strange clerical oversight. Let us live.)

The Finnish school of death metal – Convulse, Abhorrent, the almighty Demilich – does not have its praises sung nearly enough. Their work has pulled more than its fair share of weight in keeping death metal’s underground alive and beautiful: the influential sound of Finndeath, which married melodic riffs that were often strange, dark, and foreboding (these would reach their natural apex on Nespithe) with crunchy, angular grooves that are heavier than just about anything you’re likely to find anywhere else outside of slam. Underground darlings like Tomb Mold, Ghastly (who are, in fact, Finnish themselves, keeping the flame alive), and Extremity all pull heavily from the Finndeath mode; it’s a scene that has done wonders for pushing death metal forward even if it never really got the heyday it deserved in the 90s.

Warp Chamber doesn’t owe their sound solely to the Finndeath scene – if anything, they sound like MENSA’s answer to Morbid Angel’s demo tapes – but they have a surprisingly strong connection in methodology and a similarly perfect knowledge of when to let a more intelligent part give way to a groove that strikes the least-evolved parts of the human brain in exactly the right way. It’s the strongest, most impressive, most intoxicating combination of exactly what death metal does right: dextrous technicality and a powerful, commanding sense of musicianship smash headlong into the sort of profoundly simple, gut-busting, undeniably effective caveman riff that death metal channels oh-so-well, and in that moment, right when that groove hits and nuclear fission occurs, nothing in the world can be wrong.

I’m not saying Warp Chamber is already setting a new gold standard for death metal, but I am saying that Abdication is the new bar to which I’m going to compare everything else that comes across my plate. Also, they have a track called “Harvesting the Life Force of a Crumbling Orb.” What’s not to love?

SH

Further Listening

Basilysk – Emergence

Electrocution – Psychonolatry

Laceration – Remnants

Ossuarium – Living Tomb

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