The past decade and a half has spawned a death metal olympics of sorts, becoming a competitive sport as drummers fight for the speed throne and guitarists fight to keep up. Origin completely changed the game with 2002’s Informas Infinitas Inhumanitas, forcing bands and especially drummers around the world back to the rehearsal room to practice tedious rudimentary endurance exercises. Despite their technical prowess, the band injected crafty and effective songwriting which only improved over the span of the four albums leading up to now. Unparalleled Universe is an exploratory affair that sees the band continue to reach beyond their carefully carved niche just enough to keep things interesting.
This year charges on and doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down. As we near the six month mark (and our own Top 25 of 2017 So Far), it’s becoming apparent that 2017 hits on broader fronts than 2016 did. While the previous year was an amazing year for some very specific genres, there were others that suffered less than stellar performance. With 2017, there’s very little that’s left untouched, with great releases coming from left and right. The list below is a great example of this; it contains post rock, grindcore, jazz, psychedelic electronics, death metal, stoner and oh so much more. Each of these sub-genres have been producing great releases this year, giving 2017 the illusion of a siege. From us, the nominal besieged, a measure of elasticity is required; we must keep our ears open and listen to new places, places we might have abandoned up until now.
Brutal death metal has the rare benefit of being exactly what it sounds like. The differences one would expect between “regular death metal” and “brutal death metal” are manifold and, by and large, pretty predictable: guitars are more downtuned; riffs are chunkier and more visceral; vocals are far deeper and even less intelligible; the whole nine yards. As far as subgenres go, it doesn’t exactly shake up its progenitor’s foundations by a relatively large amount, choosing instead to just take everything that makes death metal an already pretty brutal genre and crank that bad boy up to 11. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the ensuing auditory carnage is not for the faint of heart, but it is for anybody that feels like extreme metal just isn’t extreme enough yet. If you’ve ever felt that way—the grooves could be groovier, the riffs could be riffier, the blasts could be blastier, the gutturals could be gutturalier—then brutal death metal is the answer to all your prayers. So without further ado, let’s dive in to what our staff considers to the be the Best Of – Brutal Death Metal!
We’ve been dragging our feet a bit in talking more about avant-garde metal; since we at Heavy Blog cover the likes of Gorguts and Dodecahedron quite a bit, Scott and I wanted to find something that wasn’t as well-known but still well-regarded. So, Scott found Pan.Thy.Monium—a side project of Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity) that checks a lot of avant-garde ticks off with their final album Khaooohs and Kon-Fus-Ion.
Man, 2017, y’all. We realize that it’s kind of our m.o. to be proponents of the whole “Golden Age of Metal” narrative and be incredibly positive about the consistently great level of stuff that is being put out from pretty much every part of the musical spectrum, but it’s such an easy thing to do when we are so constantly bombarded with new material that utterly consumes our attention. Even in months where one of us might not have as many new albums that really impressed them, without doubt there will be another one who could barely keep up because of all the superb releases from genres they pay close attention to. This April has certainly been no different in that regard, and we have a whole slew of top-notch albums to recommend to you all.
Many genres have their own holy grails. “Weird tech death”, which can also be called avant-garde death metal, has a few such releases, but the one that is perhaps most untouched is Demilich’s 1993 masterpiece Nespithe. Artificial Brain’s 2014 debut release Labyrinth Constellation was a clear attempt at this throne, but it focused more on an old school death metal sound than the sheer weirdness. Enter Infrared Horizon, their sophomore release. Here we have a much more focused and experimental album that is closer to the prize than any other album has ever been, and it also happens to be a fantastic record.
Welcome to Death’s Door! Please wipe your feet on the mat. This portion of hell is particularly bloody, and I will NOT mop the floor again today. Grab a stiff drink, pull up a chair of bones, and let’s sit around the roiling fires of eternal damnation whilst we discuss one of my favorite things: death metal. 2016 was a great year for the stuff. Blood Incantation. Ulcerate. Gorguts. Mithras. Yeah, it was a good time. Death metal as a whole has been experiencing a creative resurgence as of late, praise be to our loathsome and infernal overlords of metal. A quick glance at Bandcamp’s metal page or Spotify’s myriad of death metal playlists will provide a clear indication of just how widespread the resurgence of death metal has become, with dozens upon dozens of bands vying for your rage-filled attention. Our bloody cup runneth over, and there is much rejoicing.
It seems to come up every time a new record pops up within the niche that Gorguts, Portal, and Deathspell Omega built; there’s not much room left in the sphere of dissonant, atmospheric, and abstract extreme metal due to the limitations of the style. Murk chords and blastbeats can only carry a record for so long (as we’ve seen with first casualty Plebeian Grandstand), and the novelty is wearing thin. Bands such as Ulcerate and Sunless thrive on the death metal end of the spectrum by offering depth and creative riffing, but black metal has yet to have much success in challenging Deathspell’s monolithic reach. Dutch black metallers Dodecahedron are the best bet at carrying the torch into new territory, whose debut five years ago came (from seemingly) out of nowhere and quickly reached cult status. The group, who has significant ties to prog-fusion group Exivious, takes a more overtly progressive and technical approach to the sound, and therefore, into further extremities.
The genre of technical death metal is tricky to do well. Oftentimes the songs are so densely arranged and executed that they are impenetrable and listeners may struggle for something—anything!—to latch onto. There are bands that do it well, and it’s probably time to start paying attention to Replacire, as they’re bringing some new perspectives and ideas to the genre. Their new album, Do Not Deviate, condenses some of the ideas from their debut, The Human Burden, into a heavily detailed monster. If listeners want a visual cue for what to expect, the bad ass cover art provides a perfect look. Robotic ferocity, Escher-esque labyrinths and the occasional mystical occult vibe–because, hey, why not? And, despite giving plenty for listeners to digest on early listens, this album practically screams that obsessive listens will reveal hidden layers and secrets.
The state of progressive or technical death metal is an interesting one as it has relatively quickly found the fancy of many modern musicians, swiftly becoming a well-canvassed style with no shortage of quality records. In no small part dominated by giants like Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Portal, the genre…