Here we are again. Another month, another crushing amount of death metal goodness. As always, welcome to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat and pull up a chair, we have a lot to cover, because June was something else entirely.
July has dawned upon us. The Son of the Morning is pleased. Gore flows from the coffers of death’s monthly offering. Vicious ugliness descends in toxic rains of acid and blood upon our gardens of damned souls. All is well in the underworld. Few months in the past year have spawned so fiendish a trove of excellent death metal as the month of our infernal overlord June. If you’ve been tracking this column for the past few months (“and if you haven’t, what are you even doing with that life of yours?!”, he screamed into the void), you are well aware that 2017 has been another banner year for the gnarly stuff. Dark Descent continues to go on an Incantation-worshipping tear, while other labels such as Profound Lore, Tankcrimes, and 20 Buck Spin have also jumped into the mix with releases as raging and feral as anything they have yet produced. The sheer amount of death metal facilitates by the law of averages at least a few amazing death metal records, so in that department there is much rejoicing. The flip side of that coin is that one obviously need wade through some less-than-stellar material to find the gems. Thankfully, this past month saw a particular and unusual wealth of fundamentally excellent death metal releases, forcing me to cut out some excellent albums for either brevity or the fact that they have already been covered by the blog through full-length reviews. Thus, we would love to hear your thoughts on the death metal we missed! But let’s not waste any more time with me yapping. Onto June’s decrepit and miserable gold mine!
Cream of the Crop:
Impetuous Ritual – Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
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You probably won’t listen to Impetuous Ritual’s new album at the gym. You won’t listen to it while working on your term paper, while grocery shopping, or while driving your car. You will most likely listen to Blight Upon Martyred Sentience in a dark room, alone, with no distractions to pull you away from an album that demands your full and undivided attention. And that’s exactly how it needs to be. This is death metal at its most gleefully oppressive, and commands nothing less than complete surrender to its noise-drenched madness.
Impetuous Ritual play the kind of death metal that induces migraines. Think music in the vein of Portal, Altarage, and Ulcerate, but with an even deeper sense of noise-orientated suffocation. There are no sonic spaces in the band’s third record. No moments of brief reprieve. Only madness. Constant, impenetrable walls of ceaseless noise that envelope you from the album’s opening seconds and do not relent throughout the album’s duration. Opener “Void Cohesion” gives the listener a taste of this significant barrier to entry with a dim static that builds itself into a doom-laden dirge that is as intimidating as it is awe-inspiring. At about the two-minute mark the track unfolds itself into an even darker pit of hellish noise, as roars and moans float in the ethereal distance in the mix. Such a deliberate and auspicious opening leads to the absolutely bonkers second track “Apoptosis”, which exchanges doom deliberation with atonal insanity. It is a left hook that I did not see coming, and has proven to be one of the more jarring surprises I have heard in a death metal record in ages.
This abrupt shift in tone sets the stage for the remainder of the album brilliantly, as from this juncture on the band develops and evolves the dual concepts presented here into a seething pot of death metal goodness that is unexpectedly refreshing. But don’t think that this is nothing more than ominous atmospherics. There are tons of fantastic riffs on this thing, though the listener may need to dig a bit deeper than normal to find them. “Synchronous Convergence” features a sequence of riffs that emerge from the roiling fog of sound in a really unique and powerful way, while tracks from “Inordinate Disdain” to the album’s massive concluding piece “Intransience” create similar though unique journeys into the bowels of a cavernous death metal hell so visceral that escape seems impossible. Mostly because you’re going to have to hit the repeat button on this thing multiple times to catch all of the intricacies and sonic secrets in store for you.
Blight Upon Martyred Sentience is a difficult listen; A challenging experiment. It is also one of the most rewarding experiences I have had with a death metal record this year. Revel in this sea of noise and you will find yourself struck with a deeper appreciation for what makes death metal so experimental and exceptional in the world of music. Highly, enthusiastically recommended listening.
Best of the Rest:
Winds of Leng – Horrid Dominion
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I had not heard of Arizona’s Winds of Leng until a few weeks ago. Their discography thus far consists of one full-length album, Horrid Dominion, which they self-released this month. If there is justice in this world, these guys should become a household name in the death metal community very soon, because this album absolutely rips and is one of the most engaging and bludgeoning death metal debuts I’ve heard in some time.
Winds of Leng is what happens when you take the ferocity of Entombed and mix it with the riff-building of Dismember and the melding of past and present inherent in albums like Blood Incantation’s Starspawn. This is premium death metal in every sense. It is unconscionably fast, hyper-aggressive, well-constructed, and expertly performed in every track. There are legitimately zero duds on this record (outside of the somewhat superfluous “Intro”). The performances are exceptional, as is the production job. Dan Swano’s mix in this record is fantastic, creating ample room for the guitars and drums to differentiate themselves without losing the raw intensity of death metal’s early days. “Devourer” is a perfect example of this production approach, as the song careens and bludgeons its way through several insanely catchy riff passages without ever losing a sense of overwhelming menace. The band does a nice job incorporating influences outside of the death metal world as well, as tracks “Audrey” and “Awakening the Overmind” include just enough black metal influence to keep things diverse and engaging. It normally takes bands a whole slew of albums before they sound this technically proficient and cohesive, and Winds of Leng have hit a home run on their first at-bat. If this doesn’t get your head rocking, you might actually be dead.
Deity – S/T
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Hailing from Toronto, Deity unleash upon us a heaping helping of progressive technical death metal that can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. Their eponymous debut is a first-rate banger that hits hard and fast throughout, but also incorporates enough melodic and progressive elements to balance out the technical wankery. This record is a very entertaining listen that should appeal to the vast majority of death metal fans.
One pretty cool aspect of Deity’s approach to progressive tech death is its penchant for the unexpected. Opening track “Suspended in Animation” is a straight-up piano ballad. No guitars, no kit work, just two solid minutes of piano love. It’s a gorgeous opening that is as surprising as it is effective in setting up the progressive instrumentation to come. Tracks on the album vacillate and morph constantly between all-out tech death blitzes and progressive passages that bring a relative calm to the storm. Where “Beginning of Extinction” bring the pain in brutal and relentless fashion, “Of Time” provides the listener with an acoustic ballad that brings to mind the albums opening track, as acoustic guitars duet in harmonious accord. But none of this feels jarring or out of place. The album ebbs and flows in a natural and smooth manner that makes for a varied and infinitely enjoyable listen. There’s a little something for every metal fan in this record, and it is well worth the time you invest in it. Whether you are looking for technical mastery, progressive trippy-ness or more gentle, melodic passages in your metal, you will find it here. A solid and thoroughly engaging album start to finish.
Necrot – Blood Offerings
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Here’s what I wrote about this excellent record in our Top 25 list, because it bears repeating:
Some people like their death metal technical. Others like it best when mixed with other genre ingredients such as black and doom metal, culminating in the best sort of musical cocktail. Others still prefer the, shall we say, more traditional elements inherent within certain strains of death metal. Necrot’s excellent debut Blood Offerings was created for this latter group of individuals. It is old school. It contains lots o’ the riffs. It is downright filthy. It will also gleefully rip your face directly from your head. In case all that word vomit is unclear, this record is several levels of fantastic.
For the uninitiated, Necrot peddle death metal in the vein of mid-career Bolt Thrower, sprinkled with bits of Incantation and a dash of Asphyx. This is death metal for those in love with the almighty riff. Extreme music for the champions of the chug. But this is no brutish, simplistic caveman metal. The riffs contained in these songs are to a fault fantastic, displaying a particularly astute knack for death metal songwriting which facilitates an unusually healthy balance between legibility and brutality. Album opener “The Blade” displays this emphasis on tone and clarity by immediately engulfing the listener in a feast of death metal riffs that transform from heavy to deadly in the span of about a minute without once losing their distinct audio clarity. Subsequent track “Rather Be Dead” adds to this dynamic by bringing in just a hint of melody to keep things from becoming too repetitious. This emphasis on balance continues throughout the album, as blasts and chugs vie for supremacy against intermittent doses of melody and some restrained but wonderfully composed solos that add more variety and flavor than one would expect from an unapologetically old school death metal record. While it may be relentlessly fast and heavy, it is very far from monotonous or boring.
Hats off to the production team of Greg Wilkinson and Brad Boatright for their impeccable work on Blood Offerings. This is one of the smoothest, clearest iterations of old school death metal that I have heard in a good while. Balance is the name of the game with Blood Offerings, and Necrot bring their A game with an impeccably produced, superbly written, and energetically performed record that is by nearly every conceivable metric one of the best death metal releases of the year. If you even remotely enjoy death metal, this is required listening.
Aether Realm – Tarot
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You like melo-death? You like tarot cards? You like epic, grandiose, long-ass albums? If you answered yes to any of these, you’ve found your new album of the year. Aether Realm present an all-or-nothing proposition with their sophomore record Tarot. It’s over an hour long (seventy-three minutes, to be exact), contains enough good ideas to fill several smaller albums, and hits almost every target it sets for itself square on the bull’s eye. This is about as much fun as one can have with death metal, although it sometimes feels more like running a marathon due to its sheer magnitude.
As far as soundscapes are concerned, Aether Realm are known to strumming similar notes to early-Ensiferum and Wintersun while hitting the emotional highs of bands like Mors Principium Est. For fans of melody and variety, this is good news indeed. But with Tarot, Aether Realm’s progression as a band not enslaved by their influences or contemporaries is more evident. With all these influences in tow, it should be fairly evident that this album is all over the place. Which is not intended as an insult. From hard-hitting tracks like opener “The Fool”, its follow-up track “Tarot” and album highlight “The Chariot”, to the drinking ditty “King of Cups” and the ballad-like “Death”, Tarot offers a smorgasbord of delicious sounds and textures that make for one hell of a compelling listen. Each song is named after a different tarot card, and the varying influences each card has on the musical and lyrical directions of these tracks makes for an album that follows a linear concept while refusing sonic conformity. It’s a gamble that pays off in a big way, as this may be the most accomplished and enjoyable melo death record of 2017. It will take effort to wade through this album’s hour of material, but it is a journey worth taking for lovers of rich melody and a healthy amount of variety.
Undergang – Misantropologi
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Ugh. This stuff is so dang gnarly. Can Dark Descent unleash any more hell than they have in 2017? The bands on that label in particular continue to peddle the most depraved and disgusting iterations of death metal imaginable, and Denmark’s Undergang are amongst the cream of this rotten crop. Brace yourself for an unconscionably violent experience with the band’s fourth record Misantropologi, because you aren’t getting anything short of a thorough and relentless audio beating.
There isn’t much to say regarding this band’s sound. Outside of commenting on its sheer and unadulterated brutality, naturally. This album hits you directly in the mouth immediately with “Efter Obduktionen”, then hits you in the same place again “Sygelige nydelser (Del I) Apotemnofili”, and again with “Klynget op i en galge af egne indvolde”, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. This is straightforward death metal at its most guttural, visceral, and vile. No frills here. If you like your death metal old school and aggressive as all get out, this is your summer jam.
Father Befouled – Desolate Gods
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Back at it again with the Dark Descent love. It seems like every month there’s at least one, if not two, records released by that most esteemed of labels that is worthy of attention. Of their releases last month, Father Befouled’s Desolate Gods is probably their best. Much like the Undergang record listed above, Father Befouled are not interested in wowing you with technical wizardry. Far from it. This is a band built to punish and destroy and bring to slobbering, howling life the old school of death metal. They succeed in spades, as this is one of the purest and most destructive iterations of the subgenre so far this year.
Father Befouled do Incantation-worship better than nearly every other band on the planet. Normally it’s a sort of insult to say that a band’s style is indebted almost entirely to another, more legendary act, but in this instance it works to Father Befouled’s advantage. The production is just murky enough to feel oppressive, but contains enough pop to feel somewhat new and fresh. While that dark, cavernous quality inherent in many acts in this subgenre such as Heresiarch, Cruciamentum, and Funebrarum is present in force, Father Befouled avoid falling into sheer caricature by presenting songs that are as fierce as they are well-crafted. Seriously, the songwriting on this record is exceptional. Front to back, death metal fans are getting some fantastic music here, and those who skip because this appears to be just another Incantation retread are missing out on one of the most confidently performed and executed death metal records this year. I don’t even feel like breaking down individual tracks here. It’s all good. Dive in and prepare to be slayed.
Witch Vomit – Poisoned Blood
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So the “mini LP” is apparently a thing now. I’m not exactly sure what separates a miniature long-player from an EP, but I’m old and dumb so it doesn’t matter. What does matter is this latest blast of death metal from Witch Vomit, which is great and you should listen to it.
Other than having an absolutely perfect death metal band name, Witch Vomit are also really good at creating intense, classic death metal sounds that make fans like me foam at the mouth. With one full-length record under their belt, this brood of Portland miscreants have developed a sound reminiscent of early-Morbid Angel and Autopsy, but with that crisp production value that merges the old and new schools of death metal into a cohesive whole. Sound appealing? Jump right to “Doomed in the Realm of the Dead” to bask straightaway in the awesomeness. At only five tracks (and one of them being an intro track), the biggest complaint one could lodge is that this album is far too short. But with tracks like “Circle of Blood” or “Fevers of Torment” to swim in, who cares? All we can say is more of the same, please. And soon.
Tracks of Note:
Incantation – “Rites of the Locust”
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They’re back. They’re angry. It’s really great. With releases from classic acts like Immolation and Obituary, 90s death metal has seen a resurgence as of late. Incantation add their two cents to the equation with a dank, dark, blistering track that bodes well for the rest of the album. You should listen.
NYN – “The Apory of Existence”
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Oh. Man. Whooooa man. This is some next level shit. Progressive/technical death metal doesn’t get any more insane than this, and I mean that as a very high compliment. The technical mastery on display here is astounding, but this track is much more than instrumental wizardry. There is some incredibly creative and diverse songwriting here that allows the song to careen through passage after passage of mind-bending death metal without ever losing its overall sense of cohesion. This is without question some of the most forward-thinking death metal you will hear this year. Listen and prepare for total annihilation.
Now, bring unto us thine death metal picks. Until next month!