Hello, Hellions. Welcome to Death’s Door, February Edition. Wipe your feet on the mat, pull up a bone chair and feast on the flesh of the unbelievers while I complain about the worst month of every year. Yes, that would be February. The Corporate Holiday has passed, the fresh stench of a new year has dwindled away, and those left alive by some cruel joke of existence are left to sit through what has to be the most fundamentally laborious 28 day period in all of recorded history. Why is February even a month? There’s no good metal in February, thus it shouldn’t exist. My reasoning is sound and unassailable.
Well, except for this February. This February was dope.
Much like January, the crop of quality death metal unleashed upon our unsuspecting tuchuses was both alarming and very welcome. Damn, this was a great month for the good stuff. Simon has popped in for this installment to give his thoughts on what is in my estimation the best death metal release of the past 28 days, but the roster is deep. Tech death, progressive, melodic, death-doom, and the old school all found a voice in February, leading to a wide-ranging selection of fantastic releases for any and all tastes. Truly, the most dismal of months was made slightly less terrible by this stunning turn of events. Praise to the lords of all that is profane and filthy! The harvest of savagery is plentiful indeed.
Below are our favorite death metal records of the month. We want to know yours as well. What did we miss? What did you enjoy? Why do we insist on ignoring every band you like? Post your picks and gripes in the comments below.
Now, to the music!
Cream of the Crop:
Golgothan Remains – Perverse Offerings to the Void
Gonna start this one with an elevator pitch: Perverse Offerings to the Void by Sydney upstarts Golgothan Remains sounds like a swarm of wasps establishing a colony in the ruins of a city that lies in the dead center of a windswept desert. Words to describe this record would include such adjectives as “churning,” “crushing,” and “enrapturing.” The choice of actions here shouldn’t be lost on you, dear reader; Perverse Offerings is an active release, always moving and undulating in sound through pummeling, angular riffs and ever-so-slightly dissonant chord progressions.
The backbone of this album is certainly in the oft-imitated sound of the underground pioneers of that wonderful slow-weird-pulverizing trifecta: death metal gods Immolation and Incantation. From the former, they steal the short, staccato stabs of melody and use of cyclical and highly repetitive riffs; from the latter, they borrow liberally their pacing and song structures, as well as their raw and cement-thick production style. What makes Golgothan Remains’ first full-length outing such a success, though, is their ability to totally differentiate themselves from their aforementioned influences: there’s something altogether drier, emptier, less forgiving about their sound (perhaps owing to their home clime of Australia) that makes this record feel closer in style to Gorguts or late greats Flourishing than any of the classics that obviously guide their writing. The chord progressions ring with the same harrowing, existential drought that you’d find on the husks of riffs on Colored Sands, rather than the palpably tense burning of Here In After or Close to a World Below.
One of the things that Jonathan, Scott, and myself have talked about quite a lot in our escapades through the new crop of death metal that seeks to emulate and rival the work of the ’90s greats is that it has far passed the point of pure imitation being enough, and Perverse Offerings to the Void is the perfect encapsulation of what we mean by this. Put this atmospheric masterpiece on and get snatched away by the approaching sandstorm. You won’t regret it.
Best of the Rest:
Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades
I wrote about this record at length in my review earlier this month. With even more time spent with it in regular rotation, I can happily affirm that it has lost nary a drop of its melodic, death-doom sheen. This is a very good record from a very good band intent on bringing the pain with flair to lovers of death and doom metal alike.
Ataraxy haven’t been around for too long. This is only their second record, but the maturity this band displays in their songwriting and instrumental ability would seem to contradict this fact. The ideas present here are fully explored, with tracks winding and propelling themselves through various melodic twists and turns that are never less than enthralling. Pulling influence from the more melody-centric tendencies of bands like Hooded Menace and Inverloch, the music here is both catchy and hard-hitting, especially in the guitar work, which is given plenty of space in the mix to clearly and cleanly work its magic. When it comes to modern death-doom, Ataraxy can swing with the best of them.
If you enjoy this particular fusion of metal, you would be selling yourself short if you didn’t give this band and record the time and attention they deserve. This is premium stuff from a hungry young band that will have a hard time topping two fantastic records. Here’s to watching them try again and again.
Crescent – The Order of Amenti
The first thing I think of when someone mentions Egyptian metal is Nile. This is most obviously due to their lyrical themes and imagery, not their geographic origin (South Carolina, in case that wasn’t common knowledge). But if you were to ask me right now what I think of when someone mentions Egyptian metal, my answer would be Crescent. Hailing from Cairo and peddling an equally punishing death metal assault to the above death metal luminaries, Crescent are more than the new champions of Egyptian death metal, but a great death metal band outside of all temporal and arbitrary classification. Their second album, The Order of Amenti, is a bold and transfixing statement of death metal aggression that is one of the most enjoyable metal records I have heard this year.
Though, to be fair, perhaps it’s a bit harsh to call Crescent’s geographical home and its influence arbitrary. The musical and thematic material Crescent mines from their homeland is powerful and genuine, creating an atmosphere of menace and dread that fits their brand of death metal perfectly. While less technical than Nile or some of the other bands they could be immediately associated with, Crescent pull absolutely no punches when it comes to guitar-based, riff-god goodness. Good grief this album is heavy. The ferocious death metal riffs contained in tracks like “Sons of Monthu” and “Through the Scars of Horus” are more reminiscent of mid-career Immolation and Bolt Thrower than anything else. Further, many of the tracks on this record incorporate blackened elements that add an additional level of violence to Crescent’s sound. The strict adherence to abject heaviness is relentless throughout The Order of Amenti, which includes some of the most devastating riffs I’ve heard on any record in a good while. If you like your death metal slightly blackened and very heavy, you’ve found your new best friend.
Now, go and listen to this record. The time for reading my useless pablum is over. The age of Osiris is at hand!
Eartheria – Awaken the Sun
As I have stated before, I’m a sucker for piano intros. Something about this ivory (or plastic, let’s be real) keys striking dramatic and true makes me giddy like none other. Eartheria’s sophomore outing, Awaken the Sun, begins on just such a note. Ten seconds of music and I’m in. Hook, line, and sinker. But outside of the album’s intro preying on my inherent weaknesses, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of incredible progressive death metal to be found here. Eartheria have found in their second release a blend of progressive, technical, and melodic death metal that is both exceptionally rare and exceptionally fantastic.
Taking cues from Rivers of Nihil, the band bring a general sense of organic and natural space to a fairly hefty mix of death metal sounds. The soaring, melancholic melodies of “Brought Before the Emperor” are sterling examples of the adventurous, bombastic songwriting choices contained on this record. The guitars work tirelessly, the drum work compliments the melodies with appropriate heft and menace, and the vocals bring the pain with a near-perfect amount of death metal aggression. But the album doesn’t solely rely on any one element to work its magic. Where “Myriad” brings a sometimes mid-tempo pace, “Escapist” is a full-on technical assault in the vein of Xenosis. All of these elements work together to create absolutely epic moments that are as earworm-ish as you will find in this brand of music. Top it off with the bruiser of a finale “Nihil” and you have yourself an album worthy of much more discussion than it has received.
Say what you will about the more melodic strains of death metal, but when done right this music soars to heights untouched by most other death metal tribes. Eartheria have found the formula for making this kind of music well, and Awaken the Sun is a sterling example of what this music and band are capable of. A quality release in every metric.
Genocide Pact – Order of Torment
I like experimentation as much as the next guy, but sometimes all you need is a good, old fashioned drubbing by a traditional bruiser of a record. Genocide Pact’s Order of Torment provides exactly that, and nothing more. It’s the brutality of old school death metal cranked up to eleven for eight tracks of neck-snapping audio punishment. It is everything I hoped it would be and more.
Following their 2015 debut Forged Through Domination, Order of Torment picks up right where that record left off. It’s a Frankenstein’s Monster of Incantation and Bolt Thrower, and it’s glorious. Tracks like opener “Conquered and Disposed” call to mind the glory days of early-90s death metal, with chugging, mid-tempo riffs that are as heavy and destructive as any you will hear on a death metal record. Yet tracks such as “Ascendency Absolved” and the second half of “Structural Dissolution” peddle a faster, more propulsive and crunchy flavor reminiscent of the more modern, hardcore-tinged works of Mammoth Grinder or Power Trip. Underneath all of its blatant death metal trappings, Genocide Pact displays just a hint of that hardcore spirit that makes their music richer and more varied than many in the old school death metal pack. It’s a treat to listen to, and nearly impossible not to lose your damn mind to.
Given the very crowded old school death metal scene in 2018, Genocide Pact sticks out due to their talent, vision, and understanding of what they are trying to do. Genocide Pact will not bowl you over with technical pyrotechnics or manically creative songwriting. They are here to punish you, subjugate you, and destroy you with the blistering sounds of the old school. They accomplish this mission in spades with Order of Torment, resulting in one of the most satisfying death metal releases of the year thus far.
Noose Rot – The Creeping Unknown
I have one glaring, significant issue with Noose Rot’s debut EP. It’s the same problem I had with Vitriol’s much ballyhooed EP last year: It’s too damn short. I need more of this premium content, and I’m most certainly going to have to wait a significant amount of time before hearing more of this old school death metal glory. This is immensely upsetting, and I am pretty peeved. For now, I’ll have to settle for the absolutely filthy batch of tracks contained within The Creeping Unknown.
For stylistic context, this band features members of Skeletonwitch, Wolvhammer, and Gatecreeper. It sounds about exactly like you would expect it to, just better. The riffs are disgusting, the instrumentation straight forward and lethal in its aggression. The songwriting overall is fantastic, and each member uses their experience with their other projects to maximum effect here. There isn’t a weak link in this track list, and that’s in part due to the tightness of the project. At four tracks and just about fifteen minutes in length, The Creeping Unknown is Incantation-infused death metal distilled to its essential core components. There isn’t a single wasted note or space, creating a suffocating, mid-tempo assault that by its end will leave you completely unsatisfied. Not because of the content, but rather its brevity. God, I’m still mad about this.
We need more of this, and we need it now. This is the kind of death metal that I live for, and the more of it at this quality we see, the better. 2018’s off to a raging start, and Noose Rot are only helping to stoke an already raging metal fire. Al hail Noose Rot. May they live long and prosper.