Welcome, once more, to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat, and be thorough about it. The year is far from done.
That’s right, it’s already November. That time when music takes its multi-month hibernation in preparation for the spring release season. Or at least that’s what is supposed to happen, according to all the end of year lists that came out last month. It’s a damned shame really, as quality death metal in 2018 has proven itself subservient to no such calendar-based restrictions. November gave birth to some of the best records released this year, and anyone making their year-end list without considering these fantastic records wrote it too soon. It’s a very dead horse that I will beat once more: What in the hell is going on with death metal in 2018?
My companion in all things filthy Scott and myself will discuss that very question next week as we break down our favorite releases of the year. Until then, feast on some exceptional death metal from the past month, and let us know what we missed in the comments. There’s plenty of good music still to be had in what’s left of this most miraculous year, so hold off for just a bit longer on that doozy of a list you’ve got saved in your phone. Lovers of death, rejoice. 2018’s not through yet.
Cream of the Crop
Obliteration – Cenotaph Obscure
The old school death metal revival has been in full swing over the past few years, and 2018 represents somewhat of a zenith for the style. A nearly innumerable amount of fantastic records in this musical space have been released this year, but in the end only one band can reign supreme over the year’s bounty. Norway’s Obliteration seem to take no artistic issue ascending to that coveted thrown, as their fourth record Cenotaph Obscure is one of the finest technical examples of the form since the 90s. Oh yeah, and it’s catchy as hell to boot. What more could a death metal fiend ask for?
The album’s opening and title track gives listeners a firm framework regarding the album’s style and intent. This is incredibly produced, fantastically performed death metal that heralds back to the days of yore with such accuracy and intensity that one would be forgiven for thinking Cenotaph Obscure a beautifully executed remaster of a 90s death metal gem long forgotten. The production especially lends itself to this vibe with a mix that is as perfect as can be expected in music this intense. The guitars and percussive elements work sonically in absolute, destructive harmony on every single track. The songwriting and performances here are no less stunning, mixing balls-to-the-wall aggression (“Detestation Rites”) with atmospheric interludes (“Orb”) in a manner that flows naturally and creates a profound sense of dynamic space in an otherwise suffocating environment. Eschewing the blinding, misery-inducing filth of Father Befouled and Dead Congregation for the more cosmic and spacious sounds of Blood Incantation and Timeghoul, it’s a record that is as balanced as you will find in this subgenre.
If you find yourself enthralled by old school death metal, this very well may be your album of the year. I can think of few examples of the style more perfect than Cenotaph Obscure, and that alone makes it worthy of a listen. An absolutely phenomenal release.
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Best of the Rest
1914 – The Blind Leading the Blind
Ukraine’s 1914 really like the topic of WWI. So much so that they’ve now written multiple albums of blackened (sometimes industrially-tinged) death metal focused exclusively on the frontline, trench-based death trap that was The Great War. Their second full-length effort, The Blind Leading the Blind, is a cleaner, more expansive take on their blackened death style than their debut, Eschatology of War, resulting in their most engaging and destructive songwriting to date.
Pulling from such a rich contextual backdrop as fodder for songs can be a two-edged sword, but 1914 are nothing if not detail oriented. Replete with samples from film and war propaganda, The Blind Leading the Blind effectively pulls listeners into its world from frame one. “War In” is an unsettling piece of crackling, traditional war propaganda that serves as a brutal herald to the death and destruction that awaited the young men that heeded the call. The music serves as a pitch-perfect accompaniment to such bitter themes, as “Arrival. the Meuse-Argonne” and “A7V Mephisto” meld black, death, and doom metal together in a quagmire of musical butchery. Atmospheric tracks like “Hanging on the Barbed Wire” only further cement the sense of dread 1914 are attempting (very successfully) to conjure here, and both gravity and theatricality to the otherwise relentless throttling they so gleefully dish out. “Stoßtrupp” may be the crown jewel of the record, combining these elements together in a stew of blood and drama that’s as catchy as it is merciless.
Concept albums are a hit-and-miss enterprise for me, but 1914 know how to pull one off with precision and aplomb. A fantastic set of tracks that never grows dull, The Blind Leading the Blind is everything fans of the band hoped it would be and then some.
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Aevangelist – Matricide in the Temple of Omega
There are many descriptors that could be utilized to describe the sounds conjured by Ævangelist: sinuous, abrasive, complex, ethereal, and intense to name a few. You’ll notice “uninteresting” isn’t among them. Since the release of their first EP in 2011, the band have been nothing short of enigmatic. Each new releases unleashed fresh hell, and their latest is no exception. Matricide in the Temple of Omega is the band’s sixth full-length release and second this year. Ending a three-year absence, the band are back with a vengeance.
While peddling a similar aesthetic to bands like Grave Upheaval and Impetuous Ritual, Ævangelist have always set themselves apart from their peers through a distinct atmospheric lense and guitar playing that seamlessly blends black and death metal songwriting into a cohesive, if unnerving, whole. Matricide in the Temple of Omega’s second track, the punishing “Æon Death Knell”, displays everything the band do well instrumentally, layering soaring black metal tremolo picking over a foundation of destructive death metal riffs that clash and culminate in fascinating ways throughout. The proceedings get no less gnarly during “Omen of the Barren Womb”, which highlights the band’s most abrasive and experimental tendencies. It’s a nightmare collage of guitar sounds bellowed from a deep pit, and it sounds fantastic.
Track-to-track, the band’s sixth record stands tall in a fairly sterling discography, building upon the band’s previous work in supremely effective ways. While it may not be Ævangelist’s greatest sonic divergence, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a terrific display of all the band have become known for, and here’s to many more such descents into the dark in the near future.
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Chapel of Disease – …And As We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye
While I love the genre with all of my heart, there are very few times I would call a quality death metal record “fun”. Let’s be real. This is fundamentally dark music for the most part, so when I have the opportunity to rock out with some premium death metal I relish every second of it. Chapel of Disease have given yours truly just such an opportunity with their third full-length release …And As We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye, a masterful blend of traditional death and heavy metal that’s as technically sound as it is thoroughly entertaining. If you like your death metal injected with a hefty dose of melody and epic solos, look no further.
When I first started to spin this record, I must admit I was caught a bit off guard. This is not what one expects when hitting play on a death metal record, but the blend of sounds here is infectious and nearly impossible to get swept up in. “Void of Words” by itself includes sections of harsh death metal chugs, traditional heavy metal solos, and an extended lush instrumental that gets about as bouncy as you’re likely to hear this brand of music become. Held together by Laurent Teubl’s Horrendous-infused croak, these tracks fly by with reckless abandon. “Oblivious / Obnoxious / Defiant” is an album highlight for me, focusing primarily on the heavier side of the band’s sonic palette, churning ever forward with all the piss and vinegar one would expect from the track title. But your favorite tracks from this record will certainly vary. There isn’t a dud in the bunch.
It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a death metal record like this. It’s equal parts swagger and focus, churning out quality track after quality track. If the above mix sounds like something you’d enjoy, don’t hesitate to give this record a spin. It may not be the gnarliest, heaviest death metal album on the block, but it’s definitely the most fun.
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Corpsessed – Impetus of Death
Corpsessed aren’t subtle. Judging by the other projects of the band’s members (including Tyranny, Lie In Ruins, and Perdition Winds), such a statement should come as no surprise. Their sophomore full-length, Impetus of Death, is as understated as a hammer to the head, and just as lethal. This is utterly filthy death metal that’s horrific and utterly relentless. In short, my kind of jam.
Mastered by the incomparable Dan Lowndes, every aspect of this record’s sound is dripping with heavy-handed malice. Most notably, the drum production here is just fundamentally violent, living high and thunderously in the mix and serving as the unrelenting sledge to our brains. “Sortilege” is just absolutely crushing in this regard, plodding forward with violent intent from second one. Living in the same sonic world of decay as Disma and Gorephilia, this a straightforward assault on the senses from its opening seconds. Once the first few tracks have run their course, you know exactly what the rest of the album is going to give you, and if sonic brutality is your bag, prepare for a wild ride.
Corpsessed aren’t interested in creating something that is anything less than fantastically violent, and Impetus of Death is yet another example of the lengths they will go to exact pain on their listeners. I for one welcome our brutal overlords, and wish more of this audio torture on myself with all the masochism within me.
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Master – Vindictive Miscreant
There are few metal subgenres as closely meshed together historically as death and thrash metal, and none have melded them with as much energy and skill as Master. Churning out solid record after solid record since the mid-1980s, the band have forged for themselves an unimpeachable discography stuffed to the gills with quality songwriting. Their fourteenth record, Vindictive Miscreant, is as solid as this type of music gets, unleashing fast and aggressive riffs at an utterly merciless pace. Think Slayer or Motörhead with a lot more death, and you’ll come close to capturing the insanity in store for you here.
There isn’t a single track on this record that doesn’t go hard. The opening and title track is a blisteringly paced thrashy riff fest, while the album’s third cut “Replaced” hits just as hard while holding more tightly to a death metal formula. The vacillation between these two styles never feels clunky or out-of-place either, instead infusing the music with the right amount of kick or gravity depending on the direction each song takes. This effortless melding can be largely attributed to seasoned songwriting and performances, especially from drummer Zdenek Pravlosky, who switches between punky thrash and thundering death with expert precision. It’s a masterful performance that infuses the album with a constant through line that allows the guitar work to run wild as the album reaches its epic conclusion. Start-to-finish, this is prime stuff.
Decades into their career, one could forgive Master for slowing down. To the contrary, they sound better and more vibrant than ever. Vindictive Miscreant is the sound of a band that knows exactly what it’s doing, operating at the peak of its powers. Can’t recommend this record highly enough.
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