Welcome once more to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat and pull up a bone throne. We’ve got some quality, nasty-ass albums to cover.
I can’t shake it, though. This year just feels less substantial than 2018 did in regards to death metal. It’s not that there haven’t been some incredible records released this year (we’re covering four of them in this edition of the column), but the sheer onslaught of fantastic releases over the past few years seems diminished to me. Am I wrong? Is there high quality death metal that I’m missing? Send it our way in the comments. Destroy our skepticism with holy fire.
As is tradition, Scott joins me in bringing you death metal’s best from the month of April. It was a great month for great records, and those listed here are each among my favorite records in the genre released so far this year. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have.
Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Ceremony of Silence – Oútis
The fact that multiple writers have already covered Oútis should indicate how much of a must-listen album this is for death metal fans. It’s also worth noting that writers with vastly different tastes both had glowing remarks for the record in our review and Editors’ Picks column, alluding to the well-deserved crossover appeal this might have for the broader metal fandom. To me, this boils down to songwriting; Ceremony of Silence have clearly mastered a vision of their sound that fits comfortably among their dissonant death metal peers while craving out a distinct, refreshing niche.
If forced to nail down those parallels, it would probably be most accurate to liken Oútis to a blackened synthesis of Nile and Ulcerate with a faint hint of Portal thrown in the mix. Suffice it to say, Ceremony of Silence’s brand of death metal is fast, dark and technical, all in equal measure. Svjatogor’s drumming dazzles throughout, shifting effortlessly between blasts at different tempos and slower, doomier passages. Similarly, Vilozof crafts tremolo riffs that match this dizzying speed and then seamlessly conjure a consuming, dreary atmosphere.
Beyond track-by-track song craft, the duo also excel at structuring their album in a balanced and satisfying manner. The grandiosity of modern tech death naturally leads to listener fatigue, especially with the trend of bands pushing their track lists and run times up to and past the hour mark. Instead, Oútis offers listeners a succinct, yet complete, 35 minutes of continuously engaging death metal. Each listen encourages an immediate replay, but only due to sheer quality; the actual run time could not have lasted for a more perfect amount of time.
Again, this is almost certainly due to Ceremony of Silence’s downright awing songwriting chops. The duo cycle through dense collections of ideas on every song but effortlessly sequence them into massive displays of technicality, atmosphere and brutality. Oútis is an album without any downtime or unengaging moments, and I highly recommend you hop on for the ride.
Best of the Rest
Cosmic Putrefaction – At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm
Like most death metal fans, I love bunker buster albums that pummel the listener from the very first note. But there’s something to be said about restraint’s role in song development, especially for a genre where subtly is rarely a primary focus. In that regard, Cosmic Putrefaction genuinely surprised me with the way they opened there (exceptionally-titled) album At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm. With a pairing of band and album titled that brutal, I wasn’t prepared for the flow of moods presented at the onset, which makes the results all that more gratifying.
Diving into specifics, “The Perpetual Orbit” begins with a delicate pattern of notes amid a tense air of anticipation. The track then explodes into an explosion of semi-melodic riffs that still crunch along with fittingly stomping percussion. Naturally, the proceedings then erupt into “The Acrimonious Darkness,” a slab of brutal, cavernous death metal goodness made all the more impactful by the intro it was preceded by.
Similarly, the individual tracks on the album prove just how adeptly Cosmic Putrefaction can execute every slight variation of OSDM worship. “The Unheard Shrieks” is a fast, energetic exercise in inspiring an immediate mosh pit, while “The Ancient Demagogue” is a classic example of riff-centric death metal crafted at the altar of Morbid Angel. Then, the surprises continue on “The Outermost Threat,” a two part suite capped off by an extended passage of spacey dark ambient. Even with a relatively short album, having an well-crafted interlude can be refreshing if executed as well as it is here.
As two of the album’s longest tracks close out the album, it’s hard to be anything short of impressed by the collection of diverse yet consistently on-message tracks the band has compiled. At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm is about as progressive as an OSDM record can be while still remaining properly brutal and intense, and the multifaceted nature of their sound should prompt intense interest in where they go from here.
Hath – Of Rot and Ruin
It’s hard to listen to Hath’s utterly fantastic debut record Of Rot and Ruin and not immediately think of the mollusk-obsessed death metal firebrands Slugdge. While the comparison is most certainly apt and useful in contextualizing the band’s music, it only tells part of the story. Hath have channeled into a spirit of death metal that has become a force within the genre over the last few years, but should in no way be construed as a rip-off of better bands. To the contrary, Hath have grabbed hold of this melodic, black metal-infused style of death metal and conformed it to their own image, featuring sound songwriting, fantastic instrumentation, and unrelenting energy.
From the opening notes of “Usurpation”, it’s evident that Hath are surging from the gate with a vital sense of propulsion and purpose. Frank Albanese and Peter Brown’s guitar work generates a violent ballet of riffs that only grow more effective as the record continues. “Currents” and “To Atone” chug, bludgeon, and race their way to epic finales with reckless abandon, seldom giving the listener any room to breathe. While such relentless audio violence can be a bit exhausting, for the type of album Hath are creating this blistering assault feels both necessary and earned, culminating in some of the most effective death metal released this year.
While it may not be the most original record to be released in the death metal record to be released in the death metal world this year, Of Rot and Ruin is without question one of its most thoroughly enjoyable and well-executed. There are few glaring issues to speak of, and given time Hath could be the band that elevates this sound to even greater heights than it has already achieved. I fully anticipate that they will. An outstanding debut.
Suffering Hour – Dwell
Minnesota’s favorite blackened death dealers Suffering Hour dropped an atom bomb of a debut in 2017 with In Passing Ascension. A vicious, dizzying display of technical prowess and songwriting ambition, that record has fast become one of my favorite releases of the last few years, and has sent me both scouring for more music like it and pining for more from the band. 2019 gives me everything I ever wanted in the gargantuan, captivating single Dwell. If you found yourself concerned as to how Suffering Hour could possibly follow up an album as fantastic as their debut, fret no more. Dwell is everything the band does well and more.
As a stand-alone, almost 20-minute slab of technical blackened death metal, it’s astonishing how much like a complete work Dwell feels. The band stuff so many good ideas into one extended track that it’s almost frustrating that the band didn’t expand these ideas into a full LP. I say “almost” because the music here is so good that it’s hard to complain about the band choosing to release it in whatever manner they choose.
Their improvement as songwriters is evident within the first five minutes of Dwell, which moves from a forlorn slow-build of sharply melodic anguish with tremolo-picked undertones to a raging, dissonant whirlwind of death metal that kicks off at warp speed and sustains that breakneck pace for an impressive amount of time. The hive-of-bees riff textures of the track’s middle section are perfectly complemented by vocalist DgS, whose intense, low-register growls never overwhelm the fantastic guitar and drum work, instead providing a brutal tonal undercurrent that adds menace and dynamic flavor to the blistering instrumental affair. It’s this level of thought and restraint that elevates Suffering Hour above a great many of their peers, and ultimately makes Dwell such a dynamic and compelling listen.
In Passing Ascension proved Suffering Hour to be a band of many talents, and Dwell shows that the band are no one-hit wonder. Melding melody, dissonance, viciousness, and restraint into one seamless and appropriately robust package, this track is one of the best in the genre I’ve heard this year. Now if we can only get another full-length sooner rather than later… yeah, that would be great.