As is tradition, welcome to Death’s Door, Hellions. Wipe your feet on the mat and pull up a bone throne. July was a good month for the ol’ plug-and-chug. I feel like garbage physically today, folks. Which honestly feels like an outward manifestation of how I feel on the inside regarding the state of my country given last week. Death. Senseless violence. White supremacy. Cultural poison. Fuck last week and everything about it.
When the evil in the world feels a lot closer to home than usual, and my body feels like it needs a month-long vacation from the stresses of life, death metal is my absolute go-to. There’s something about the expulsion of primordial rage that has soothed me for decades, and July thankfully offered plenty of fodder for we denizens of death metal to chew on, namely one of the best albums of the year and one that I would be shocked if many of you didn’t include on your year-end lists. Death metal has been ramping up in quality releases as the year has continued, and for that I praise our infernal overlords.
Scott’s here, as per usual, to join me in delivering unto you the goods. We’d love to hear from you as well. What should we be listening to that isn’t listed here? Feel free to inundate the comments with your favorites. Stay safe, friends.
Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
Fair warning: You’re going to read a lot about space-based death metal in this month’s edition of the column, and no conversation about this magnificent pocket of the death metal world would be complete without a more-than-brief mention of Tomb Mold. Over the span of a short three years, Tomb Mold have released three records, two of which I now consider some of the best death metal to be produced this century. The band’s third record, Planetary Clairvoyance, is an incredible achievement for a few reasons. First, it’s one of the best records of the year. Second, it comes barely a year after its predecessor, which was one of the best albums of last year. Finally, it’s the best record of the band’s career by a wide margin, containing their most expansive, intricate, and repeat-ready material to date. It’s absolutely everything I was hoping it would be and then some.
With such a grueling recording schedule, it would be safe to assume that an eventual quality drop is unavoidable. But such a logical conclusion cannot be drawn from the band’s career thus far. Similar to fellow extreme music workaholics Full of Hell, Tomb Mold just keep churning out amazing material at an alarming clip, and Planetary Clairvoyance ups the ante for the band in every way. Opener “Beg for Life” sets the tone beautifully, creating a creepy space-cave vibe that eventually morphs into a muddied riff that at first reminds me of the opening frames of Ascended Dead’s ghoulish debut. But give the track a minute or two and this murky wall-of-sound morphs into a supremely catchy riff that carries the track into deep space. The track also shows the band’s continued maturity as songwriters, blasting through several unique and intensely heavy passages seamlessly, remaining completely engaging and somewhat unpredictable throughout. These elements can be found throughout the record, and especially in the album’s title track, which is nothing short of amazing.
But Tomb Mold are far more interested in creating a diverse and cohesive listening experience rather than simply melting faces (which they still do on a continual basis throughout Planetary Clairvoyance). “Phosphorene Ultimate” is a glitchy, darkly atmospheric interlude that both increases the aesthetic menace of the record and its ability to surprise. These are bold decisions for a band with as high a profile in their genre as Tomb Mold, is a welcome sign of continued songwriting adventurousness. The remainder of the record does nothing to betray its fantastic opening salvo, culminating in one of the most complete and utterly enjoyable listening experiences I’ve had.
Read More: Editors’ Picks
Best of the Rest
Desecresy – Towards Nebulae
Desecresy are one of the most overlooked acts in death metal. Their career thus far, spanning just under a decade and six full-length records, is absolutely brimming with amazing material. Yet these releases rarely see the light of day in the blogosphere, and it makes me sad. So here’s me, doing my part to tell you to go check out the band’s latest release Towards Nebulae right now. It’s excellent.
For those unfamiliar, Desecresy play a raw, somewhat lo-fi strain of old school death metal that veers somewhere between Blood Incantation’s spacey spookiness, the raw, almost unfinished quality of Timeghoul, and Impetuous Ritual’s impenetrable wall of sound (albeit far less technically minded). The former comparison applies especially well in the case of Towards Nebulae, which displays the band’s most expansive and intricate songwriting to date. Fans of Nocturnus’ classic recordings and Gorephilia’s most recent release will find plenty to love in the band’s aesthetic, with tracks like “The Gate” and “Only Mist Drifts” catapulting themselves into the stratosphere songwriting-wise. The instrumental performances here are uniformly spectacular, utilizing every bit of the record’s production-style to create tracks that are both oppressive and intricate. “Fringes of Existence” highlights this approach particularly well, vacillating between hammering chugs and slower, more menacing passages that smack of Spectral Voice. In short, it’s pretty much exactly up my alley from start to finish.
This band doesn’t get the credit they deserve, and Towards Nebulae is in my mind their most compelling and genuinely engaging release to date. If you have yet to give them a listen, please do not hesitate to do so. Right now. One of my favorite releases this year.
Disentomb – The Decaying Light
Australia’s most brutal export, Disentomb made significant waves with their absolutely scorching debut record Sunken Chambers of Nephilim. The fervor surrounding the band only escalated with the release of their sophomore record Misery, which I consider to be one of the best brutal death metal releases I’ve ever heard. Five long years later, the band’s third full-length release brings with it nearly insurmountable expectations and a whole boatload of built-in scrutiny. Does it pass the time test, keeping Disentomb as menacing and relevant as ever? You bet your ass it does.
For myself, The Decaying Light wasn’t as immediately all-consuming as its predecessor, and those expecting to be instantly floored by this record may find themselves disappointed early on. “Collapsing Skies” takes its time to develop, immersing the listener in a more deliberate opening that it not for the vocals could belong in some of the less complex tracks in an Ulcerate record. But setting The Decaying Light up in this fashion, while potentially anticlimactic for fans of the band’s most brutal sounds, ends up paying big dividends, as the record’s impact becomes all the more stark as “Your Prayers Echo Into Nothingness” kicks in. Maintain a high standard of technicality without ever dipping into needlessly noodly territory, the album unfolds in a diverse torrent of sounds that jump between relentless punishment and mid-tempo death metal majesty. “Indecipherable Sermons of Gloom” is a pitch-perfect track that hops back-and-forth between these aesthetics with relative ease, making for a musical experience that is both diverse and hard-hitting simultaneously. The band have matured as performers and songwriters, and this fact is rampant throughout the remainder of the record, which in my mind ends up being the band’s most complete and expansive work to date.
There’s very little about The Decaying Light that isn’t immensely enjoyable. Fans of the band’s previous work should be satisfied with the direction taken here, and I can safely state that Disentomb maintain their status as one of brutal death metal’s most talented and enjoyable acts. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait five years for the next installment, but if history is any indication, it will be well worth the wait.
Read More: Review
Dispossessed – Warpath Never Ended
In all honesty, Dispossessed should have been included in this month’s Kvlt Kolvmn given its major leanings into war metal (aka “bestial” or “brutal” black metal). Yet, from both a lyrical and musical perspective, I don’t feel that the label is totally justified. For starters, the group’s leftist, anti-oppression messaging is far from the norm in war metal; to the contrary, war metal frequently flirts with or full-on embraces NSBM. Additionally, Warpath Never Ended just feels more like a death metal band. From their frequently cavernous production to their much heavier and less erratic delivery, Dispossessed hits like a blackened death metal armed with an urgent, powerfully delivered message.
Though I highly recommend diving into Dispossessed’s lyrics, the beauty of Warpath Never Ended is how excellent it is from a purely musical perspective. Even if you don’t care about or disagree with the band’s message, you’ll still be treated to some of the angriest, impassioned extreme metal released this year. Yet, the album is hardly just a thrash ‘n’ bash affair. Elements of atmospheric black metal and blackgaze make it into the mix, helping to establish pacing and a surprising amount of depth for a relatively short release.
As I focused on in my HLT (see below), what I admire so much about Dispossessed is their recognition of the limitations of subtlety and the importance of poignancy. Amid political and social oppression, musicians can respond with protest anthems that are either too abstract or heavy-handed to truly change perspectives. On Warpath Never Ended, the band’s message is delivered in direct, unpolished terms with a great deal of emotion to drive their points home. And on top of it all, the medium that drives the message is one of the hardest-hitting records to come out of the current extreme metal underground.
Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect
There’s really no need for a fancy, verbose introduction: Thrive on Neglect is a phenomenal iteration of death metal at its finest. There’s a reason we included Immortal Bird‘s latest release among our top albums of the year thus far, and I have a hunch it will remain on our radar come year’s end.
Immortal Bird’s greatest strength is their nimble approach to performing some complex and experimental ideas. From dissonant death riffing to blackened elements to flirting with metallic hardcore, the band truly does it all while still maintaining a distinct, coherent style. Their metalcore leanings infuse a great deal of energy into their sound, helping to bookend the blast beat-heavy sections with sneering, almost punk-inspired aggression.
But again, the beauty of Thrive on Neglect is how eclectic the compositions are. Opener “Anger Breeds Contempt” features a proggy bass solo that erupts into prog death intensity, while “House Of Anhedonia” revolves around some angular riffs and melodies. Seven-minute centerpiece “Avolition” is arguably the most dynamic track on the album, rivaled by closer “Stumbling Toward Catharsis.” Both tracks employ slower and quieter passages alongside ripping death metal intensity for noticeably epic and sonically massive results.
Again, there’s a reason we’ve been stressing how great this album is. Immortal Bird are among the greatest young voices in death metal right now, a status they’ve achieved while bucking all of the genre’s modern trends. The uniqueness of Thrive on Neglect would be enough to make it noteworthy, but the expert musicianship and songwriting take it to a far higher level off excellence.
Wormed – Metaportal
Damn, Daniel. Back at it again, with the sci-fi death and destruction. For the record, I know this is the cringiest thing I’ve written since… whatever I wrote last, probably. But I don’t care. Whether you find yourself a lover or hater of all things techy and brutal, Wormed probably are a soft spot for you. For good reason, too. The band have over their career thus far established a reputation of uniform excellence, and their latest EP Metaportal continues this tradition, albeit under tragic circumstances.
Probably not news to most people reading this column, but the death of drummer Guillermo Calero was an unexpected blow to metal fans worldwide. Replacing such an immense talent is no small feat, but Wormed here accomplished the seemingly impossible through Gabriel Valcázar, who picks up right where his predecessor left off in terms of technical prowess. These four tracks are filled to the brim with creative, technically astute, and thoroughly diverse songwriting and performance. “Remote Void” should put any worries about the band losing a portion of their edge at ease. It’s a titanic track that belongs with the band’s most thoroughly punishing and best, and never lacks in unpredictability or diversity. My favorite track on the record has to be “Cryptoubiquity”, which has grown on me like a fungus since I first heard it. It’s everything that Wormed do well and then some, pointing toward a direction for the band that is both surprisingly accessible and performatively adventurous.
With Metaportal, Wormed once again prove why they are one of technical/brutal death metal’s premier acts, and I for one cannot wait to see where they go next. Wherever that is, you can be sure that this writer is well on board the hype train. Until then, Metaportal is good company.
Given the resurging popularity of demo tapes in death metal, we created this section to quickly cover demos and EPs that are worth your time. Though short, these releases still pack in plenty of riffs and brutality. Enjoy!
Undeath – Sentient Autolysis
Have you ever heard the opening riff on a release and known the rest of the tracklist was going to be great? That’s exactly the experience OSDM fans will have when they put on “Enhancing the Dead.” If Undeath continue honing their already top-shelf riff-writing, Sentient Autolysis will definitely be the start of an excellent, fruitful career.
Read More: Editors’ Picks
Burial Remains – Trinity of Deception (death metal)
Guttural Slug – Plague of Filth (brutal death metal)
Nightfucker – Nightfucker (death doom, funeral doom)