Welcome, friends, to Death’s Door. Wipe your feet on the mat and pull up a bone throne. Let’s talk about September death metal. Sweet Satan, was it delectable.
I’ve been harping on it for time immemorial (or since March, if we’re gonna get technical) that death metal’s 2019 has been somewhat underwhelming. But as the year has progressed and I’ve been able to spend time with more records, I can’t help but feel that my opinion is slowly changing. From the maniacally aggressive to the sweetly melodic, death metal had a fucking field day in September, and I cannot wait to share our thoughts on some of its finest releases with you.
As is tradition, Scott is all aboard the pain train covering some of death metal’s most unsung heroes through Cassette Catacombs. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of quality death metal to be had. Let us know what you enjoyed/what we missed in the comments.
Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Weeping Sores – False Confession
Pyrrhon is one of the most unique and insanely talented collectives in the metal world, full stop. Their last record, What Passes for Survival, was listed as my favorite record of 2017, and I’ve listened to it regularly since. All this to say that essentially anything Pyrrhon vocalist and mastermind Doug Moore does is going to get my attention.
Weeping Sores, one of Moore’s side projects with fellow Seputus drummer and partner in crime Stephen Schwegler and live Tchornobog violinist Gina Hendrika Eygenhuysen, caught my interest a few years ago with the release of their self-titled EP. Unfortunately, I was so obsessed with Pyrrhon’s latest masterpiece that I didn’t give it the attention it rightfully deserved. But a few elements of the project stuck with me (mainly its orchestral death-doom aesthetic), leading me to feel more than moderately excited to hear their full-length debut False Confession. After several listens, I can safely say that my high expectations have been eclipsed, as this record is a transformative and deeply rewarding listening experience.
From the album’s opening frame, it’s clear that the musicians behind this project put a great deal of thought and care into its composition. These tracks are lush, measured, and filled to the brim with melody and emotive instrumentation. “Scars Whispering Secret Tongues” features some immensely impressive guitar work from Moore, highlighting his development as a musician with force and clarity. Eygenhuysen’s work on the violin is deeply beautiful and filled equally with joy and melancholy, bringing an emotional weight to these tracks that adds a thoroughly mesmerizing and personal touch.
“Song of Embers” builds on this foundation thoroughly, exploring some of the most emotionally satisfying pathways I’ve heard from a metal record this year. The remainder of the album is no less exquisite, leading listeners through a harmonious labyrinth until collapsing in the emotionally devastating “Sinking Beneath the Waves”. Vacillating between hard-hitting death-doom and melody-filled opulence, False Confession sounds unlike any other metal release I’ve heard in some time, and I can’t get enough of it.
I’ve been trying to find fault with this record for weeks, and it exhibits nary a blemish outside its scabby cover art (created by the ever masterful Caroline Harrison). This is as fine an achievement as the metal world has produced this year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Best of the Rest
Creeping Death – Wretched Illusions
First impressions are a big deal. In business, relationships, and life in general, wowing folks right off the bat is often (though not always) a solid predictor of future success. If we follow this logic, Texas death unit Creeping Death have presented the world with about as good an introduction as one could hope for in their debut full-length Wretched Illusions. Prepare for total obliteration.
Creeping Death, while firmly entrenched in the traditions of death metal, add a hefty dose of hardcore to the mix, smacking at times of Mammoth Grinder, Power Trip, and other crossover favorites. But the special sauce of Creeping Death is in the pace at which they employ their destructive arsenal. Less thrash-heavy than most hardcore crossovers, Creeping Death’s modus operandi lies more firmly in measured bludgeoning than it does in speed-based chaos. This serves them well throughout the record, leavening some of their chosen genre’s more brash instincts with a maturity that allows their riffs to drip into our ears like poisoned honey. “Sinner’s Torch” is a perfect example of the band’s fantastic songwriting abilities, vacillating between blistering speed and nearly doom-laden passages with ease and precision. It’s a band operating well beyond its years, and makes for one of the more excellent debuts I’ve heard this year.
If Wretched Illusions is any indication, Creeping Death will be a band in the spotlight for a long time. But regardless of where their career takes them, we’ll always have this record to prove that first impressions can kill one way or another, and the death metal world at large benefits from their initial diligence. Fantastic stuff.
Haunter – Sacramental Death Qualia
Haunter is a bit hard for me to pin down genre-wise. Peddling a rich amalgam of black and death metal styles, the project’s music defies easy categorization, and honestly is all the better for it. Their debut record Thrinodia slipped under my radar in 2016, and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake with their sophomore effort Sacramental Death Qualia. Good thing I hopped on this promo as soon as it was in our inbox, too, as extended time with it has only further cemented my opinion of this record as one of the best and brightest of the year.
In nearly every area, Haunter excels. The songwriting here presents a blackened death maelstrom that is as perfectly balanced as a gauntleted Thanos snap. “Dispossessed Phrenic Antiquity” propels itself through passages of black metal blasting, death metal violence, and more progressive/spacy metal with absolute ease, proving both infinitely listenable and wildly unpredictable. The rest of the record holds to loosely these general sonic directions, but approaches them with enough variety to encourage a slew of repeat listens.
“Spoils Vultured Upon Sole Deletion” is bookended by some sparse guitar passages that almost feel post-metal in their composition, while “Abdication” brings an acoustic folk bent to the proceedings that is a breath of fresh air and a reprieve from the general madness the record brings. “Subversion of a Heathen Tongue”, perhaps my favorite track on the record, brings a dissonant tech death vibe that culminates in potentially the most diverse and interesting track of the band’s career to date. In short, it’s just about everything I was hoping it would be and more.
If you’ve yet to dip your toes in Haunter’s dark sonic stream, I strongly suggest you start from the beginning and work your way into Haunter’s diabolical second full-length. The journey is well worth the time investment. Don’t miss out on one of the most consistently interesting releases of 2019 thus far.
Infant Annihilator – The Battle of Yaldabaoth
Writing about Infant Annihilator is interesting. The content of their records is both obviously parodical and insanely profane, so much so in fact that those not in on the joke banned them from streaming services due to said content. Such treatment didn’t last long, but to say IA has garnered a reputation would be an understatement. Their third full-length record continues the band’s penchant for pulling no punches, diving headlong into the technical deathcore that has made them famous, and the thematic content that has made them infamous. It’s also in keeping with their continued improvement as musicians and songwriters, making this their most aggressive, abrasive, epic, and thoroughly enjoyable release to date.
As for the music, well… it’s IA. You know what to expect. The intensity level of these tracks is utterly immense, spreading an absolutely relentless assault of riffs and blasts that are heavy enough to crush skulls while simultaneously blowing minds. The band’s technical abilities are displayed with a precision that is almost scary, made all the more convincing by the presence of guests such as Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder, among others.
Remarkably, in the intentionally overly brutal sonic violence contained on The Battle of Yaldabaoth, the band never lose their penchant for memorable melody making. “Childchewer” and “Three Bastards” kick off the record with expected intensity, but are all the more effective for their memorable, almost catchy melodic lines that undergird the chaos with a sense of well-constructed musicality. The remainder of the record holds to this standard, unleashing just south of an hour’s worth of head-spinning-yet-hummable content that’s close to it not the absolute apex of deathcore-adjacent music this year.
If you’ve not fallen under IA’s profanely humorous spell yet, do yourself a favor and give this album a shot. It may not convert you, but it will certainly give you a thoroughly entertaining hour of premium gross-out content. It’s their best record to date by a fairly wide margin.
Vitriol – To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice
One of the reasons I created the Cassette Catacombs section of this column is due to my diminished interest in demos and EPs compared to full-length albums. Good music is noteworthy regardless of its format, obviously, but there quite literally isn’t as much to grab onto with shorter releases. What they can do is build a great degree of hype for what lies on the horizon, which is exactly how everyone in the Heavy Blog camp reacted to Pain Will Define Their Death. With just just four songs, Vitriol did more to whet the voracious appetites of death metal fans than many bands can accomplish with their debut albums.
Two years later, the band have refined and repurposed the EP on To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice, one of the most complete and exceptional death metal debuts in recent memory. If you’ve been following the genre over the last few years, you know that’s quite a statement. But I stand by that assertion with full confidence. Vitriol excel at every metric we measure death metal, with a sound that’s as technical and dynamic as it is brutal and unrelenting. In all honesty, it surpasses “mandatory listening” for just death metal and qualifies as one of metal’s most essential releases of the year.
The band’s affinity for Hate Eternal will be obvious to most death metal bands after pressing pay on “The Parting of the Neck.” Though not produced by Erik Rutan, the overall presentation of the album is very much in line with Hate Eternal’s signature aggressive, maximalist sound while still feeling contained and coherent. Bolstered by this production, Vitriol unleash 10 tracks of continuously pummeling death metal that never fully removes its boot from the listeners throat.
From a purely sonic perspective, this is one of the most intense death metal releases I’ve heard, which makes its cohesion and songwriting all the more impressive. The band builds from the roots of ’90s and early ’00s death metal and proceeds to add heaps of tech death and brutal death metal influences in equal and effective measure. The opening to tracks like “Hive Lungs” sound like a more terrestrial and hellish take on the Origin formula, conjuring images of war and imminent death rather than the cosmos.
While it would be easy to go track-by-track with the album, it’s 45-minutes well spent and should be consumed in full by even casual death metal fans. Vitriol have found a way to create an album that appeals to the basic instincts that drive an admiration for death metal, while also accentuating each detail to create endlessly rewarding compositions. If it wasn’t obvious by now, I truly can’t recommend this album highly enough. Everything about it is invigorating and leaves me feeling inspired to listen to more death metal after each listen. Often, that extended foray into the genre is simply just more Vitriol.
Given the resurgent popularity of demo tapes in death metal, I created this section to cover demos and EPs that are worth your time but difficult to discuss with a full blurb. Though short, these releases still pack in plenty of riffs and brutality. Enjoy!
And Hell Followed With – Chimerical Reality
Jonathan and I don’t cover deathcore often with this column, and yet, here we are with two picks from the much-maligned subgenre. My love of deathcore peaked in 2010, the same year And Hell Followed With released their technical and melodic take on the genre with Proprioception. Their first release in nearly a decade proves that they’ve returned with a clear vision and improved songwriting chops at every level. Chimerical Reality boasts some of the highest-quality modern deathcore I’ve heard in some time, taking cues from modern melodeath while still retaining deathcore’s signature heaviness and atmosphere.
Engulf – Transcend
Vitriol isn’t the only band inspired by Hate Eternal that dropped a noteworthy release last month. The one-man project from Hal Microutsicos hits with the power of a full-on armada, thanks to a crushing guitar tone and plenty of heavy, plodding riffs and double-kick rolls to go around. With a bit of Immolation and Morbid Angel thrown in the mix, Hal fleshes out Transcend with a varied attack, coming together to create an EP that should have something for every type of death metal fan.
Inoculation – Anatomize
Death’s Door is old enough that we’re starting to see repeat bands pop-up time and again, which I personally find wicked exciting. We talk a lot about the genre’s continued growth in popularity and ideas, and part of that has to do with excellent bands continuing to make quality music. Which brings us to Inoculation, whom I covered almost exactly a year ago in our September 2018 installment (go figure). Their latest two-song offering on Anatomize is more throwback progressive death metal, this time with elements of tech death à la Archspire and Origin and an emphasis on extraterrestrial themes. Needless to say, you need to spin this ASAP, along with their fantastic full-length debut, Pure Cosmic Dread.
Saprophage – Demo 2019
What’s better than recommendations from two death metal fanatics like Jonathan and I? A shout out from one of the most consistently great bands in the genre. Following Obliteration‘s excellent 2018 album Cenotaph Obscure, drummer Rolf Kristian Valbo (aka RKV) is back with a two-song demo as Saprophage. The release offers a crushing dose of cavernous death-doom accented with vast blackened atmospheres. I insta-clicked the Bandcamp link when I saw Obliteration share it, which is something I highly recommend you do right now.
Come Back from the Dead – The Coffin Earth’s Entrails
Disillusion – The Liberation
Horror God – Cursed Seeds
The Ritual Aura – Velothi
Sidian – Carry My Bones