Greetings, hellions! I’m occupying the throne in Jonathan’s stead this month, so gather ’round, grab a chalice, and let’s chat. There’s plenty to cover.
We have a few months left this year to consume as much death metal as possible, and our dark overlords down below have yet to turn off the floodgates. As you’ll see by our extensive “Further Listening” section this month, we could have written about any number of albums along with our main selections from October. It’s a good problem to have…until we’re faced with finalizing a top 10 (25? 50?) later this year. It’s going to be rough, folks.
Other than the typically high level of quality throughout this month’s picks, we’re continuing our trend of exploring the “-core” end of the death metal spectrum. We recommend two releases from the much-maligned subgenre, one from a consistently acclaimed deathcore mainstay and the other from a more divisive member of the scene. Both are notable in their own right, however, and I personally appreciate how much Jonathan and I have expanded the scope of styles we cover with this column.
Also, I wanted to give a shout out to Wilderun and their new album Veil of Imagination, which we’ve already covered with a glowing review and an Anatomy Of feature. Though they employ heavy progressive and folk metal influences, they’ve still written some of the best death metal of the year. The album came out Nov. 1, but I wanted to use this space to call attention to it once again, since it dropped so close to our Halloween cut-off for this month’s column.
Alright, I’ll stop blabbering. Time for some death metal. Ough.
Cream of the Crop
Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
There are a few bands whose music consistently makes me feel genuinely uneasy. Full of Hell, Portal, Imperial Triumphant, so on and so forth. It’s the kind of music that ties my stomach in knots, makes me look over my shoulder, or leaves me shell-shocked with a pounding headache. With their fundamentally excellent third full-length, The Baneful Choir, Spain’s Teitanblood join the ranks of bands that frighten, perplex, and intimidate me. That isn’t to say that their previous work was any less menacing. 2015’s fantastic release Death was a primordial shot to the temple, fusing speed and manic aggression into a record that sank its teeth into my jugular. But that record could not have prepared me for the monumental leap that the band would take with their latest record. A step up in every regard, The Baneful Choir is a blackened death masterpiece that has grown steadily in stature since its release. Many hours of listening in, I can confidently state that it’s one of my favorite records of the year.
Building on their fantastic earlier releases, Teitanblood bring the level of fire anticipated by fans of the band’s blasphemous blend of black and death metal. But The Baneful Choir is focused on more than just the sheer skullduggery that the band is known for. This time around, Teitanblood bring in an atmospheric bent that creates additional variety, complexity, and weight to an already titanic sound. “Insight”, “…of the Mad Men”, and “Charnel Above” are unlike anything Teitanblood has yet written, opening the band’s sound in new and exciting ways. More than any of their previously released material, The Baneful Choir feels like an experience, and is all the better for it.
But fans of the fire and brimstone of Death need not fear. Teitanblood still bring the proverbial heat here. “Leprous Fire” is an absolute scorcher, featuring enough Slayer-esque guitar splatter and rhythmic violence to placate even the gnarliest of death metal afficionados. “Ungodly Others” and “Inhuman Utterings” offer similar slabs of audio violence, featuring enough expert musicianship and performative intensity to rival anything in their back catalog. It’s just enough of the same to keep longtime fans engaged, and just enough expansion of their sound to bring experimentation junkies into the fold. It’s their most complete and harrowing offering yet.
Some may find fault with Teitanblood’s expansion into more atmospheric territory, but if you give this record a chance to sink its hooks in I am confident that you’ll be hard pressed to extricate yourself from its grasp. It’s the best record of their career, and one of my favorite releases of the year.
Read More: Editors’ Picks
Best of the Rest
Fit For An Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts
Deathcore is, for lack of a better word, bad. In fact, much of it could even be described as very bad. Melding the hook-laden grooves of Gojira and Pantera with the brutish simplicity of hardcore has proven to be less of a match made in heaven than its founders intended, and much of the music produced in this subgenre feels more like parody metal than anything else. Unless you’re referring to Fit for An Autopsy, in which case none of the above applies. Well, except for the Gojira comparisons. Since 2011, Fit for An Autopsy have been dishing out creative, brutal, groove-laden punishment to listeners with unrelenting regularity. 2019 presents the next phase of the band’s impressive evolution (displayed most starkly in 2017’s The Great Collapse) with The Sea of Tragic Beasts. It’s the band’s most diverse and thoroughly enjoyable release, but more than that, it may be the best deathcore record I’ve heard.
That last statement feels like a really low bar for FFAA to hurdle, but the band are an oceanic god stomping around in a sea of flounder, and never once play down to too often lowered genre expectations. The Sea of Tragic Beasts displays their formidable skills as musicians and songwriters to full effect, with the opening and title track featuring some of Joe Badolato’s most varied and interesting vocal work to date. The way the man vacillates between cleans and growls is exceptional, keeping each track interesting and engaging rather than falling into the usual guttural trap that so many deathcore bands find themselves in.
Instrumentally, the band has also never sounded better. “Your Pain Is Mine” is a straight banger that packs a hefty emotional punch, while “Warfare” is the type of music that fistfights are born from. But the most transcendent moments on the record are those where Putney’s vocals and the band’s music reach their emotional zenith, and there’s no better example of this than “Mirrors”, which has a jaw-dropping finale that is one of my favorite musical moments of the year. From start-to-finish, there’s little about The Sea of Tragic Beasts that I don’t absolutely love.
As is readily apparent, deathcore isn’t my thing. But Fit for An Autopsy absolutely are. The Sea of Tragic Beasts is one of the best albums the subgenre has to offer, and may well find a spot on my year-end list. For those who like their death metal deeply emotive and groovy, I cannot recommend this record highly enough. Essential end-of-year listening.
Rings of Saturn – Gidim
I’m well aware that no matter what I write, everyone is going to read this blurb through the lens of their preconceived opinions of the band. That’s true of everything we publish here on the blog, but it feels especially relevant considering how polarizing Rings of Saturn have been over the last decade. So to make things simple, let’s get a few things out of the way: yes, the band are still playing their chaotic brand of “aliencore”; yes, their style still sounds hyper-polished and, shall we say, “digitally enhanced”; and yes, the cover of Gidim looks like a space sombrero (something I bet you won’t be able to unsee).
I’ve personally had my doubts about RoS since they first blew up online with Embryonic Anomaly (2010) and Dingir (2012). The latter of these came out during my freshman year of college, and all my friends were obsessed with the band’s blisteringly fast noodling and blast beats but up by br00tal breakdowns (it was a simpler time back then). I never fully jumped on board, because it sounded a bit too artificial for my taste. I’m well aware that drum triggers and other studio trickery are industry standard in death metal these days, but RoS sounded like they took this to an entirely new extreme that just didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t help that when I saw them at Summer Slaughter several years later, they only had a vocalist, guitarist, and drummer on stage and played the bass, electronics, and a lot of the more technical guitar parts and solos over the PA.
But here we are in 2019, and I’m writing about the latest RoS and why you should check it out. Funny how things change. Again, I’m not going to pretend that anything I’ve said up to this point has changed, because it really hasn’t. Gidim is chock full of gravity blasts, sweep picking, and beefy breakdowns cut up with short bursts of noodling. In essence, it’s everything you’ve ever expected from an RoS album…except better? I don’t know if it’s me or the band that’s changed, but Gidim is the most enjoyable RoS album I’ve heard to this point, mainly because it feels just slightly more balanced than previous releases. Along with all of the above, the album feels better paced and a bit more structured, while also featuring some more classic tech death elements à la Death and Atheist.
But above all else, Gidim is just pure fun. When we talk about what we like about death metal, what comes up? Speed, heaviness, riffs, technicality, and so on. RoS bring all of that to the table and perform it exactly the way modern death metal fans want it to be played. What’s not to love about that? Sure, there’s the unavoidable baggage that comes with RoS that might understandably sour some listeners on what the band is doing here on Gidim. But for those who can get past that or aren’t bothered by it, this is an incredibly fun slab of brutal deathcore and modern tech death that I’ve personally been playing on repeat.
Xoth – Interdimensional Invocations
Well… this album was unexpected. I’d listened to Xoth’s previous release and enjoyed it, but never would have expected the stratospheric leap the band would take with their sophomore full-length Interdimensional Invocations. This album is an absolute masterclass in techy death metal done right, and I can think of few releases this year that replicate its amazing mix of technical acumen and thoroughly catchy songwriting. In short, it’s one of the most unexpected and thoroughly delightful death metal releases of the year.
Just looking at the cover art for this gem should show you enough to whet your appetite. Interdimensional Invocations is a powerhouse of space-based tech death goodness. But the band aren’t shooting for the ascendant wankery of Archspire or Beyond Creation, instead opting for a more accessible middle ground that highlights the compositions along with the blisteringly effective musicianship. A solid production job doesn’t hurt the band’s cause either. An attentive listen of opener “Casting the Sigil” will give listeners a bead on the album’s sonic direction. If you like what you hear, the rest of the record gives you a whole lot more of that, but better.
Just listen to this thing. Xoth have here crafted one of the more enjoyable death metal releases of 2019, and fans of science fiction-infused metal will eat this up.
Chaos Motion – Psychological Spasms Cacophony
Coffin Rot – A Monument to the Dead
Controversial – Revelation
Entrails – Rise of the Reaper
Exhumed – Horror
Gatecreeper – Deserted
Hour of Penance – Misotheism
In Mourning – Garden of Storms
Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave
Mortiferum – Disgorged from Psychotic Depths
Rank and Vile – redistribution of flesh.
Signs of the Swarm – Vital Deprivation
Singularity – Place of Chains
This Summer is Going to Kill You – This Summer is Going to Kill You
Vastum – Orificial Purge