Old-school death metal (or OSDM) has been having a bit of a moment lately, thanks in part to the work of indie labels such as Dark Descent and 20 Buck Spin who have done much of the groundwork in promoting and popularizing the movement while emphasizing bands who lean into the more weirder and more progressive sounds the genre has to offer, with bands such as Horrendous, Tomb Mold, and last year’s critical darling Blood Incantation taking the sounds of acts like Death and Incantation into new places. As the movement proliferates, bands on the fringes are moving ever outward, soaking up black metal, sludge, doom, and prog and diverting from the meat-and-potatoes approach where possible, particularly when it comes to the labels at the core of the renaissance. 

20 Buck Spin for instance are knocking it out of the park this year, with the blackened oddities of Ulthar and the subtle avant-garde progressivism of VoidCermony acting as tentpole releases not just for the label, but for the broader death metal genre in 2020 thus far. Things continue to escalate for the label as the debut album from Italy’s Bedsore sees release this month, and may just be the ace up their sleeves in the arms race for the continued weirdening of OSDM. 

As its title may imply, Hypnagogic Hallucinations is a bizarre and thoughtful death metal record that often embraces its absurdity. At its baseline functioning, Bedsore offers an at-times vaguely blackened and psychedelic take on Leprosy-era Death, with the benefit of a more stylized production emphasizing reverb and atmosphere. Early cut “Deathgazer” fits the bill on this front as a more straightforward track. Leading single “The Gate, Closure” is also an early indicator of the band’s approach at delivering melody and atmosphere in the context of death metal, while offering hints at a fascination with somber instrumentals at the track’s end. These moments of introspection come and go throughout, and become a prominent voice within Hypnagogic Hallucinations, specifically in the dynamic eight-minute “At The Mountains of Madness” and the synth-heavy “Cauliflower Growth.” 

Bedsore makes good work in bookending the record with some idiosyncratic flair for the theatrical. The album opens with a nearly four-minute instrumental track “The Gate, Disclosure,” whose spooky organ sounds, trumpeting synth tones, and heavy metal guitar leads feels more at home on a Ghost record. Closer “Brains On The Tarmac” offers a tour of the band’s toolkit, opening with sparse clean guitar before transitioning into tremolo picked riffs with blasts and d-beats. In its second half, the band gives room for cinematic soundscapes and hypnotic chord progressions, and following a brief foray into some powerfully anthemic death metal, the album collapses into a wonderfully campy rock and roll outro pulled straight from the Iron Maiden playbook. 

Bedsore’s kitchen-sink approach at songwriting, wherein no stone is left unturned in crafting some truly inspired death metal, easily makes them a band to watch. Pulling OSDM, traditional heavy metal, black metal, and prog into one record in such a way could have left lesser bands with an unfocused mess, but Bedsore are on the precipice of combining these influences in a way that is seamless. At their current presentation, Bedsore offer some wonderfully kaleidoscopic death metal, and as a proof of concept, Hypnagogic Hallucinations is a rousing success and as strong a debut as one could hope for in the crowded death metal space of 2020. 

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Hypnagogic Hallucinations is out July 24th via 20 Buck Spin. Pre-orders are available at this location.

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