Quick! Bone throne, chalice, death metal. You know the drill. We’ve finally trudged through the last bit of the nightmare that was 2020, and we’re looking forward to recapping the gruesome, brutal death metal that helped us make it through such a hellish year. In the meantime, here are a couple last-minute considerations for your AOTY lists or simply a collection of riffs to get you through the post-holiday blues. See, that was quick. Let’s get to it. Ough.
Cream of the Crop
Undergang – Aldrig i livet
Something about death metal’s nastiest, most brutal sounds just clicked with me this year. Not that they haven’t before (as anyone who’s moderately familiar with this column can attest), but the filthiest, most animalistic sounds from death metal’s rotten underbelly just hit different in the year of the ‘rona. There’s a directness, an unabashed simplicity to this style of death metal that allows for the emotionally cathartic components of the music to shine through. Undergang represent this sound with fiery aplomb, and have since the release of their first demo back in 2009 served as firebrands for some of the most truly pestilential and filth-ridden aesthetics in the genre. Their fifth full-length release, Aldrig i livet, is a brief rush of blood to the head that’s as concise and deadly as any they’ve conjured thus far in their stellar career.
Those familiar with Undergang’s traditionally brutal sound won’t find much different to chew on in the band’s latest release, and for those that have fallen in love with the band’s ghoulish charms such a maintenance of form won’t disappoint. These tracks are filled to the brim with some of the most insidious riffs death metal fans will hear this side of Ascended Dead and Mylingar. Pulling deep from the well of their already excellent riff playbook, Undergang are in top form throughout this record, letting each track drip liberally with bloody death metal goodness. If you’re a fan of death metal that champions riffs above all, this album will speak to your blackened soul. “Sygelige nydelser (Del 3) Emetofili” is a filth-mongers sonic dream come true, complete with wretched, gargled vocals and a central riff that will get stuck in your head for days. The performances on these tracks are excellent, never diving into distracting technicality or staying so simple as to feel dull. It’s exactly the type of balance that helps a record of this bent obtain relistenability, which this record has in spades.
If you’ve enjoyed anything the band has released thus far in their career, there’s absolutely no reason why Aldrig i livet won’t tickle your fancy. This is straightforward, brutally direct death metal that should satisfy the sonic bloodlust of many a death metal fan. Give it a listen if you have yet to do so. I’m confident that your investment will be amply rewarded.
Best of the Rest
Deeds of Flesh – Nucleus
Deathcore is a dirty word in some circles, and I can’t say I listen to the subgenre much anymore. But I also can’t deny how pivotal the genre was in my musical development; there weren’t many other genres on my iPod around 2010. Besides the breakdowns and pig squeals, one of my favorite aspects of the OG deathcore scene was the abundance of guest vocals. Not only was it cool as hell, but it helped me discover other bands based solely on how brutal the guest vocalist sounded. I might be squarely on team death metal these days, but I’ll admit the lack of special appearances bums me out.
Apparently Deeds of Flesh missed the memo, and I’m glad they did. Nucleus features a who’s who of modern death metal royalty on almost every track. When your album features Decrepit Bill (Decrepit Birth), Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Corpsegrinder (Cannibal Corpse), John Gallagher (Dying Fetus), and Frank Mullen (Suffocation), you’re doing something right. Like, a lot of things right. The best part is how well each of these guys fits on their respective tracks, especially considering their vastly different vocal styles.
Musically, their growls and grunts bellow out over classic Unique Leader-core, which I mean in a positive, endearing way. There’s something to be said about carving out a clear lane, and which Unique Leader has done well in the broader tech death scene. Deeds of Flesh still churn out the heavy, technical death metal you hope for from the brutal side of the genre, without many frills and a whole bunch of crushing riffs. Not only do the guest vocalists fit in when they appear, they serve to add more variety to the album and maintain intrigue throughout.
Of course, I need to acknowledge this is the first Deeds of Flesh record since guitarist and co-founder Erik Lindmark passed away in 2018. In his role with the band, and as Founder of Unique Leader, Lindmark left a significant impact on modern death metal. I’m glad his bandmates were able to release such a fitting tribute with Nucleus.