Welcome to our latest edition of Death’s Door, ye Hellions. 2022 has been an absolute banger of a year for extreme metal thus far, and our favorite nastiness has seen no exception to that collective rule. There have been few years in recent memory that have dropped so excellent a crop of death metal in our laps so early in the year, and if this level of quality continues unabated we may be in for an all-timer.
That said, quality and quantity are not synonymous, and while we may have a smaller numerical collection of records to share with you from the last month we assure you their quality is beyond reproach. We’re looking at potential album of the year material here, so as long as we’re trucking along at this level of excellence less is more as far as I’m concerned.
Feast on the bounty that awaits. Let us know what records you dug last month in the comments. As always…
Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Hath – All That Was Promised
Hath is one of those came-out-of-nowhere phenomenons that shook up the death metal world and catapulted them into that genre stratosphere reserved for new but as of yet unproven talent. There are plenty of bands that strike gold on their first release, and let me add my voice to the cacophonous throng by stating that Hath’s debut record Of Rot and Ruin deserved every ounce of the praise it received. Following in the footsteps of bands like Gatecreeper, Tomb Mold, and Slugdge, Hath charged from the gates with a musical philosophy that was as erratic and variable as it was punishing. All of their divergent experiments integrated together (mostly) seamlessly, but it takes a skilled group of musicians and songwriters to take that template to the next level. Thankfully, Hath is most certainly one of those groups, and All That Was Promised is exactly what its title suggests.
Let me be clear out the gate that those who loved Of Rot and Ruin will find plenty to relish in All That Was Promised. The guitars still destroy, the drums punish with even greater ferocity, and the production is even better than that of their debut. But that doesn’t mean Hath isn’t bringing some marked changes to their sound that, in my estimation, expand and improve upon their debut release. The most notable of these developments is in the songwriting department, where Hath have honed their craft into a more focused and intentional affair. “The Million Violations” and its transition into “Kenosis” provides a sterling example of this more pinpointed approach, allowing each element of the band’s sound to shine while avoiding discombobulating the listener. It’s a very of-a-piece evolution that gives a great example of the style the rest of the record will employ.
On a sonic level, the blackened/technically-inclined death metal we’ve become accustomed to from Hath is here in spades, with some of the nastiest riffs and most bludgeoning percussion work they’ve ever put to tape. The guitar tone in particular is a stand-out element, reminding me of last year’s Suffering Hour release in that a sick ass guitar tone can go a long way in accentuating some great riff writing. On a performative level the band is on fire and has obviously further honed their craft, with tracks like “Lithopaedic” demonstrating an incredible balance between blackened mania, death-doom mid-tempo sections, and a not insignificant amount of melodeath to create something that feels just as varied as anything on their debut without falling into a disjointed songwriting mechanic. There isn’t a single track here that doesn’t shine as an example of the band’s development as songwriters, and it’s truly a wondrous sight to behold.
In case it isn’t already clear, All That Was Promised delivers on every front. The songwriting is more focused and smooth, the performances are even better than the already fantastic ones on their debut, and the continued elevation of variety and melody makes the record one of the most enjoyable Death Metal records I’ve heard this year. Whether you didn’t get the hype surrounding Of Rot and Ruin or were hoping for a new Hath record that delivered on the promise of their debut, you’ll leave satisfied. It’s a straight-up banger.
Best of the Rest
Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade
Out of the ashes of New York technical death metal act Flourishing (who helped pioneer the disso-death sound before anyone knew what to call it) rose Aeviterne in 2015. Featuring two-thirds of Flourishing in guitarist and frontman Garett Bussanick and bassist Eric Rizk as well as Miasmic Necrosis drummer Ian Jacyszyn and Artificial Brain guitarist Samuel Smith, Aeviterne lives up to its pedigree and becomes more than its spiritual successor; Aeviterne builds upon the foundation of Flourishing’s skronky post-death with impulses from post-punk, industrial, and black metal to create a sound that is dark, destructive, and absolutely nasty.
Their debut LP The Ailing Facade is an anxious and claustrophobic record that is also somehow deceptively melodic. Swirling guitars clash against grinding basslines and intricate drum performances that teeter between flurries of blasts and Godflesh-worshiping grooves. It’s horrifying and psychedelic, well within the lineage of Gorguts while hinting towards the work of acts like Dodecahedron in avant garde black metal spaces. “The Gaunt Sky” in particular is a showcase of the band’s intensity and their ability to create earworms out of cacophony, with guitar feedback piercing through clanging bass and furious drumming to create a rhythm-centered hook that repeats as a chorus throughout the track. On the other side of the coin, the nine-minute closer “Dream In Lies” plays out more akin to post-metal or sludge as it cycles through its movements of sweeping, cinematic destruction, not too dissimilar from the approach that Alberta’s WAKE have taken in recent years.
As we wrap this first quarter of 2022, it’s already proving to be quite fun to guess where we’ll end up come the end of the year as we collect these releases like trophies into the AOTY talks. Hath was the collective pick for this month’s centerpiece record, but before The Ailing Facade fades to a close, you’ll likely believe whole-heartedly that Aeviterne will show up as a mainstay in album art collages, lists, spreadsheets, and retrospectives as the year ticks on and this record prevails in our listening habits despite our short attention spans. To some, Flourishing may be considered legendary and wildly influential despite having one full-length and being slept on while they were active, but Aeviterne has every opportunity to pick up the broader cult following that Flourishing deserved.
Father Befouled – Crowned in Veneficum
As our coverage over the past few years has indicated, advancements in technical and progressive death metal have moved the genre further away from its filthy old school roots, dampening to some extent the brutal work on display by many in the old school death metal revival that dominated the genre throughout most of the 2010s. But trends come and go, as we are all well aware. Death metal is forever, and band’s like Father Befouled are here to violently remind us of that fact time and time again. It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from these skilled purveyors of death metal’s filthiest sounds (their fourth full-length record Desolate Gods dropped back in 2017), and let me say with clarity and conviction that it’s good to have them back. Crowned in Veneficum is punishing af.
Before diving headlong into the sonic details, let me first state what this record is not: anything particularly new. If you’re expecting Father Befouled to have suddenly morphed into a Gorguts hybrid prepare your body for deep disappointment. Crowned is every bit as brutal and mid-tempo a bruiser as long-time fans have come to expect. But in similar fashion to death metal newcomers Malignant Altar, Father Befouled no exactly what they do well and do nothing but that with expert precision. The result being another record in an extremely consistent discography that brings the dark, muddy, gruesome death metal pain with a verve and effectiveness seldom reached. If you came for unadulterated filth, prepare for obliteration.
One aspect of Father Befouled’s sound that has always captivated me is their cavernous, blood-splattered guitar tone. It’s the kind of sound that seems like it would live inside a FromSoft dungeon, with all the murk and danger that entails. If you’re excited by death metal that feels like being sucked into a bog while being eaten alive by craven, you’re in the right place. The performances here are tight and supremely effective, sliding and oozing from riff to riff and seeping into your pores with a methodical beastliness that only seasoned practitioners of the death metal arts could achieve.
Overall, Crowned in Veneficum is exactly as bruising an affair that we’ve come to expect from this band, and that consistency is just fine by me. This should satisfy anyone who’s already a fan of their work or just needs a good death metal beating.
Mæntra – Kundalini Rising
Kundalini Rising flew under my radar for way too long. And by that, I mean I slept on the release for an entire two weeks after its February 18th release. But this debut album from San Francisco-based Mæntra is just that good. Hardly unsurprising, considering the lineup consists of Rudy Pina (Cyanic), Adam Houmam (Cartilage), and Paul Ryan (Origin).
Their sound captures the technicality of Origin, the raw brutality of Cartilage, and the harsh grind of Cyanic without being repetitive, partially due to the skill of each member and partially due to the unique structure and theme of Kundalini Rising. Built around the concept of transforming negative energy into self-healing, the album takes listeners through each of the six chakras and their origin energy center, which is known as Kundalini in the Hindu tradition. Starting with the “Muladhara,” also known as the root chakra, Kundalini Rising brings us on a wholly unique musical and spiritual journey. As you listen to the album, the meditative elements blend beautifully into the harsh songs. At the end of opening track “Svadhisthana,” careful listeners will notice a brief period of fire breathing, a common meditation practice. Each song concludes with quiet, even near silent, moments to reflect before being assaulted by barking vocals and blisteringly fast drums.
True to Mæntra’s deep experience in extreme music, the entire album is impressively polished for a debut release. Fans of Origin, Godless Truth, and The Last of Lucy will all find something to love here, but Mæntra’s true success is creating a beautifully brutal album with a deeper purpose.