Who’s ready for some mid-year content? You, obviously. Because you’re reading this. Hello and welcome again to Death’s Door, Mid-year edition! While 2022 has been as thoroughly insane as the two years that preceded it, we can thank our infernal underlords for a veritable treasure trove of quality death metal. Below you will find our individual favorites at the halfway point of the year. We’ve also added some great releases from the past month for you to sink your teeth into. All the content. Let’s go.
Please feel free to add your favorites from the past month and the year at large in the Facebook group. We’ll tell you why you’re wrong. Just kidding. Probably.
Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain
As if there would be another record that could occupy this space for June. The long-awaited follow-up to Infrared Horizon entered the metal consciousness to much fanfare and, unfortunately, trepidation on the future of the band with the announcement of vocalist Will Smith’s parting with the band. It seems that the band’s self-titled third record is a swan song of sorts to an artistic configuration that has consistently wowed listeners for nearly a decade now. And what a statement it is.
While I have a great deal of love for Artificial Brain and their general catalog, this record is in my estimation their most cohesive, concentrated, and arresting release from start to finish. Almost nothing about this record feels lopsided or out of focus, with the band bringing a level of clarity to their songwriting process without losing their sense of playful zaniness. These tracks ebb and flow with a masterful air only achieved by bands who fully understand their capabilities and mission. “Celestial Cyst” is a perfect example of the band’s ability to balance more progressive and technical intensity with clear, tangible melodic underpinnings that keep the track from flying off the rails. Moments like this abound in Artificial Brain, resulting in an extremely cohesive final product.
Part of this vaunted clarity comes from behind the boards as well, with mixing and mastering provided by none other than the truly incomparable Colin Marston. Over the past few years Marston has, perhaps more than any other producer working in extreme metal, found a way to draw legibility out of subgenres that feel incapable of nuance. His work with Afterbirth, Defeated Sanity, Imperial Triumphant, and Aeviterne is proof enough of his innate ability to create levels of sonic clarity that seem practically impossible given the manic complexity of the music he produces, and we can count Artificial Brain as another definitive feather in his already overfilled cap.
Artificial Brain have with this record given me pretty much everything I was hoping for and then some. The songwriting feels focused and supercharged with verve, the instrumentation is as always exceptional, and the production is flawless. I have very few complaints. If this is to be the final product of this iteration of Artificial Brain, it’s a fitting end to a progressively expansive and amazing trilogy of records. In whatever directions the members of this band decide to go, the future of brutal, technical skronk is in good hands.
Best of the Rest
Knoll – Metempiric
Memphis deathgrind act Knoll have gotten a lot of comparisons to genre tentpole act Full of Hell, and for good reason. They wear the influence on their sleeves as they pursue a similarly chaotic and noise-infused brutal grind sound that made Full of Hell a household name in extreme circles; the inclusion of trumpets within the maelstrom is a bit on the nose, as well. But Knoll are uniquely poised to push the sound to further extremes on their sophomore full-length Metempiric.
The record is absolutely caustic, seeing the band make great strides in not only being unreasonably extreme in their relentless grinding, but with their ability to fold in avant garde influences amidst the power electronics and drone one would come to expect, whether it be by incorporating some odd mathcore flair – the atonal tapping runs that litter tracks like “Felled Plume” and “Marred Alb” feel like a rusted-out nod to Danza – or by pushing the trumpets further as a cornerstone of the Knoll sound on Metempiric and not just a sideshow novelty. Push them harder next time, I say; Knoll going full Dark Mode Bungle would be earth-shattering, and they certainly have all the potential to do so.
“Throe of Upheaval” showcases this aspect of the band’s sound at its best, with trumpets swirling through panic chords, anxious blastbeats, and beastly shrieks. While we’re at it, can we address the fact that in the ongoing meme-ification of Will Ramos and Lorna Shore (not for nothing!), the greater metal scene is overlooking Knoll frontman Jamie Eubanks and his ability to deliver a horrifying, throat-shredding extreme vocal performance?
Kurt Ballou manages to wrangle this cacophony – which features three guitar players – into a sonic whirlwind that never stops being fascinating and strangely listenable, despite its violent and alienating nature. They’ve somehow outdone last year’s Interstice, which generated unbelievable hype for a DIY project’s debut. Knoll are due for a meteoric rise, and Metempiric has them ably positioned for it.
Excavate – Imperial Horror
I’ve been having a change of heart when it comes to old school death metal. Or more accurately, OSDM has started to turn the corner and fix some of the major hangups I’ve had about it during its renaissance the past few years. Namely, production values. You could summon the nastiest, goopiest riffs from the murks of the most putrid abyss, but I can’t be fucked to care if I can’t hear them. Sorry. This explosion of lofi caverncore felt like a conscious decision to sound like the most shit possible, and it worked so well I was completely put off from a lot of bands I probably would have otherwise liked. Sucks for them.
Recently, we’ve started to lose that fuzzy HM-2-in-a-cave-five-miles-underground sound, and boy am I having a great time hearing things again. Memphis’ Excavate are the perfect example of doing it right. Debut EP Imperial Horror (out on prolific nexus of caveman shit, Maggot Stomp) hits a nasty sweet spot with menacing, grimace-inducing death metal riffs slicing through the groove of twangy, thumping hardcore drums and bass. The production is clean as a whistle, capturing the grit of each instrument and slapping them together in perfect hellish harmony to obliterate your eardrums. The baseball-bat-to-the-diaphragm style of grunted growls is also reminiscent of old traditional hardcore – without all the youth crew cringe. “Armed Judgment” is a major standout, dragging you through an active warzone (including a brief respite to rest during the bridge) before being totally annihilated via air raid. The four-track EP is a quick introduction to the new outfit, but Excavate slap us around with their chops so supremely I’m already hungry for more. Check Imperial Horror out in all its blunt force glory right here.
Origin – Chaosmos
Despite being a long-standing name in brutal tech death, Origin has managed to maintain something of an idiosyncratic aura in their twenty-plus year history. Perhaps it’s because they still favor a slightly old-school death metal approach to tech death, or maybe it’s due to their uncanny ability to throw at least one curveball genre-mashup song in each album that inexplicably just…works. Either way, the re-emergence with their eight studio album, Chaosmos, hits hard.
Origin has always appealed to me for their particularly raw and brutal approach to tech death. Depending on the album, or even the song, you select from their extensive discography, you find evidence of grindcore, 90’s style death metal, and even slam together for a neck-breaking style. It’s ferociously reminiscent of the extremely early days of death metal, when bands like Napalm Death and Heresy were just teenagers trying to play as fast as (in)humanly possible. On Chaosmos, Origini manages to escalate their trademark ferocity even further, pummeling listeners from the very start with “Ecophagy,” a shining example of why drummer John Longstreth continues to set the standard for tech death. The tempo of Chaosmos sets the stage for punishing, complex songs that build intensity through “Decolonizer,” which stands out as a highlight of the entire album. But before you get too comfortable, Origin has another trick up their sleeve: a massive 11-minute track that manages to blend seamlessly into the intensity of Chaosmos while also giving our necks a chance to recover as the album reaches its conclusion. True to form, Origin delivers their signature sound while surprising even long-term fans along the way.
Individual Mid-year Lists
5. Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones
Cosmic Putrefaction, the one-man project of Gabriele Gramaglia, has slowly been working its way into my heart over the past few years. Its third release is, in my opinion, its most diverse, punishing, and best. With each new record Cosmic Putrefaction has been expanding and refining its sound, and there’s no better example of the project’s maturation than Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones. It’s magnificent, concentrated, and utterly filthy, with several of the most complete and impactful tracks Gramaglia has written and performed to date. If you’ve been sleeping on Cosmic Putrefaction, let this record be your wake up call. Fantastic stuff.
4. Immolation – Acts of God
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In the case of Immolation that’s kind of true. But why try and expand the trick repertoire when the old dog is so damn proficient at what it knows? Acts of God is an absolutely stellar example of a legendary band putting on full display (with admirable conviction and ferocity) all of the tricks, tropes, and traits that made them a household name for death metal fans. It’s an absolute tour de force of expert musicianship and superb songwriting from a band that’s only adding feathers to its illustrious cap at this point. This record has no right to be as good as it is, but thank our infernal underlords Immolation is still alive and kicking. A blistering release.
3. Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain
I wrote about most of this already, but it bears repeating: Artificial Brain is the band’s best work. With the exit of Will Smith as vocalist, the future sonic direction of Artificial Brain is a mystery. What is definitively not mysterious, however, is the quality of this version of the band’s final statement. Their third and self-titled record is an absolute beast that transcends all of the collective work the band has produced before it, culminating in a record that is as expertly executed as any tech death you’ll hear this year. The songwriting is fantastic and the musicianship is first rate, as always. But the production in particular stands out as crystal clear, letting each aspect of the chaos ring through with resounding clarity. It’s the band’s most complete and powerful statement to date.
2. Allegaeon – Damnum
You’ve heard me rave about this record since its release. You’re going to hear me holler a lot more about it as the year continues. I’ve always adored Allegaeon, but criticisms of their work have always abounded both with myself and death metal fans at large. Damnum obliterates most common criticisms regarding focus of songwriting and penchants toward technicality for its own sake by unleashing the band’s most adventurous, focused, and expertly crafted songcraft to date. This record is absolutely magnificent and supremely memorable, containing several of the best tracks of the band’s career while maintaining a stunning level of cohesion that never grows dull or stale. It’s their opus to this point, and I cannot wait to see where they go from here.
1. Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade
I miss Dodecahedron. I miss Convulsing. Thank the makers for Aeviterne. Sliding into an avant-garde and highly dissonant space in death metal that has been bereft of major talent over the past few years, Aeviterne have released a definitive debut opus in The Ailing Facade. It’s epic, dissonant, and expertly executed. I was thoroughly stunned on my first playthrough of this record and my admiration has only grown with each subsequent listen. The production by Marston is absolute perfection, allowing the chaos to unfold with a clarity rarely seen in these kinds of releases, allowing the band’s songwriting and instrumental dynamics plenty of time to shine. It’s an utterly fantastic release and my favorite of 2022 thus far.
5. Encenathrakh – Ithate Thngth Oceate
My tastes in death metal skew towards the weird shit. I’ve documented my descent into the genre in piecemeal fashion since forming the blog over a decade ago as a fan of Between the Buried and Me and The Faceless. That entryway into death lead me into progressive and technical death metal, and as you’ll see evidenced on this list, firmly into the realm of avant garde and dissonant death metal. Encenathrakh is far and away the weirdest band on my list, and perhaps across each of our individual lists. Purported band leader Colin Marston and co utilize this project to exercise free jazz-style improvisational brutal death metal. Fans of Defeated Sanity will likely enjoy how Ithate Thngth Oceate pushes this brutal tech sound to its logical conclusion. It’s high art and dumb caveman shit all at once, and I love it.
4. HATH – All That Was Promised
New Jersey blackened death metal act Hath are favorites around these parts, and we collectively champion their every move. Their latest record All That Was Promised was another instant classic, capitalizing off the hype from 2019’s Of Rot And Ruin. Further elements of prog and dissodeath creep into the fold here, which were exciting for me in particular.
3. Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones
I’m a late comer to Cosmic Putrefaction and actually found their previous LP The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers to be a bit wanting when I checked it out earlier this year. Crepuscular Dirge however actually pushes the weird progressive elements further and was instantly engaging and memorable. Obviously, I’m going to run back and give the earlier works another shot, but Crepuscular Dirge’s immediately rules.
2. Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain
We all know about the Artificial Brain. You’ve read enough about them by now. It’s not shocking they’re placed here as well. Technical, brutal, weirdly melodic, and one of those classics under Colin Marston’s belt.
1. Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade
Out of the ashes of Flourishing rise Aeviterne, who blend dissonant death metal with minor cues from black metal, industrial, and post-punk for their avant garde debut LP The Ailing Facade. This record is experimental, technical, and awash with anxiety. Yet another masterpiece with Colin Marston’s hands on it.
5. Casket Feeder – Servants of Violence
I haven’t been able to talk about this record anywhere yet, but it’s become one of those albums I just keep coming back to. Perhaps it’s my predilection for death metal that apes hardcore a bit, but Casket Feeder’s blend of sinister mid-tempo destruction with vocalist Matt Downes’ shredded yaulp feels like metalcore in a battle vest. This album slaps to high heaven, with enough sledgehammer grooves to keep you banging along for the duration. Definitely worth a spin or two at the gym, if nothing else.
4. Allegaeon – Damnum
I hadn’t quite been on the Allegaeon train until this record, but I may have to go back and give their discography another chance. Damnum is the ideal when it comes to neoclassical death metal, and I say that having spent some time in a similar band myself. Their compositions are flawless, with plenty of room to sit and soak in the drowning glory of pensive acoustics between extended bouts of swirling, rapturous sweeping and high-octane acrobatics. There hasn’t been another record that sounds like this in recent memory, and it’s left a hell of a mark already.
3. Hath – All That Was Promised
New Jersey’s grand magicians of prog death have done it again, unleashing their vile sorcery in even more dastardly ways. This was probably one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, and it definitely did not disappoint. Not many have drawn the comparison (that I’ve seen), but ATWP bears a striking sonic resemblance to another highly regarded album by fellow Jersey powerhouses Fit For An Autopsy, minus the core aspect. Must be something in the water up there. Whatever it is, gimme the juice.
2. Vermilion Dawn – VVitch Den
Dark horse debut VVitch Den by Wisconsin duo Vermilion Dawn is starting to crane necks around here, putting on a magnificent display of well-oiled prog death that flirts with the alien terror of galactic deathcore. Beautiful, soaring leads and cold, eerie synths crown star-collapsing riffs as VVitch Den takes right off on a stellar sojourn, visiting Rivers of Nihil territory before turning up the brutality on later tracks. Extremely impressive stuff from a rookie act we should all keep an eye on down the road.
1. Knoll – Metempiric
The young Tennessee deathgrinders have absolutely blown me away again. Lambasting the listener with a supernatural slab of caustic dissonance, Metempiric is dirty, violent, and haunting in all the best ways. This album is like taking a rusty angle grinder right to the cochlea so infernal entities can directly enter your brain cavity. It doesn’t get any better than that. Get knolled, idiot.
5. First Degree Murder – Anomalous Hallucinations
Occasionally, I find myself in the mood for a vibe so specific, exactly one band fits the bill. More often than not, that band is CUFF, a defunct death metal project from Ontario. Their unique formula of chug-centric, heavily distorted brutal death metal is a sound no other band has come close to replicating. At least, until I discovered First Degree Murder’s Anomalous Hallucinations. First Degree Murder captures the fuzzed out brutality I’ve come to love from CUFF, but adds a new layer of intensity courtesy of blastbeats. Featuring a lineup that includes brutal death metal veterans like Hugo Ojeda and Victor Araneda (both from Esophagus, Supreme Banishment) and Roman Tutin (ByoNoiseGenerator, ex-Ineffable Demise), Anomalous Hallucinations is bludgeoning, clanging adventure in brutal death metal that stands out in a subgenre often deemed bland or uninteresting.
4. Emasculated Vituperation – Rape Trauma Syndrome
Admittedly, I threw this Emasculated Vituperation debut on one day when I was in a bad fucking mood and wanted something that felt appropriately angry. But I found myself returning to it on a weekly basis because it’s the kind of bloodstained audio assault that just hits for a particular strain of caveperson. The extremely graphic cover art gave me pause – exhaustion from gendered tropes in violent lyrics is all too real – but Emasculated Vituperation saves itself with equal opportunity horror stories and samples that keep Rape Trauma Syndrome focused on shock value, rather than misogynistic cliches that have no place in death metal, or anywhere. Gory, guttural, and grinding, Emasculated Vituperation has established themselves as a delightfully disgusting force to be reckoned with in slam.
3. Phyllomedusa – Spent My Day Rotting Away
The extremely niche gorenoise/grind project Phyllomedusa occupies a near-exclusive corner of goregrind and noise, amongst a number of other subgenres. But no matter what label fits in the moment, Spent My Day Rotting Away hits with a crushing combination of uber distorted riffs, blasting beats, and nasty vocals that oscillate between barely-human gurgles and blistering roars. It’s an absorbing, bizarre mix of black metal, grindcore, and slam that pummels and slimes its way into your ears for a caustic journey in the swamp. And did I mention it’s entirely themed around frogs? Phyllomedusa is a genus of South American tree frogs, and the mysterious artist behind the project goes by Big Frog. Delightfully weird, ridiculously punishing, Spent My Day Rotting Away is an escape for our hellfire of a timeline.
2. Dischordia– Triptych
When I first wrote about this album in the May 2022 edition of Death’s Door, I was blown away by the sheer brutality of Dischordia’s debut with Transcending Obscurity Records. The density of Triptych is extremely hard to overstate, but patient listeners will eventually find themselves immersed in the elegance of Dischordia’s technical and creative songwriting. Structured as three cycles, each consisting of three songs, Triptych guides us through a sonic black hole of pummeling death metal punctuated by avante garde flourishes like flute solos, jazz-adjacent bursts, and even synth passages. Clocking in at nearly an hour, Triptych is almost constantly at risk of becoming a jumble of disjointed sounds, but impressive execution by Dischordia and mastering by Gorguts’ own Colin Marston delivers an epic journey into the depths of dissonant death metal.
1. Maentra – Kundalini Rising
San Francisco-based Mæntra managed to deliver exactly what 2022 needed, even before the rest of us realized how necessary cathartic screaming would be this year . Consisting of Rudy Pina (Cyanic), Adam Houmam (Cartilage), and Paul Ryan (Origin), this trio created a stunning record that’s equal parts aggression and meditation.
Built around the concept of transforming negative energy into self-healing, Kundalini Rising 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, the album takes the listener 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 on the next track.