November. Death’s Door. Death metal. Let’s go.
It’s shocking to think that EoY content is upon us (more to come on that in subsequent weeks), yet at the same time this year has felt like three rolled into one. So much shit in the world. So much great music. So little time to process.
October was a great month, helping the year draw to a triumphant and sonically hyperviolent close. Here are a few of our favorite releases. As always, let us know what albums we missed in the comments.
That’s all. Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Faceless Burial - At the Foothills of Deliration
In 2020, Australian death metal firebrands Faceless Burial dropped their sophomore record to a level of acclaim rarely seen in the world of death metal. It was included in or topped many a year-end list and rightfully so. The band’s evolution from their debut album in nearly every possible metric was pronounced, culminating in a record that could have well been their career high watermark. When I heard about the release of their third record, At the Foothills of Deliration, I was both incredibly hype and a little trepidatious. With a masterpiece under their belt so early in their career, Faceless Burial had a few options regarding the direction they could take their music. Would they follow the “and now for something completely different” path of at-best divisive reaction, or follow the formula that made their last record such a success? On this polar spectrum, the band have helmed a bit closer to the latter option, but with nothing short of brilliant results. At the Foothills of Deliration is a statement album that displays their success in Speciation as far more than a fluke. Faceless Burial have firmly established their own unique sound and path in the death metal world, and it’s a glorious thing to behold.
As a total package, Foothills succeeds in every way that its predecessor did, but with a few key enhancements that, in my estimation, help it transcend the band’s previous releases. Their third record feels like a sharpening of all of their principal skills and signature sounds, a transhumanist enhancement of an already ripped riffy bod that makes every sequence that much more intense, potent, and electrifying. The performances here are truly fantastic, with the guitar work in particular blending style and substance in a manner that firmly cements Faceless Burial as some of the most talented musicians in the genre. Foothills is also the band’s most tempo-driven record, with the first few tracks blazing by in a blistering assault to the senses that is as punishing as it is variety-filled. The band bounces back and forth between speedy death metal slaps to the eardrums and proggy, tech heavy passages that blend together seamlessly to the point that repeat listening is essential to capture all of the nuance on display here. Front to back, there isn’t a dud of a track on the entire record.
It would also not be inaccurate to posit that Foothills is the band’s heaviest and most violent record to date on a songwriting front, emphasizing the more destructive and bludgeoning tendencies of the band’s music, but without sacrificing their ability to throw in deeply technical and progressive into their music to keep things interesting. This balance puts on display a songwriting maturity that is a welcome progression for the band (who are already fantastic songwriters at this juncture of their career), and highlights their attention to detail when it comes to creating controlled chaos that feels both unhinged and obviously intelligently piloted. Some may find the whiplash changes in tone to be off-putting, but in my experience the more listening time this record gets the more engaging it becomes in a songwriting context, resulting in what feels like a modern death metal masterclass.
While I personally have enjoyed this release to an equal if not greater degree over Speciation, listener mileage may vary depending on whether or not you find the more punishing and technically adventurous aspects of Faceless Burial’s sound to your liking. For those who are firmly entrenched in the band’s more intense features, Foothills is most likely to come across as a full-blown masterpiece. But whether or not you fall into that camp is irrelevant when it comes to honestly evaluating this record as a whole within the death metal genre. It’s truly fantastic, a welcome and powerful addition to an already sterling catalog, and one of the most impressive death metal outings of 2022.
Best of the Rest
Anal Stabwound - Reality Drips Into The Mouth Of Indifference
Every so often, I’ll come across a band or project that reminds me of why I love death metal so much. It’s only in this corner of alternative music that you can find an act with an ignorant-as-hell name like Anal Stabwound and it wind up being this exciting, technical, and progressive. Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist Nikhil Talwalkar is a death metal savant for crafting a record like Reality Drips Into The Mouth Of Indifference on his own, what with its twisting turns amid the excesses of the dizzying fretboard work and mathematically-inclined rhythms of tech death and the depraved depths of brutal death metal. Talwalkar is clearly a student of Defeated Sanity’s Lille Gruber, who helped pioneer and shape this enthralling blend of technical and brutal death metal in the first place. Indeed, Anal Stabwound owes a lot to Defeated Sanity, but Reality Drips Into The Mouth Of Indifference, the project’s second full-length, is record that insists upon Anal Stabwound’s position as a fierce up-and-coming creative force and torchbearer for the movement.
Reality Drips Into The Mouth Of Indifference certainly telegraphs its intentions right away with introductory track “Coarctate”, with its uneven tapped basslines, intricate drumming, and shifting tempos and time signatures. The track leads seamlessly into “Fracture Into Infinite Geneses” which remains wildly unpredictable through its interchanging segments of buzzsaw guitars, start-stop riffing, and jazz-informed drum breaks. The grooves and riffs conjured by Talkwalkar on this record are characterized by some jagged topography, stumbling over themselves with frequent trading of time and tempo; it’s deceptively avant garde in its presentation of progressive music ideas under the guise of challenging brutality. Miraculously, through it all, the songwriting and arrangements are always engaging. Musical hooks, like the maddening rush of palm muted riffs and pick scrapes of “Prismatic Weavings of Flesh and Bone” or the commanding rhythm section and slippery guitars on the title track, litter the landscape. No track is filler, and the album’s listenability in its more organic and dynamic sounding production sidesteps fatigue, even as the tracks frequently flow between each other without much of a reprieve.
It also doesn’t hurt that the project received a significant endorsement in its signing to New Standard Elite, a tastemaker within the realm of brutal death metal. It’s a shame that Reality Drips Into The Mouth Of Indifference is shaping up to be more of a sleeper hit than the massive breakout moment it ought to be, because this remarkably well-crafted record is every bit as intelligent as it is fun. I mean, that’s the whole appeal of brutal tech, that marriage of galaxy-brained musicianship and absolute caveman aesthetics, but Reality Drips is a mandatory listen for fans of the style, and offers a potential new benchmark for the fusion.
Devenial Verdict - Ash Blind
Finnish dissodeath troupe Devenial Verdict have joined up with Transcending Obscurity to release their first full-length Ash Blind, and it is a revelation. In a year where the microgenre has seen enormous strides, Devenial Verdict offer one of the most unique takes on the style, cobbling together the most progressive and complete-sounding record of the year relative to their contemporaries. Huge, creepy, epic Watershed-era Opeth riffs ring atonally, especially on tracks like “Pravum” where the descending majesty sucks the breath right from your chest. Sinister tapped panic chords and weaponized pinch harmonics dot the landscape as well. “Sun Hammer” makes the best use of this effect, setting your teeth on edge from the jump with an eerie alarm riff that acts as a motif throughout.
It’s Devenial Verdict’s clear production and command of atmosphere that sets them apart from the crowd. While there’s no shortage of string-ringing buzzsaw riffs, they seem to play second fiddle to the overarching tonal work and steady plod the band traverse throughout. Intimidating riffs are left to stew and sink into your bones. Mischievous interludes slither with intrigue. The great cloud of ash Devenial Verdict have summoned suffocates all light, leaving you breathless and blistered. It’s phenomenal stuff. The group have crafted one of the cleanest, most confident releases in dissodeath, and I’m buzzing with excitement for their future.
Exhumed - To The Dead
The California gorefathers of death metal have returned louder and nastier than ever. The original purveyors of gore f*cking metal have inspired generations of bands, but none can claim the longevity, creativity, or propensity to disgust quite like Exhumed. In their 8th full length album, To The Dead, Exhumed celebrate their decades of gruesome history while still digging their graves even deeper.
To The Dead distills the Exhumed sound into 10 hard-hitting tracks encompassing grindcore, death metal, and goregrind. Vocalists Ross Sewage and Matt Harvey alternate between harsh screams and gory gurgles as they ricochet across pummeling drums by Mike Hamilton and guitar work from Sebastian Phillips. Phillips shocks every track with arcing riffs that hit at just the right moment, showcasing the skills that have allowed Exhumed to explore sounds across old school DM, grisly thrash, and a melodrama based on real events.
Though every song packs a punch, the band truly shines in hefty tracks like “Rank and Defiled” and “Disgusted.” The former, clocking in at almost five minutes, is a groove-riddled monstrosity that might be one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard this year. The latter closes out To The Dead with literal disgusted screams. The impressive - and faintly terrifying - pace set by Hamilton throughout proves why Exhumed are still the masters of their nightmarish craft. To The Dead is the essence of why Exhumed have been mainstays of deathgrind for decades: savage, dense deathgrind done right. Very few bands can pull off this level of range while still grounded in grindcore, yet Exhumed prove once again why gore f*cking metal will live forever.
Excrescence - Inescapable Anatomical Deterioration
New Standard Elite makes their second appearance this month with Inescapable Anatomical Deterioration, the first full-length album from Excrescence. If the long and vaguely gross title wasn’t a dead giveaway, track titles like “Fermented Gangrenous Emulsification” and “Dystrophic Congenital Necrosis” will reveal that we’re dealing with some seriously heavy brutal death metal. The Pacific Northwest trio delivers a nonstop, blastbeat-driven pillage to listeners’ ears. Vocalist Matt Bailey’s relentless Predator-esque growls only break to let skronky riffs from Emerson Shedenhelm break through. It’s a ridiculously fun excursion through brutal death metal that will break the most slam-skeptical metalheads down with sheer ferocity.
Morgue - Lowest Depths of Misery
France’s Morgue have been active for a quarter century, but their latest LP Lowest Depths of Misery was my introduction to the act, and what an incredible first impression it was. Lowest Depths of Misery is an unrelenting slab of disso-deathgrind informed by black metal and BDM, and it might just be one of the most unreasonably heavy and chaotic records I’ve heard this year while retaining some serious listenability. This shit is d e n s e; even at a tight 30 minutes, Morgue press their sonic prowess to the limit. Lowest Depths hits the ears like a brick wrapped in barbed wire. Think Portal going grind or an absolutely feral Ad Nauseam. Strap in.