Hey, gang. It’s been a minute. But we back. Death’s Door never fully closes.
The first few months of the year are often a bit of a drag in the death metal world, but thus far 2023 has bestowed on us a fairly excellent crop of new records that have kept us plenty entertained in the doldrums of winter. We hope you enjoy the selections below, and please do let us know what we missed in the comments.
Let’s get to it. Death metal forever.
Cream of the Crop
Nothingness - Supraliminal
It’s awfully early to start with the superlatives, but Supraliminal, the sophomore showing from Minneapolis’ Nothingness, has the distinct honor of being the first death metal record to truly stun in 2023. We can sometimes be guilty of overemphasizing the highfalutin here at Heavy Blog and have to actively resist the urge to put the weirdest or otherwise experimental records of the month on a pedestal. This isn’t quite that (see Mithridatum below!) but Nothingness comes close. This is the type of death metal for those who enjoy the sound of cinderblocks being dragged behind a truck, and yet it isn’t exactly reptilian, either. It’s a balance of riff-worshiping OSDM (there’s a distinct Morbid Angel lineage being followed and elaborated upon here) with just enough dissonance and chaos to trigger the fight-or-flight response. It’s wonderful.
Nothingness have captured broad appeal with a wide array of influences that would serve well on a playlist somewhere between Sanguisugabogg and Ulcerate. “Temple of Broken Swords” goes full-tilt black metal nearly fifteen minutes into the record, not long after “Catapulted Into Space” hits us with Wormed-levels of slapstick brutal tech death. “Festering Abstraction” provides an infectious mid-record breakdown, showing great restraint and mastery of tracklist flow and album curation. The band treats us to the deliciously indulgent deathgrind of “Inviolate Viscera” before swapping out to death-doom for “Beacon of Loss.” There’s lots to love here, and on paper it may seem all over the place, but it all comes together beautifully.
Best of the Rest
Mithridatum - Harrowing
The Time Police™ are outside my house telling me that this album technically released in February while this column is focused on releases from January. I don’t care. I simply pretend I cannot hear them. Actually, I really can’t hear them because I am playing Mithridatum’s Harrowing so god damn loud right now. I’m not the world’s biggest dissonant death metal fan, this is fairly common knowledge; something about the sub-genre just tends to blend into a block of noise for me. There’s not enough articulation in there for me to actually hone in and latch on to what the bands are doing, leading to many of these albums sounding the same.
Not so with Harrowing though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very much dissonant, grimy, and dark as the sub-genre would imply. But there’s something about Mithridatum’s compositions, something more snarled and gnawing but also more forward and present, that sets them apart from their genre mates. Suddenly, from within the bleak depths of their harrowing (get it) death metal, emerge unique and intriguing riffs, quieter passages charged with tension, and an overall sound that just works way better for my ears. Throw in the fact that it’s released on Willowtip Records (because of course it is), a mind-numbingly alien cover art, and one of the best drum tones I’ve heard in ages (seriously, the mix on this is fucking pristine) and you get what is probably my favorite disso-death release, perhaps ever?
Time Police be silent - I am rotating death metal cubes in my head. Listen to this album.
Aberrated - Twisted Forms
Twisted Forms was an accidental Bandcamp find that quickly became one of the top albums in my current rotation. The progressive/brutal death metal project Aberrated, which features members of Thætas has been around for well over a decade, but has only just introduced Twisted Forms as their full EP/compilation. Based on this album, I sincerely hope the band is able to work on a full length since Twisted Forms is so damn good.
Aberrated’s progressive/technical songwriting skill places them in the same territory as Thætas, of course, but also finds commonality with death metal masters like Afterbirth and dissodeath dealers Mithridatum. There’s even flamenco-esque passages during “Five Clicks” and “Moonlit Immolation” that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a First Fragment album. It’s an impressive mix, one that stands out more since Twisted Forms includes instrumental tracks that only serve to emphasize how well Aberrated can write and execute technical/progressive songs. The death metal growls add a layer of fun filth to the first half of the album, while intricate songwriting carries the listener away on the instrumental side. An underrated album from an underrated band I hope we hear more from in the future.
Conjureth - The Parasitic Chambers
Let’s get straight to the point. Conjureth as a unit is completely uninterested in wowing you with needless wankery. This band exists and thrives off its ability to punish mercilessly with an amount of riffs per second that in just a couple tracks leaves the full discographies of most death metal bands beaten bloody into the dust. Picture a cave troll vomiting its guts out while maniacally mashing some hapless hunk of flesh encased in armor into a pulp and you’ll get some level of visualization of this band’s music. It’s wild, merciless, filthy stuff and I love every ounce of it.
Those enamored with the band’s 2021 debut Majestic Dissolve will find a similar package in The Parasitic Chambers, cranked to 11. These tracks are perhaps even more ferocious than those found in Majestic, showcasing a band that has quickly and noticeably sharpened its skills in musicianship. There’s practically nothing to fault the band for when it comes to the performances on this record. Top to bottom, these artists execute some of the most breathlessly intense death metal you’re likely to hear with a precision and ferocity that is beyond commendable. Sure, the record may essentially be über intense riff salad. But it’s just about as good at this as a record can possibly be.
Front to back, The Parasitic Chambers is flat-out lethal. Riff after punishing riff left me reeling upon my first listen, and subsequent revisits have only heightened my opinion of this thoroughly fantastic record. A death metal atom bomb that I cannot recommend strongly enough for fans of the genre’s most violent and angry expressions.
Ungraceful - Artificial Aberrations
As Heavy Blog’s resident slam fiend, I’ll quickly admit I’m a sucker for anything following in Abominable Putridity’s footsteps. If there are Predator vocals, chugs, and a sci-fi theme, I am there. New Jersey brutal death metal dealers Ungraceful certainly check all those boxes with their debut full-length, Artificial Aberrations.
There’s nothing fancy here; just relentless, eardrum-threatening brutality guaranteed to make the most primitive death metal fans happy. Disgustingly murky growls ooze over pounding blast beats and chainsaw guitars for a ridiculously heavy performance. On the spectrum of slamming brutal death metal to technical brutal death metal, Ungraceful veers hard towards the former, sticking the same pummeling formula that slam fans know and love. Throw in a few colorfully titled songs like “Telekinetic DNA Removal” and “Micromechanical Neurotorture,” and we have a grisly, br00tal album that proudly carries on the tradition of sci-fi slam.
Re-buried - Repulsive Nature
I’m not gonna (re)bury the lede here – this is the most ‘death metal’ death metal album I’ve heard in a hot minute. By that I mean: when I think of the platonic ideal, exact median sound and approach that constitutes death metal, taking into consideration all its various extremes and aberrations, Re-buried are the most middle of the road, perfectly succinct death metal I can think of. That may sound a little backhanded, so let me be more concise: Re-buried have perfected death metal on their debut full-length, Repulsive Nature.
That’s not to say it wasn’t already perfected and Re-buried are some long-lost genre saviors here to show everyone how it’s done. There is nothing groundbreaking about Repulsive Nature, but that’s exactly what I mean to highlight. It’s thirty-plus years of death metal distilled and bottled into an artisanal brew that no fan of death metal, from the lowliest cave-dwelling knuckledraggers to the most galaxy-brained tech death wizards, will scoff at. Re-buried play death metal so pure and undiluted it might have come straight from the same springhead in Tampa Obituary and Cannibal Corpse drank from. There’s not a single dud among Repulsive Nature’s ten tracks, making them stand head and shoulders above many of the more hyped DM rookies in my book. I genuinely hope to see them join the ranks of the heralded new wave alongside acts like Undeath in the coming years; they’ve got it in the bag so long as they don’t fumble it.