Death's Door // May 2023

Metal is sometimes the enemy of the new. But here at Death’s Door, we champion all that is bright and shiny. With the major caveat, of course, that it’

a year ago

Metal is sometimes the enemy of the new. But here at Death’s Door, we champion all that is bright and shiny. With the major caveat, of course, that it’s actually good. Thank the metal gods that April delivered unto us some of the highest quality releases from a few of the genre’s freshest faces. It’s a good time to be a death metal nerd.

For this edition of Death’s Door we’re focusing on four bands who’ve yet to release more than two records (including one who’s already dropped two entire full lengths this year) that are making major waves in the scene. We certify these picks at the highest standard of death metal quality, and look forward to hearing from you about your own choice selections for the month of April. Send us what you’ve got. Enjoy the new new.

Death metal forever.

-Jonathan Adams

Cream of the Crop

Lunar Chamber - Shambhallic Vibrations

At this point, I don’t think there’s a need for me to open this submission with a discussion of the intersection of death metal (and, particularly, progressive death metal) with the aesthetics and semantics of so-called “Eastern” religions, philosophies, and cultures. There’s also no need for me to talk about the inherent problematics of this intersection, ranging from corny vibes to downright appropriation. Luckily, though your mileage may, as always, vary, Lunar Chamber do not merit such in-depth introductions. I say “luckily” because if they did, it would be because they were running the wrong side of the above described gamut, moving from quirky and somewhat shallow references to Shambhala and meditation and into more murky waters.

Why does this submission, so far at least, sound so critical? Not sure, maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. In any case, it does not reflect the quality of the release itself which, as the kids say, absolutely fucking slaps. Shambhallic Vibrations walks the tightrope that hangs between progressive and technical death metal which is to say that it is made up equally of awe-striking acts of proficiency and melodic sensibilities. Whichever mode it chooses, this tight little release (clocking in at just under twenty-nine minutes) displays exactly what can be done with both sounds, delving deep into the satisfaction that we derive from their excess.

In the case of the technical sound, Lunar Chamber are fully committed to the brutal heaviness that arises from the combo of breakneck, thick drums (machine-like but performed by a flesh-vessel like you and me), deep, guttural vocals, and unceasing guitar sweeps played at maximum sweeps. On the flip side, the band bring much needed chromaticism in the form of far-ranging solos (where Fallujah’s most recent and colorful output might be your touchstone) and melodic intermissions, doing much to dispel the stifling malaise that completely unrelenting technical death metal sometimes has. When you blend this delicious cocktail together, and yes, smatter in a fair share of monks dressed in purple astral projecting into a different plane or whatever the hell is happening on this album’s cover, you get a satisfying, diverse, and aggressive death metal release that is a joy to listen to.

-Eden Kupermintz

Best of the Rest

Fires in the Distance - Air Not Meant for Us

Hyperbole is not a writer’s friend. Balancing out an enthusiastic review with a solid grounding in constructive critique is how we establish an authentic opinion, and it’s taken me a minute to figure out how best to temper my love for a record with an honest look at its flaws. It’s an especially challenging skill to master when a particular record just feels… genuinely flawless. It’s not a spot I find myself in as a writer too often, but upon hearing Fires in the Distance’s second full-length outing Air Not Meant for Us I found myself perplexed by my initial impression that it might actually be the most truly complete and exceptional melodic death-doom album I’ve ever heard. It’s a stretch to make such a statement after one trip with an album, so I let it sit and revisited it again. And again. You know the drill. Repeat listens have only deepened my appreciation, so with all the hyperbolic verve I can muster I hereby declare Air Not Meant for Us one of the finest pieces of melodic death-doom I’ve ever encountered.

It doesn’t take hardly any time at all for Fires in the Distance to start cooking with gas on Air. “Harbingers” kicks the record off beautifully, serving as a gorgeous and powerful thesis statement for the record’s overall tonal and technical direction.  Before all else, it’s a stunning and truly gorgeous track, finding that sickly sweet balance between Katatonia-esque orchestral and emotional heft and the crunchy, riff-driven intensity of early Insomnium. The closest comparison I can draw in terms of overall aesthetic is to An Abstract Illusion’s Woe, minus the speed and overtly progressive noodling. It’s a darkly beautiful yet somber and stately piece that exudes a sense of grandeur and gothic melancholy, greatly helped by some pitch perfect synth work, which plays a prominent role throughout the record. If your trip with the record’s opening track is a pleasant one, strap in. It only gets better from here.

As of yet, I’ve been unable to find a weak link in the track list. This is principally due to songwriting decisions that not only create individually moving pieces of music, but elevate each component through a rigid adherence to an overall sonic vision that is as splendid as it is immediately arresting. “Wisdom of the Falling Leaves” presents a more direct construction of the motifs presented in the record’s opening track, but finds more room for doomy riffing, adding a more thunderous flavor to the proceedings. But as soon as things might start to feel a bit stagnant in come the absolutely glorious keys once more to imbue the track with a unique, soaring life. Top it all off with an excellent guitar solo and we’ve found ourselves another winner. This ebb and flow continues through the tracklist beautifully until we reach instrumental epic “Adrift, Beneath the Listless Waves”, which exemplifies to a tee everything Fires in the Distance do especially well, resulting in one of the most genuinely incredible tracks in this genre space I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s masterful stuff.

There isn’t a single bad track, horrible songwriting decision, or errant note to be found in Air Not Meant for Us. I’m genuinely stunned by how expertly crafted and exceedingly beautiful this record is, especially for a sophomore record. Each new listen unleashes a new subtle intricacy I missed, a new favorite riff. It exemplifies everything that is good and valuable about the melodic mix of death and doom metal and I could not be more pleased with it. An easy, solid AOTY contender and a record I will continue listening to religiously throughout the year. A truly amazing work.


Ὁπλίτης - Τρωθησομένη

Remember Serpent Column? You know, that dissonant blackened death one-man wrecking crew that an insane amount of love from yours truly over the past few years? Well, in case you were unaware, it is sadly no more. Mastermind Jimmy Hamzey is off creating more (and equally fantastic) haunting, blackened insanity in the form of a new project under his old namesake Theophonos. If you’ve yet to do so, check out his debut under the new moniker entitled Nightmare Visions. You won’t regret it. But this review isn’t about Serpent Column, but rather the gaping hole the project’s dissolution left in the metal landscape. There were few acts propagating at such a high quality and unreal clip Hamzey’s unique and utterly chaotic brand of dissonant blackened death, and for that the project will rank with the likes of Mitochondrion and Portal as an all-timer in this space. But there was still plenty of sonic space to discover, and many more minds to destroy. Which is where China’s Ὁπλίτης (translated Hoplites) comes in. And goodness gracious does this dude know how to make an entrance.

Since the first of the year, Hoplites has released two full length records. Yes, Two. We’re not even through May yet. That’s some Esoctrilihum shit if I’ve ever seen it. And like Asthâghul, so far J.L, the sole mastermind behind the project has yet to know defeat. Both full length records this project has released so far have been nothing short of absolute bangers, with the latter record Τρωθησομένη being in my opinion the best of the bunch. Holy smokes does this record slap. From its opening seconds Τρωθησομένη is a dissonant, propulsive slab of infinitely dense blackened death chaos that feels like a direct extension of the mastery displayed by its most recent and above mentioned forebear. But dare I say that Hoplites has here created a sonic vision that feels even sharper, more focused, and somehow heavier than almost anything in this space that came before it.

From the opening moments of “Οὐλομένη” to the crushing, obliterative finale that is “Θεῖα δεσμά”, everything on this album just works. There’s so much going on in the truly bananas guitar work of J.L that immediate replayability just to fully grasp what in the hell is going on becomes a principal feature of the record’s charm. I’ve given this thing at least ten listens and I’m finding new riffs and aspects of the songwriting that I completely spaced on previous playthroughs. This density can prove to be both an incredible strength and glaring weakness as the intense speed of the instrumentation and borderline mania of the songwriting can cause a fair amount of whiplash. But for those willing to surrender wholly to the maelstrom (especially through multiple playthroughs) will be richly rewarded by some of the most creative, ferocious, and expertly crafted dissonant metal we’ve heard in quite some time. If the quality is going to remain this high, I’d be more than fine with a quarterly Hoplites release. Bring it on, big daddy.

Breaking out individual moments of this record feels pointless. Just fucking listen to it. If the gaping chasm left in your soul from the end of Serpent Column has left you longing for the halcyon days of wildly manic dissonant music, Hoplites is not only a balm for the weary soul, but the next level and logical extension of this sound. There are few if any bands operating at this level of expert precision and unique vision in this style of music, and I can recommend all of this project’s output thus far with great enthusiasm. We’re bearing witness to the infernal beginning of what could be one of the greatest catalogs in this sonic space. Only time will tell if Hoplites reaches those Olympian heights. In the meantime, we roll the stone ever upward, perpetually crushed by the weight of insanity that Hoplites rolls over our mortal shells.


VoidCeremony - Threads of Unknowing

20 Buck Spin came through with bountiful gifts for the prog heads this month. Not only were we blessed with the debut from mystical progressive death outfit Lunar Chamber holding down our spot for best death metal in April, they also released the hotly anticipated sophomore full-length from VoidCeremony. Their 2020 debut Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel laid out a blueprint of weird death metal by and for weird dudes, and it quickly became and remained a highlight for a year that can certainly be described as being pretty weird for everybody.

The long-awaited return of VoidCeremony is a welcomed one, with Threads of Unknowing providing all the wonky basslines, angular tech riffing, and furious percussion one could ask for out of this sector of death metal. Guitar maestro Phil Tougas – ever busy with his myriad of projects including but not limited to Atramentus, Chthe’ilist, Worm, and First Fragment – has not run short of ideas despite his constant creativity, and continues to solidify his place as one of the most important guitarists in extreme metal at the moment. Threads of Unknowing is prog and tech death done right, bridging classic prog death of the likes of Death, Atheist, and Pestilence with contemporary threads sewn by their contemporaries in Blood Incantation and beyond, without going as far as to get lost in the ether.

-Jimmy Rowe

Jonathan Adams

Published a year ago