Death's Door // August 2023

It’s been a minute. Welcome back to Death’s Door, ye hellions. We’ve prepared for thee a mighty feast. Mostly consisting of riff salad and meaty double bass

9 months ago

It’s been a minute. Welcome back to Death’s Door, ye hellions. We’ve prepared for thee a mighty feast. Mostly consisting of riff salad and meaty double bass but you will eat your dinner and LIKE IT.

Given our foray into mid-year content last month, this edition of Death’s Door is covering releases from both June and July. There were a helluva lot of quality releases to choose from, but we’ve chosen our absolute favorites from the lot below. They’re all delicious. Partake and enjoy.

As always, follow us on socials and leave a comment with your favorite death metal releases of the past two months.

Death metal forever.

-Jonathan Adams

Cream of the Crop

The Zenith Passage - Datalysium

It’s apparently been seven years since The Zenith Passage released their debut full-length, and we’re only just now getting their follow-up LP Datalysium, so why does it feel like they’ve always been around and active? I suppose it also only feels like yesterday when The Faceless experienced a slow and public collapse, so by comparison, it’s perhaps easy to take this band of Faceless alumni for granted as being relatively consistent and dependable. The 2018 remaster of their debut EP Cosmic Dissonance helped bridge the gap, but this proper sophomore LP makes an incredible statement for their longevity and legacy.

It’s admittedly unfair that The Zenith Passage will have to spend so much time in their careers clawing their way out of the shadow cast by The Faceless, but it’s unavoidable at this point; that band’s eventual collapse notwithstanding, 2008’s Planetary Duality was wildly influential and changed the face of technical and progressive death metal almost immediately, and there’s been no shortage of bands gearing up for the arms race to develop that sound further. Datalysium is perhaps the best effort yet at doing so, and has the benefit of having an air of authenticity attached, coming from the hands of those who spent years living and breathing that material. It’s inspiring that these former members (Justin McKinney on guitar, Derek Rydquist on vocals, and Brandon Griffin on bass) can remain united in developing this style of music further with considerably less baggage attached.

And what a ripper Datalysium is! This specific offshoot of the tech death evolutionary tree is nearly mechanical - downright surgical and stopping short of sterility - but often thrives in its songwriting and hook-craft, and isn’t transfixed with flagrant noodling as much as it is creating impossibly tight texturally-minded riffing. As the introductory track “The Axiom of Error” transitions seamlessly into “Algorithmic Salvation,” Datalysium has already dropped anchor in the conversation for Must Hear Death Metal in 2023 with thrilling and ethereal riffing; these scratchy tech death riffs do something strange to my brain, and the psychedelic solos and synthesizers that appear throughout the record only add to the experience. Dissodeath and OSDM get a lot of love right now, but it’s encouraging to hear The Zenith Passage just absolutely nail it out of this corner of death metal and prove that this garden is worth tending.

-Jimmy Rowe

Best of the Rest

Coffin Mulch - Spectral Intercession

Sometimes a band wears its influences so unabashedly on its sleeve that you can’t help but sit back, shake your head and clap. Coffin Mulch is certainly one of those bands, and I want to make it clear that their militant adherence to the sounds pioneered by their forebears is in no way a bad thing. Ever wondered what an unholy union between Left Hand Path era Entombed, Bolt Thrower circa War Master, Asphyx, and Mammoth Grinder might sound like? Look no further than Spectral Intercession, which is probably the most fun I’ve had with a death metal debut this year.

As insinuated above, if you’re coming to Coffin Mulch’s debut full-length for wild innovation you’ll most likely leave the record having wanted a lot more. But if a superb album-long execution of some of the sharpest, filthiest, nastiest, chainsaw swinging HM-2 riffing you’ve heard in ages is what you’re after, get hyped. Coffin Mulch deliver the goods. From the freaky screams and wails of the album’s opening and title track to the breakneck buzzsaw of “In the Grip of Death” and through the mid-tempo demolition of album closer “Eternal Enslavement”, Spectral Intercession is nothing short of an audio assault on the senses that heralds back to some of the best sounds death metal ever produced. Throw this thing back into 1994 and other than some more impressive production value Coffin Mulch would fit right in with the best of them. Which is exactly what I think the band intended.

Sure, Spectral Intercession isn’t gonna blow your mind with technically dazzling riff sequences or percussive pyrotechnics. It’s not designed to. It instead will gleefully rip your face right off your skull with some of the most fun and crafty old school death metal you’ll hear this year. If your death metal bag is old and crusty, give Coffin Mulch’s awesome debut a spin. I’m confident you won’t regret it.


Nithing - Agonal Hymns

Every now and then, I hear something so unbelievably heavy that I fall in love with the genre of death metal all over again, enamored with the possibilities of how far people are willing and able to take this genre to the edges of extremity and listenability. Nithing's debut LP Agonal Hymns is one such record, taking the excessively noxious technical and brutal death metal of bands like Defeated Sanity and Wormed and exploring a new horizon of absolute filth.

Agonal Hymns is simply unrelenting and not for the faint of heart. Vitriol and Iniquitous Deeds drummer Matt Kilner helms the entirety of this project, and while the percussion here is suitably intense, the coalescence of carpal-tunnel-inducing riffing, grinding bass, and vocals that sound like gravel being poured into a garbage disposal are just delightful. Add in an air of dissodeath and an avant garde disregard for the listener, and you've got an album that's surely entered the conversation for Death Metal's Album Of The Year.


Sarmat - Determined to Strike

It’s always awkward when an album is so good you want to write about it in multiple columns. It puts you in this weird position of thinking what you want to say about a release, saying it, and then having to rethink it all over again when the time comes to write about it once more. Luckily, Determined to Strike (which I also covered for out Top 25 Albums of 2023 So Far list) is so intricate, busy, and complex, that there’s plenty that I can say about it. In fact, that is exactly what I want to say about it: Sarmat have released what is undoubtedly one of the richest, most challenging albums I’ve heard to date.

You see, there’s a thing in progressive metal circles, which exists in many other circles but rankles especially here, which is the sheer power of fashion and trends. This strength can be seen quite easily by asking someone what progressive metal sounds like. If the bands making it stayed true to the genre’s stated goals, of making experimental and unique music (AKA “progressive”), it should have been hard to give an answer. But it’s really not; there are several prototypes and templates for how to make progressive metal and most bands in the genre stick pretty close to them. Unison guitar/keyboard leads, a handful of non 4/4 time signatures, some predominantly clean vocals about mental illness, social ills, or a mix of both, and you’re golden.

Sarmat sounds nothing like this. Sarmat sounds like their instruments are live snakes and they are taming them while in the studio. Sarmat sounds like the musical ideas that eventually made it to the equipment and out into the world are a mere fragment of the fetid, bubbling, productive swamp that is their minds. Sarmat sounds like people who deeply love death metal but love it mainly for the freedom that it can give artists to do weird, unique things with it that so few bands take proper advantage of. Determined to Strike sounds like it was essential and that and not its frightening levels of technicality, so often fronted as the main draw of albums like this, should make you want to listen to it. What does it sound like? It sounds like the boundary being pushed.

-Eden Kupermintz

Serpent of Old - Ensemble Under the Dark Sun

Turkey’s Serpent of Old certainly know how to make an entrance. I’m hard pressed to think of a debut record in the blackened death space that hits as hard or effectively as Ensemble Under the Dark Sun in the past few years. Take the thunderous roll of Ulcerate and blend it with the blackened snarl of Gaerea and the threatening sonic chaos of Noctambulist and you have yourself one of the most thoroughly captivating and deadly metal releases of the year. It’s that good.

The album’s first track “The Sin Before the Great Sin” is an absolute masterclass in death-adjacent genre blending and kicks the album off with a powerful strike to the gut. Opening with a doom-heavy dirge that almost feels Incantation-like, the track morphs into a blackened death collage that’s both punishing and oddly listenable. The latter compliment is due to the record’s production, which is cacophonous and meaty without ever coming across as muddled. It’s about as effective a mixing job as one can get in a record of this intensity, and only serves to enhance the album’s most suffocating elements without drawing attention away from how fantastic the instrumentation is on this record. Which is put on clear display on the album’s next track “Unsaturated Hunger and Esoteric Lust”, which juxtaposes mid-paced doom sections with almost Altarage-esque levels of suffocating chaos that somehow blend together seamlessly. It’s a two-track salvo that’s among the best I’ve heard in a minute.

But for all its immense rage and bluster, Serpent of Old knows exactly when to slow things down. Starting off with the 10-minute epic “The Fall”, which features some of the album’s most patient and titanic riffs, Serpent of Old begin to flash some dynamic range that is deeply impressive, creating a transfixing musical soundscape that ebbs and flows between doom-laden tempos and intermittent blasts of aggression that complement one another seamlessly. Unlike the majority of the two tracks before it, “The Fall” feels more spacey and atmospheric, while also throwing in a guitar solo or two for good measure. This dynamic march continues with “The Virtue of the Devil In His Loins”, which is a creepy and perfectly placed bridge track that does a masterful job of capping off the record’s most titanic track and transitioning us directly into the next bruiser. But it’s the album’s most chaotic and unpredictable track, “Idiosyncrasy”, that sends listeners off into an inky void of sonic oblivion in a fashion that ties the musical themes of the record together perfectly. It’s a perfect end to a near-perfect record.

I have no doubt that Serpent of Old’s masterful debut will end up on my top 10 list at the end of the year. The question is just where. More time will tell as I sit in deep wonder and discomfort allowing the band’s masterful blend of sounds wash over me again and again. I look forward to and dread each new journey this album will take me on. A masterclass in doomy blackened death.


Snuffed On Sight - Smoke

There is a strain of death metal bands, such as Sanguisugabogg and 200 Stab Wounds, that fuse 00s slam death metal with 90s tough guy hardcore. As if reifying this crossover of styles, 200 Stab Wounds recently collaborated with tough guy hardcore band Pain of Truth on a single by the latter called “Actin’ Up”. This overlap, along with bands like PeelingFlesh putting out a single called GHETTO AS HELL, demonstrates that there is also some gangsta rap aesthetic creeping into the mix. This aforementioned mix of styles is often affectionately referred to (sometimes by the bands themselves) as “dummy death metal” with riffs that are “ignorant” or “dumb”. This writer feels a little conflicted with using those adjectives to describe riffs, songs, or even entire albums as is often done by critics, fans, and musicians of the style. But there is possibly no band’s output “dumber” or more “ignorant” than Snuffed on Sight’s. And considering that Snuffed on Sight self-describe as “Bay Area Dummy Death”, it feels practically complimentary to describe their debut full-length Smoke as such.

At a lean 15 minutes, it seems slightly inaccurate to describe Smoke as a “full-length”. But despite the short running time, the band provides more than enough ammunition to incapacitate the listener into submission. With the exception of the blasting in tracks such as “Intro” and album-ending “Smoke”, almost the entire EP stays at tempos most death bands would consider “a strut”. It just so happens that that “strut” is characterized by breakdown after breakdown punctuated with pinch harmonics and guttural vocals. Any mosher, crowd killer, or stage diver will find plenty to be pleased with on tracks like “Slippin’”, which progresses through a relentless number of breakdowns until finally slowing down from a strut to a crawl by the very end.

While many others might find the idea of a band playing almost nothing but breakdowns an utter snooze fest, part of what makes Snuffed on Sight’s particular brand of “dummy” death metal so appealing is the unabashed influence of 90s gangsta rap culture and aesthetic that the band incorporates into their sound and image. On “Time 2 Dip”, for instance, while the drums drop out and the guitar riff acts as a harbinger of breakdowns to come, there is a hype man slightly buried in the mix that name drops Snuffed on Sight and the aforementioned PeelingFlesh (the band that collaborates with Snuffed on Sight on this particular track) and then ascribes the behaviors of both bands as “smoking Pall Malls and stealing hubcaps.” During this interjection, there is the sound of a shotgun reloading followed by an airhorn. The lyrics to “Time 2 Dip” include lines such as “You know ur hella fuckin wack”. This is definitely not your standard death metal (or hardcore) fair.

This is all to say that Snuffed on Sight seem to be well aware of their own aesthetic absurdity. Their Instagram page, for example, is littered with videos of the band and their fans smoking blunts. Vocalist Seven Kane (if that’s his real name) himself seems to rarely appear without one in his hands.

Whereas a lot of death metal is often characterized by musicians taking themselves far too seriously, Snuffed on Sight’s take on the genre encourages the listener to light one up and let loose.


Outer Heaven - Infinite Psychic Depths

Outer Heaven belong to that stalwart group of old school death metal worshiping projects that sprung up in force over the last decade. Think the likes of Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, Malignant Altar, Ascended Dead, Ulthar, Gatecreeper, and the like. Their 2018 debut Realms of Eternal Decay was one of the best metal albums of that year and cemented the band as a worthy successor to the legacy of ‘92-94 death metal. But where many of the above bands went in cosmic, dissonant, or more accessible directions with their second and third releases, Outer Heaven remain undeterred, holding down the old school death metal fort with Infinite Psychic Depths, a record that should certainly make Cannibal Corpse aficionados smile. This is pure, historically aware, perfectly executed death metal. Full stop. No frills. No unnecessary dalliances into progressive noodling. Just unadulterated riffs, all the time, and it fucking slaps.

While there is an absolute glut of death metal bands mining the old school sound for modern inspiration, I can think of few bands in contemporary death metal that have as deep an understanding and capacity to execute core death metal awesomeness like Outer Heaven. As a concentrated dose of unfiltered death metal you’ll be hard pressed to find a more thoroughly masterful record so far this year. A step up from their excellent debut in almost every way, the five year gap between records finds our heroes stronger, more focused, and more mature in multiple ways. One of the most notable here is in their songwriting ability, which to my ear feels markedly improved over their debut. On the surface Infinite Psychic Depths may feel like a riff salad surprise, but the band’s ear for unifying themes and atmosphere allows the frantic riffing to feel grounded and cohesive, never veering off into useless noodling territory. This keeps the record feeling tight conceptually as it expands and develops over its runtime, making for a listening experience that is both easy and instantly repeatable.

It’s fantastic to see a band with so much potential recognize their principal strengths and lean into them completely. This is titanic, meaty, classic death metal done oh so right. If you’ve been sleeping on Outer Heaven I strongly suggest you stop doing that. Give this record a listen at your earliest convenience and enjoy trying to convince yourself to listen to anything else for a few weeks. From experience, I can tell you it’s a losing battle.


TORTURED - Genetically Engineered Monstrosity

International brutal death metal collective TORTURED (it just feels more correct in all caps) isn’t here to take prisoners. Since emerging in 2020 with their debut EP, the veteran group of extreme musicians has nurtured a devastating sound that has reached its final form in Genetically Engineered Monstrosity.

Considering that TORTURED includes current and former members of Cystectomy, Darkall Slaves, Cerebral Effusion, and the live version of Vile, it’s hardly surprising that Genetically Engineered Monstrosity has leapt from the womb ready to kill. Furious growls compete with beefy guitars to deafen the listener, while punishing drums drive the album forward at a breakneck pace. The mix favors the guitars and vocals more heavily than the drums, adding OSDM heft to an already chunky record. Personally, I prefer this style of ultra-heavy BDM, but fans of the New Standard Elite style of brutality might miss a stronger snare presence. Regardless, the entire record is perfectly calculated to keep brutal death metal fans happy, each addictively bludgeoning track bleeding violently into the next. Listen at your own risk.

-Bridget Hughes

Iatrogenia -  Compulsive Pathological Carnifexia

There’s a subset of slam and brutal death metal bands that I qualify as almost-technical; firmly rooted in the core devastation of BDM, but with a level of technicality that heightens the intensity of the album. They live somewhere between Wormed, Defeated Sanity, Abominable Putridity, and Cephalotripsy. So far, 2023 has seen a number of strong releases in this strain of extreme music, with Infecting the Swarm, Depraved Murder, Tribal Tension, and Nithing all introducing hard-hitting albums with their own twist on BDM and technical death metal.

Guadalajara, Mexico-based BDM group Iatrogenia joined the growing ranks of technical BDM bands with their Amputated Vein Records debut, Compulsive Pathological Carnifexia. The structure of the album is pure BDM as Iatrogenia takes the listener through a grotesque journey illustrated by fast-paced drumming and furious, growling vocals. But the devil lurks in the details. Unlike most death metal and brutal death metal bands, Iatrogenia embraces less-distorted guitar and bass lines as part of the mix, adding texture and depth in surprising moments. The dichotomy between aggression and melody is a defining trait of Compulsive Pathological Carnifexia, introducing atmosphere at the right moment to keep the listener engaged. This isn’t a slaughterhouse, it’s a carefully orchestrated scene of suffering, masterminded by artists dedicated to their craft.


Jonathan Adams

Published 9 months ago