Death's Door // February 2024

I’ve been hearing stirrings across the metal blogosphere that 2024 has sucked so far, and I just can’t help but ask… are we listening to the same records?

a month ago

I’ve been hearing stirrings across the metal blogosphere that 2024 has sucked so far, and I just can’t help but ask… are we listening to the same records? Holy damn what a year for death metal so far. 

In February alone (an often slow month in the world of death metal) there were at least two records released that will almost definitely end up in my end of year top 10. In my most humble estimation, if that’s your perspective on the year so far you just need to listen to better records. Thankfully, we’re here to help guide the way in that department. 

Below are some of our favorite releases from an overstuffed month of quality death metal. Feast your ears, and let us know what we missed in the comments. 

Death metal as a whole is healthy. Death metal in 2024 is quite good. Death metal… Forever. 

-Jonathan Adams

Cream of the Crop

Spectral Voice - Sparagmos

I’ve been a die hard fan of Spectral Voice’s incredible sophomore record Sparagmos since I got the promo in the inbox weeks before official release. I’ve already written about the record at length, but it bears repeating: Sparagmos is what happens when a group of artists working at the top of their game patiently and intentionally collaborate. It’s a monumental death-doom record, and you could honestly just stop reading this blurb now and go listen to it and I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest. But I had the privilege of being present for the album’s release show in Denver, CO a few weeks back, and having listened to the record in full in a live setting I feel even more confident that this is a staggering work. 

Music this diabolically heavy often sounds incredible through the old headphones, but is difficult to translate to a live setting with the level of violence and power a recording gives you. Not the case with Sparagmos. In a room lit only by candlelight from several candelabras and filled to the rafters with the scent of incense and enough fog to rival a Sunn 0))) set, Spectral Voice served as cryptic guides along a sonic path as luminous and destructive as anything I’ve heard in a live setting. Eli Wendler’s vocal work is simply superb both on the record and in person, with his opening howl during “Be Cadaver” sending literal chills up my spine. His work on the kit was also a particular highlight, especially during closer “Death’s Knell Rings In Eternity”. But its Spectral Voice, so riffs remain the integral glue tying the whole thing together, and let me tell you… wow. 

It’s known that Blood Incantation has one of the most talented and interesting ax sections in the current death metal scene, and given that each member of that sting collective is also in Spectral Voice, it goes without saying that the riffs on the record and during this set were abundant and deeply stimulating. One of the record’s most powerful tracks, “Red Feasts Condensed Into One”, was also one of the highlights of the show. The whiplash back-and-forth between the funereal and blistering blast beat-laden sections of the composition was dizzying, with the riff beginning around 3:50 into the track serving to literally rumble the building peel paint from the walls. The translation from recording to live setting was truly astounding and so perfectly realized, but perhaps the most scintillating moments came during the performance of “Sinew Censer”, perhaps the record’s most overlooked (and consistently blistering) track. The intensity for this performance was ratcheted up to its highest point of the entire set, and opened the composition up in an incredibly dynamic way. Just… the best. 

The excellence of this performance served as a reminder for my busy, passively media-consuming self that setting deeply matters as an essential contextual framework for art. Sure, Dune: Part Two may still be good on your phone. But in IMAX? Ho-ly. The same can be said for live performances of records this excellent. My entire perception of Sparagmos’ qualities has been amplified tenfold, which is alarming given that this record currently sits atop my AOTY pile for extreme music as a whole. If you have the opportunity to see Spectral Voice live, I urge you to do so in the strongest of terms. If you’ve yet to give this record a listen, put your headphones on, turn out the lights, and let this thing take you into the void. It’s a superb work from a superior band in the death metal space. . 


Best of the Rest

Job for a Cowboy - Moon Healer

The transformation is complete. Arizona’s Job for a Cowboy are officially a genre-leading progressive tech death band. What 2014’s revelatory Sun Eater promised, Moon Healer makes good on a decade later. Wild to think about the sonic journey this band has taken since they took My Space by storm with the Doom EP. Lineup changes, life circumstances, and a break from the breakneck pace of a touring death metal band have brought to bear one of the best death metal albums in its space in the past few years, and it’s a glorious thing to experience. 

Holding together the same crew from Sun Eater, Moon Healer succeeds as both a true sequel to its predecessor and as a further expansion of the band’s dynamic sound. Moon Healer ups the ante on Sun Eater in nearly every respect. The songwriting is more expansive and epic, the performances are honed to a blade’s edge, and the production is as clear and powerful as one could hope from a record this intricate. The record works seamlessly as a whole piece, begging to be consumed front to back without interruption. It’s evident that Jonny and the gang took their time writing this one, as each progressive sequence feels like it ties into the last thematically and structurally. This record rivals the songwriting excellence of recent record’s like First Fragment’s gloire éternelle, Obscura’s A Valediction, and Allegaeon’s Damnum  presenting listeners with progressive technical death metal that always feels like it’s going somewhere and providing cathartic moments of payoff to reward your investment. It’s their most impressive feat of writing and performance to date. 

If you’ve been holding out on jumping on the JFAC hype train due to their deathcore roots, I would strongly urge you to reconsider your position. Moon Healer is a simply super progressive technical death metal record, full stop. It’s also one of the most consistently entertaining and memorable records of the year in any genre. I fully expect this thing to maintain staying power as the year progresses, and you can certainly expect to read more about it come list season. An absolute triumph. 


meth. - SHAME

Oftentimes when it comes to these genre-specific columns, there are some records that come out that we don’t know where they’re supposed to go. At one point in time, meth. were cleanly within the screamo and mathcore scenes, but with SHAME, the band have truly transcended genre, and we love them for that. This sophomore LP doesn’t feel like it has enough hardcore influence to feature too firmly in Rotten to the Core, and while SHAME is sludgy as hell, it doesn’t quite fit in with the kinds of records we feature in our Doomsday column. Are meth. a death metal band now? SHAME certainly feels like it sits within the lineage of acts like Baring Teeth, Pyrrhon, or Flourishing, within this intersection of noise rock, hardcore, avant-garde metal, sludge, and dissonant death metal. It’s hard to pin down, but you know immediately upon hearing it that it’s devastatingly heavy and absolutely brutal. 

From SHAME’s opening moments on the pummeling “Doubt”, meth. are doing a soft-sell of their death metal influences, meditating on a steady rhythm that continues unwavering through the track’s runtime, trusting the listener to follow them as they build with intensity for five minutes before completely unraveling in tracks like “Compulsion” and “Blush”, which are noisy eruptions of blasts and chaos that channel acts like Gorguts and Portal. Having Colin Marston behind the boards doesn’t hurt with these sorts of comparisons, either. 

But no, SHAME ultimately isn’t a death metal record in the way that you would expect out of entries in this column, but the aesthetics of unbridled torment and brutality are enough to be a highlight in the queue for those who enjoy off-kilter swirling dissonance. Regardless of where it lands, these genre-agnostic chameleons in meth. are fast becoming one of the most promising young acts in extreme metal. 

-Jimmy Rowe

Petrification - Sever Sacred Light

I am not exactly known around these parts as the biggest fan of the nastier, dirtier type of death metal. I’m usually all about contrasts, chromaticism, and progressive flourishes. But god damn, sometimes all you need and/or want are filthy riffs, vocals that drip with derision and malice, and a groove section that pummels you into the floor. However, the voice in my head that still needs things to be crafted in a certain way prevents me from enjoying most of the death metal that is my in this vein, what is sometimes dubiously called “OSDM”. Luckily, Petrification seem to feel the same as me, crafting a sort of punishing, brutal, muscular death metal that draws on the sort of dedication and passion that made this sort of death metal great when it was rolling out in the early 90’s.

Sever Sacred Light is unrelenting in its dedication to this style of death metal. The tracks are built of juggernaut riffs that take up the majority of the space, fueling their aggression all through their relatively longer run time. These run times are long relative to things like punk or grindcore, to be clear, which gives the other instruments time to shine in the riffs’ black light. The groove section is probably what benefits from this most, articulating the essentially simple and punk-derived beats to an impressive degree. The drums and bass are too often relegated to a backing role in this style of death metal but here, they are a force in their own right. To that we can add the deep gutturals that defile the album, articulating the violence and derision of the album and driving it home like a dirty knife to the heart.

Bottom line, this is an album that’s best for when you want to spoil your palette with rot and pure, unadulterated rage. And yet, its stench is varied, carefully constructed, and contains multitudes of articulations on this basic theme, making it more engaging than other releases in the style and appealing even to people like me, who usually prefer their death metal more chromatic.

-Eden Kupermintz

Necroflex - Synaptic Defragmentation

Necroflex seemingly erupted out of the underground with zero warning and few clues hinting at their origin. Their label, Inherited Suffering, announced their debut single and album with no details besides a description of the music itself. Encyclopaedia Metallum has no entries, and searching social media had similarly disappointing results. The mystery gives their debut album, Synaptic Defragmentation, an aura of mystery that only compounds the controversy of Necroflex.

Synaptic Defragmentation is not your expected death metal/slam/deathcore album. It can only be described as “dubslam,” a term dropped by Necroflex themselves in the opening track. It sounds almost exactly as described: slammy gutturals pitted against electronic beats. The pairing is uncanny, simultaneously making too much sense and appearing utterly bizarre. On one hand, slam and dubstep make a natural pairing. Both subgenres are constructed around building to major moments, whether they’re blast beats or beat drops. On the other hand…what is death metal without guitars? Your answer most likely lies in the combination of musical elements that satisfy your ear. If raw, real death metal is your poison, Synaptic Defragmentation might not hit in the same way. If slam is your preferred delivery mechanism for big basslines and head-banging beats, Necroflex has concocted an addictive mix. 

Rather unexpectedly, Synaptic Defragmentation steers away from aggrotech and industrial intensity, sticking to smoother synths and rubbery electronics. It’s the first death metal-adjacent album I’ve heard that could comfortably be played at a rave. Samples are few and far between, though “Fragmented 62.17%” features a sneaky homage to “Deep Noise,” the opening soundbite of THX, a sound deeply embedded in the brains of all Gen Xers and millennials that’s guaranteed to give our brains a surge of nostalgia-fueled excitement. The restraint gives Necroflex more space for adrenaline-inducing beats, seamlessly merging blast beats into beat drops for high-octane bursts that will make you want to break your neck and dance at the same time. Intensity blurs with aggression as guttural growls underline rapidfire synths, bringing the signature mind-numbing ferocity of slam into the world of dubstep. Or perhaps Synaptic Defragmentation brings the sweaty fun of dubstep into the fury of slam. The genre lines may be hard to decipher, but with an album as unique and engaging as Synaptic Defragmentation, who cares?

-Bridget Hughes

Jonathan Adams

Published a month ago