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Death's Door // April 2024

It appears reports of the downfall of death have been wildly exaggerated. Good grief. What a time to be alive. It’s Death’s Door, and the genre coffers overfloweth.

a month ago

It appears reports of the downfall of death have been wildly exaggerated. Good grief. What a time to be alive. It’s Death’s Door, and the genre coffers overfloweth. 

I don’t know what evil spirit has possessed the world’s death metal practitioners, but the genre has been on an absolute heater over the past few months. Seldom have there been this many exceptional quality releases in such a short span of time, and based on the promos for future releases I’ve listened to from ye olde inbox we’re not close to being done yet. What a day. What a lovely day. 

I won’t belabor the point. Judge for yourself. Death Metal feels to be in an extremely healthy place to our ears, and given the releases below we’re confident you’ll concur. Underlords be praised. Death metal is all the way back, baby. 

As if it ever left. 

-Jonathan Adams

Cream of the Crop

Convulsing - Perdurance

Death metal is many things. It’s powerful, dynamic, horrific, ugly, hilarious, disgusting, chaotic, and at all times and in all ways singular. There’s nothing on earth like it, and decades into its gore-filled existence its polarizing aesthetic has continued to fascinate extreme music lovers and horrify concerned parentals the world over. But in all the descriptors lobbed at the genre, “moving” is one you probably won’t find written very often in the histories of this musical space. Which is one of the many reasons Convulsing’s long-awaited third full-length record Perdurance is so bracingly unique and special within the context of modern death metal, and a cornerstone of the case for it to be considered a genre masterpiece. 

For the uninitiated, Australian maestro Brendan Sloan (known also for his stellar work in Altars and Dumbsaint) has been carving out a quite voluminous place in the modern death metal underground over the past decade mainly due to his truly incredible work in Convulsing. Blending dissonant and technical death metal stylings with a philosophically interesting and complex lyrical identity, Sloan has become a monumental figure in the scene, with each new record generating more and more hype. That is, if he decides to give any warning as to an album’s arrival. Perdurance dropped out of nowhere last month to shock, awe, and immediate praise. As is obvious given this album’s placement within this edition of Death’s Door, I'm not going to upset the apple cart here. Perdurance is the best album Sloan has written, but for a few reasons I did not expect. 

As a whole, dissonant and more technical interpretations of core death metal sounds, while often evocative, are not necessarily subgenres I would claim provide particularly emotionally moving experiences. Sure, they might encourage plenty of physical movement as we snap our necks in vain to a ballistic barrage of polyrhythms, but more often than not this music tickles the intellect rather than the soul. This is all obviously one person’s opinion, as I’m sure there are some who would disagree, but I feel relatively grounded in the more intellectual components of dissonant and technical death metal being predominant components of their core identities. But Perdurance flies defiantly in the face of this convention. DAMN does this thing feel beautifully, brutally personal. 

As a sequence of musical compositions, Perdurance builds upon every excellent component of previous record Grievous and unleashes the most nuanced and electric musicianship and songwriting of Sloan’s career thus far. The off-kilter riffs of “pentarch” kick things off on a gloriously deranged note, pushing the listener off balance immediately only to pull them back in with just enough central thematic repetition to generate an overall sense of stability. The same can be said for every composition here, with absolutely wild yet expertly controlled riffs serving as the principal force binding the record together. “shattered temples” alone contains enough top tier riffs to fill an entire EP. Ultimately, if this were an instrumental record, it would still be in this spot on this list. It’s that good. But beyond the incredible music lies an emotive and raw lyrical identity that elevates it far beyond its musical genius. 

I don’t really write about lyrics in death metal very often (mainly cuz “blegh uuuuuugh smash your face bathe in gore BREEEEEE” and fuck yeah dude it slaps), but if you’ve listened to Perdurance and have yet to give the lyric sheet a thorough read I strongly recommend you change that. These might be some of the most personal, vulnerable, and powerful lyrics I’ve read in this sonic space, evoking a kaleidoscopic introspection that is as genuinely beautiful as it is rare. Sloan bares his soul here in a manner that almost feels invasive due to its bracing authenticity, drawing inner maps of despair, hope, and mental warfare that are relatable and potent. I’m drawn to last year’s fantastic Panopticon record as an immediate comparison, with tracks like “flayed”, “inner oceans”, and “endurance” featuring poetically straightforward lyricism that is genuinely and deeply moving both in content and execution. One doesn’t need the lyrics to enjoy this music, but coupled together they create a genuinely unforgettable experience. 

Death metal is indeed many things, but one thing it should never be is lifeless. With Perdurance, Brendan Sloan has created a genuine magnum opus not only in his own discography, but within the genre as a whole. It is evident that he put every ounce of his prodigious talent, along with his heart and soul, into this work on every front. That effort, transparency, and vulnerability translates positively in every facet of this record. The compositions are focused and uniformly interesting, the production is crisp and atmospheric, and the lyrical content is beautifully realized. This is not only one of the very best metal albums of the year, but one of the most affecting of the decade. It’s a masterpiece and I’m so thankful it exists. 

-JA

Best of the Rest

Brodequin - Harbinger of Woe

Speaking of “BREEEEE” we’ve got new Brodequin, at long last! A staple in the brutal death metal world since the turn of the century, these Tennessee-based titans hadn’t released a full-length record in 20 years. Enter 2024, where these OG bad boys have unleashed Harbinger of Woe on our unprepared asses. If you like your death metal fundamentally brutal with a bit of an old school kick, you may have found your AOTY. 

Comeback records can be tricky, but given the wild success of Afterbirth over the past several years as well as the most recent album from Job for a Cowboy, there seems to be a resurgence of classic death metal acts reviving their careers to undisputed success. Brodequin can certainly be considered part of that category. This music is sharp, direct, crisp, and uniformly brutal from start to finish, displaying the craftsmanship one would expect from musicians and songwriters this seasoned. Pointing out a particular highlight feels kind of pointless, as each track smashes headlong into the next like a freight train, bludgeoning us with riff after riff with constant, violent eagerness. It’s meaty, it’s propulsive, it’s exactly what I want my brutal death metal to be. I’m all the way here for it. 

If you’re a fan of acts like Devourment or Unfathomable Ruination I strongly suggest you give Harbinger of Woe a thorough listen. I’ve given this one a fair amount of spins and have yet to get bored. The strong musicianship and obvious care in the songwriting are evident throughout, and there’s little here that the brutal death metal connoisseur would not enjoy. So feast.  

-JA

Civerous - Maze Envy

I hadn’t heard of Civerous before their 2nd album, Maze Envy, dropped this March and exploded into my ears with its ferocious yet inventive interpretation of death/doom. Their 2021 debut, Decrepit Flesh Relic, somehow passed me by, but not those omnipotent folk at 20 Buck Spin, who heard the LA quintets obvious potential and signed them up quick sharp.   

The opening track on Maze Envy is a declaration for what lies ahead, not because of its ferocity or distortion, but due to its delicate creativity.  “The Azure Eye” is only a 2-minute instrumental taster, but oozes atmosphere with layers of trembling strings serving as a backdrop for harshly struck shards of violin. It’s a captivating introduction and hints that this band is trying to do something a bit different. 

This becomes even more apparent the further you lose yourself in the occult themed depths of Maze Envy. There is, of course, plenty of insanely vicious shredding, pummelling blast beats and unrelenting guttural vocals (and it’s all utterly magnificent), but you will also find striking moments where ethereal guitars pair dotingly with synths and strings to craft sullen yet enchanting soundscapes. The 9-minute title track, and equally epic finale “Geryon (The Plummet)” are the best examples of this complex and ambitious sound. The song writing on display is exceptional as they effortlessly move from the brutal to the beautiful and back again.

There are plenty of head turning moments dotted throughout this album. Even a track like “Labyrinth Charm”, that initially appears a more straightforward death metal offering, manages to veer off into moments of shoegaze. The structure of the album is clever, with the heavier offerings at the top and the more, shall we say, challenging tracks left to the end of the record. It’s a steady progression and by the time Maze Envy finishes I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people are left thinking “Damn, I wasn’t expecting that!”.   

This is the kind of death metal I love. Intense, eclectic, and intelligent. It’s so much more than the sum of its parts and endeavours to take you somewhere unworldly. What’s even more exciting is that it feels like Civerous are only just getting started, so get into this band now and enjoy the ride!  

-Phil Knock

Hideous Divinity - Unextinct

Sometimes it only takes a word to describe how a band sounds. In the case of Italy’s darkest trio Hideous Divinity, that word would be “vicious”. As far as descriptors go, the band’s fifth full-length record Unextinct may be the most emblematic of the bunch. While Hideous Divinity has yet to release a bad album, Unextinct feels like a bolder and more brutal step forward to my ears than their last few releases. It’s Hideous Divinity let loose, and it’s an absolute pounding of the ear drums. 

More than in perhaps any other record in the band’s discography, Unextinct finds Hideous Divinity unleashed on a songwriting front. These compositions are wildly dense, with thematic and structural changes flying toward listeners at breakneck speed. While this can often feel like riff salad with less skilled bands, Hideous Divinity use their incredible talents to hold a ship that feels like it’s about to be rent asunder together through sheer magnetic will. The central themes of each track are among the best that the band has yet written, and their musicianship is absolutely top notch throughout. There isn’t a bad track among the lot, and by the end of the record there’s more than enough here to justify an immediate re-listen. 

It’s a bit surprising that Hideous Divinity isn’t a more recognizable name in the death metal world. Operating on Revocation or The Black Dahlia Murder levels of consistency, the band have yet to release a dud. Unextinct continues their hot streak. A high quality listen. 

-JA

Slimelord - Chytridiomycosis Relinquished

Eccentricity is a trait that weaves itself into many forms of art and it is something that appears particularly ingrained within British creativity. We just seem to love making stuff a bit weird and wonderful. Leeds’, Slimelord, are no exception and spew their particularly complex form of oddness all over debut album, Chytridiomycosis Relinquished. It’s epic in scale and surreal in nature.     

Slimelord contains three members of the acclaimed ‘Astro-death’ crew Cryptic Shift, but whilst that gives you an idea of the talent and quality on hand, you won’t find any intergalactic themes here. In fact, this is quite the opposite, as the band burrow deep into a murky subterranean underworld where nature, plants and fungi take centre stage. 

The music manages to somehow be claustrophobic and vast at the same time. Intricate overlapping guitars, erratic drums and meandering bass often feel like they are operating independently on their own trajectory, before everything comes together to create a huge, entwined cacophony of sound. You may find yourself intermittently checking to make sure roots and vines aren’t quietly wrapping around your limbs whilst listening to this album…and you’d be right to do so.  

It’s difficult to pin down what genre this flora and fauna opera falls under exactly, but if we’re being brutally honest…this is a glorious slab of progressive death metal. As Eden stated so well in his recent Editors Picks column, why do we feel the need to conjure up other names for things when they are so obviously prog? 

This album is not an immediate hit, there’s far too much going on for that to be possible. It might take a few listens to fully understand what is actually happening, but if you like your death metal weird, complex, and conceptual then this will be right up your garden path.  

-Phil Knock

Malphas - Portal

What I’ve found in the last few months, to my total surprise, is that I actually like symphonic death and black metal. It simply needs to be done well, which is quite hard as you try to walk the fine line between flourish, cheese, flamboyance, and excess. A good examples of a band which walks these boundaries expertly is Fires in The Distance and it’s quite possible that their last release was what made me go “huh, I actually kind of like this style”. And so, I gave Philadelphia’s Malphas a chance where I wouldn’t previously have and I am very happy I did. Where Fires in The Distance slow things down, all the way to doom metal, Malphas speed things up, creating a more traditional style of symphonic blackened death. 

What makes them stand out from the crowd is their expert and agile control of the synth tone, treading that small space between cheese and tasteful embellishment with great expertise. “Fiat Empire”, the first full track on the album, is a fantastic example of this. In amongst soaring solos, killer riffs, and blackened vocals, thrive rich and varied synth parts. Sometimes they are “only” backing riffs, punctuating the guitars with piano notes and backing walls of electronic sound. But often they are front and center, delivering grandiose expression and a soaring timbre. They fill the mix with choirs, strings, and other synthesized instruments but are always, always composed to a tee. If it doesn’t contribute to the central theme of the track, it has no place in Malphas’ music.

This is what enables Portal to stay a cohesive album, instead of tracks which end up an excuse to serve ever more saccharine synth parts. Add in some excellent drumming, truly evocative vocals, and some really tasty guitar riffs, solos, and licks and you’ve got yourself a winner. Portal is unapologetically grand in the way only symphonic death metal can be and it really has nothing to apologize for - it is well made and well executed so if your tolerance for this style is as low as mine was, give this one a listen; it might be the key to increasing your appetite for this style. 

-Eden Kupermintz

Jonathan Adams

Published a month ago