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Death's Door // June 2024

Oof. We’re halfway through another year in death metal. In our estimation, it’s been a real slapper. As always, Death’s Door is here to catalog the greatness.

24 days ago

Oof. We’re halfway through another year in death metal. In our estimation, it’s been a real slapper. As always, Death’s Door is here to catalog the greatness. Oh yeah, baby. Let’s go. 

Below you will find some tasty death metal entries that tickled our fancy over the past month. May presented a veritable glut of fantastic material, and though this is a humble sampling we guarantee results. Sore necks are to be expected. We accept no liability. 

So join us for another headbanging onslaught, and let us know your favorite death metal releases of the month in the comments. 

Death metal. Forever. 

-JA

Cream of the Crop

Aseitas - Eden Trough

It’s difficult to know where to begin when a record ticks so many boxes of your personal death metal preferences in one fell swoop. Brutal unrelenting aggression. Check. Technical complexity. Check. Varied and intelligent use of vocals. Check. Elements of melody used accordingly. Check. Aseitas have really knocked it out of the park with their third LP, Eden Trough

I’ve been a fan of the Portland quartet since 2020’s False Peace was unleashed by Translation Loss, and whilst being a great album on its own merits, the exciting thing for me was the potential it showcased for future releases. The band are clearly ambitious, and the refinements made to their sound in the years that have proceeded means Aseitas are now operating on a level that many other death metal bands can only dream of.

Opening track “Break The Neck of Every Beautiful Thing” throws down the gauntlet and showcases the bands full arsenal of sickeningly intricate skills. Like a medieval torturer laying out their collection of macabre tools in front of a prospective victim. Within the first erratic 60 seconds of this track you are hit with an array of disgustingly heavy riffs and screams, which would’ve been enough to pique my interest, but they then throw in some beguiling harmony for good measure. 

There’s more than one occasion where the insane influences of Car Bomb can be heard on this album, and that’s just fine by me. It makes so much sense that a technical death metal band should be inspired by the New York mathcore titans. There is one such section in the final third of “Libertine Captor” where everything stops to reveal a lone guitar trilling away, which slowly builds into an explosive cacophony of jagged nastiness. The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention like a brigade of commando’s when it kicked in. Moments like this make me thankful to have death metal in my life!   

If we’re talking about influences then we must mention Gorguts too, but not necessarily as you’d imagine. “Null Adam/Null Eve” is an evocative classical arrangement of piano and cello, which is reminiscent of “The Battle of Chamdo” from Coloured Sands. More stripped back perhaps, but I love the way it slows everything down bang in the middle of the album to act as a segue for the epic second act. 

Penultimate track “Tiamat” is a ten-minute prog metal opus and clearly one of those songs where the band said “Fuck it, anything goes!”. Does it get a bit cheesy and OTT at times? Yes, possibly, but I’m here for it nonetheless. If Between The Buried And Me were to cover Cynic it might sound something like this. The guitar solos in the latter half of this track are mind boggling at times, and as someone who could barely handle the basics of four strings on a bass I simply have to bow down in awe. They even throw in some flourishes of acoustic guitar just to rub it in even more.      

“Alabaster Bones” acts as an off-kilter cocktail of all that has come before it. Chaotically mixing everything into one angular glass for you to devour and savour. Whilst you’re wiping the last drips from your chin, you suddenly realise it’s over. Five tracks in under half an hour. Done. You’ll either be angered that it’s ended, or you’ll be amazed that they’ve managed to fit so much into such a short amount of time. It just feels right to me though. Each track offers something different and is memorable in its own way. I didn’t feel like I needed any more and clearly the band didn’t either. Why add two or three more tracks just for the sake of it? 

If you’re new to Aseitas then Eden Trough is the perfect place to start, and I can guarantee you’ll be scrambling through their back catalogue in no time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up on a few AOTY lists, it’s very likely to be on mine. 

-PK

Best of the Rest

Gatecreeper - Dark Superstition

It’s impossible to discuss the emergence of the old school death metal revival without mentioning the contributions of Gatecreeper. From the moment Sonoran Deprivation dropped back in 2016, the music of Gatecreeper has been a staple in the scene, reaching the upper crust of the OSDM elite with a mixture of classic death metal and hardcore stylings that match elevated intensity and execution brilliantly. So expectations were high when the band announced their third full-length record, Dark Superstition, earlier this year. Thankfully, the record not only meets or exceeds the band’s previous work on almost every front, but presents a progression for Gatecreeper that bodes well, at least in my estimation, for their long-term prospects. 

The principal difference between Dark Superstition and the band’s previous work is, surprisingly, an intensified focus on melody. In fact, there are moments here that could easily be classified in borderline Dark Tranquility territory when it comes to melodic impact. There’s also a rocking sensibility here that permeates tracks like opener “Dead Star” and mid-album banger “Superstitious Vision”, creating some of the band’s most infectious, headbangable moments yet. More than anything Gatecreeper have released to this point, Dark Superstition balances songwriting focus and fun in equal measure, creating an experience that feels both more accessible and interesting. It is, at its core, an album that is wildly enjoyable front to back. Subsequent listens only intensify that feeling. 

For a band with as established a sound as Gatecreeper, it’s nice to see them willing to take some calculated and logical risks. Dark Superstition benefits greatly from Gatecreeper’s willingness to lean into less thoroughly explored aspects of their sound, culminating in what is to my ears their most balanced and thoroughly enjoyable record to date. If you’ve enjoyed Gatecreeper up to this point, there’s plenty here to enjoy. If you’re new to the bandwagon, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to dive in. 

-JA

In Vain - Solemn

Every once in a while I find myself hankering for some good, primarily melodic progressive death metal. And while there is no dearth of older albums in the style, it’s safe to say that current ones are hard to find. The sub-genre seems to be in decline, even as the rest of death metal continues to flourish. To be honest, that’s fine; I like almost everything that death metal is doing these days so it’s not a big deal to not have this very specific flavor. But when I do get a serving of the death metal that I’m looking for, and it’s an excellent serving to boot, it feels that much sweeter - the pleasure of something rare. Every year has one or two such releases; 2024’s is In Vain’s Solemn, an expansive, intensely melodic, and extremely rewarding progressive death metal album that manages to meld everything I love about the sub-genre into one big, ambitious, and amazing whole.

Solemn, at its core, is a difficult album. It’s a maximalist affair, running at around one hour, skipping over almost no tropes of progressive death metal. The foundation lies firmly in the kind of epic, contemporary melodic death metal that draws Countless Skies as its clearest comparison point - big riffs, lots of strings, and soaring vocals. But to this are added Opeth-like repetitive, sweeping riffs (check out “At the going Down of the Sun” for example), Devin Townsend-esque clean vocals, and an even grander, massive concept. That latest one is perhaps what Solemn most apart. The days of the intricate, completely thematic, and entirely wholecloth progressive death metal album are pretty much done and dusted, with Wilderun being the main other example. But Solemn sees every track revolve around both thematic concepts (death, time, belief, and hope, among others) and musical leitmotifs that twist, whirl, and bend as they are returned to again and again.

All of this comes to fruition throughout the release but mostly as you get closer to its end. All of the themes reach a climax point together, resulting in one of my favorite tracks of the year: “Watch for me on the Mountain”. Things slow down right to a Borknagar sort of pace, the grandiose nature of In Vain’s death metal meeting deep, tolling vocals and an almost doom metal sort of atmosphere. It’s a perfect closer to such an ambitious recording, painting In Vain’s sounds and themes with the largest brush possible. And while Solemn takes time and many listens to orient yourself within it, it’s all worth it for the catharsis it rewards you with. It’s exactly why I find myself craving this style of death metal from time to time; its peaks are second to none, constructed with patience and care across a long runtime with many musical ideas within it. If you find yourself craving that as well, then Solemn is definitely for you - it’s 2024’s contributing to epic progressive death metal.

-Eden Kupermintz

Unearthly Rites - Ecdysis

As a whole, 2024 has been a year filled primarily with high profile releases in the technical and progressive spaces, with bands like Job for a Cowboy, Replicant, Convulsing, and Civerous dominating a lot of space in the blogosphere. Justifiably so, in all cases. But mid-range filth has had a low key great year, and there’s no mostly unsung band that deserves more shine in this pool of degradation than Unearthly Rites. Their debut full-length, Ecdysis, is pure filth in its best manifestation, blending hard-hitting riffs with perfectly overloud dynamics and bludgeoning percussion to make an exceptional death metal stew that’s as depraved and enjoyable as any concoction I’ve heard this year. 

When it comes to explaining the sound Unearthly Rites conjures here, it’s honestly a fairly simple analysis. Riffs are the bread and butter of Ecdysis, and the band make it clear from the opening seconds of the record that nasty, tasty and digestible riffs are the primary menu item. And hot damn how delicious that item is. Each track is packed with enough perfectly executed megaton riffage to satisfy even the stingiest death metal connessieur, coupled with a rhythm performance that’s as punishing as the axe work, bringing an OSDM/crust vibe that compliments the ax section perfectly. There’s a punk vibe that runs through Ecdysis as well, especially in the lyrical content, which focuses on topics like ecofascism and the impact of late-stage capitalism. It’s not subtle. It’s not particularly complex. It isn’t trying to be. It’s just here to cave your head in, and succeeds in its mission with flying colors. 

Unearthly Rites aren’t going to blow your mind with transcendent technicality or progressive song structures. They’re here to punish, brutalize, and leave your peaceful little town a burning husk before the sun rises. With this intention in mind, it’s nearly impossible to call Ecdysis anything other than a rousing success. If brutal sonic punishment without frills or pretension is what you’re after, look no further than what Unearthly Rites have presented here. A fantastic debut. 

-JA

Jonathan Adams

Published 24 days ago