Death Metal We Missed, Part II!

2018 has been undeniably kind to death metal. So kind that it became impossible to pay the necessary attention to every release worthy of note. So, possessed of tyrannical temperament and iron resolve, Kronos and I have enlisted the help of the staff to cover those bands that went so unjustly overlooked. Kronos has already bravely led you through a grotesque gamut of recommendations; now I invite you to join me in yet another foray into the fetid. But be sure not to avert your gaze until this godless collection of words’ brutal work is done. –Ferrous Beuller


Æpoch - Awakening InceptionÆpoch // Awakening Inception – In a sea of excellent technical/progressive death metal, Æpoch still managed to distinguish itself. While hewing close to the genre-specific mold—prominent bass in the low-mids, a vocalist moving between black and death metal articulations, and even the occasional dive-bombed guitar solo—Æpoch produced a progressive death metal record with heavily melodic overtones that has kept me circling back all year. Awakening Inception is noteworthy both for its songwriting and its musicianship. The songs are tight, with very few throwaway riffs and they demonstrate a solid ear for songcraft. It helps that the musicianship is strong here, with a special nod to Brett MacIntosh’s bass tone, which manages to cut well in the mix and still carries a surprising amount of heft. Weirdly, the fact that Awakening Inception isn’t perfect is heartening. Æpoch, it seems, has room to get even better. But they should really send me my fucking shirt and CD bundle already! –Angry Metal Guy

Spirit of Rebellion // The Reign of Denial – If Dying Fetus were from Quebec, they’d probably sound a lot like Spirit of Rebellion. The Quebecois restraint in straightforward (i.e., not “progressive”) death metal means that the noodly sweeping parts are done away with, as are the most breakdown-adjacent slams. The Reign of Denial nonetheless packs in a ton of brutalizing riffs perfect for the gym or home-based headbanging and impressive instrumental performances from all members. Francis Marmen of Gorelust turns in a great drum performance, sticking in the pocket and possessing an excellent sense of groove. The production is thick and chunky like it should be. Hearty stuff. –Diabolus in Muzaka

Golgothan Remains // Perverse Offerings to the Void – With a name like Perverse Offerings to the Void, you just know this is full of bold, capital-letters-burned-into-your ass DEATH METAL. It’s hard to go wrong when you bring the evils of Incantation and Ulcerate together for one album, but Perverse Offerings to the Void goes the extra mile and gets it right. With drumming straight out of Diabolical Conquest and riffs that reach from there onwards to Everything Is Fire, Golgothan Remains’ debut curses whatever audio equipment replays it, spewing disharmony and vileness for just over half an hour. Cuts like “Looped Depraved Spell” and “From Chaos It Has Come” match groovy rhythm with searing guitar work and tie together an album that’s as resolutely evil as you could hope given its lofty inspiration. –Kronos

Dallian // Automata – Every once in a blue moon, I will fall hopelessly in love with an album despite its obvious flaws. Enter Dallian. Imagine a steam-powered Septicflesh with brass balls and a weaponized airship, and that’s Dallian in a nutshell. Automata is their ambitious, self-released, one-hour and seven-minute debut opus. The band took an admirable number of songwriting risks on Automata, and that means there are flaws. Early tracks “Satori (悟り)” and “The Lie Vision” ramble on a bit, and the spoken-word “Echoes of Arrival” is awkward. The album is also ridiculously compressed. Nevertheless, I frequent Automata often precisely because it is flawed. The oddities within are fascinating to behold, and replays reveal that the imperfections unexpectedly give life to this mechanized entity. Plus, Automata sounds exactly as steampunk death metal should: bombastic, dark and adventurous. “As Within, So Without” through “Vãsanã (वासना)” represent an astounding run of high-quality tracks, and “The Swine Dialectic” is a top-notch banger. If you don’t mind an epic album with some minor dings in the sheet metal, pick Automata. I can guarantee there is nothing else out there like it. –TheKenWord

Unbirth // Fleshforged Columns of Deceit – “All hail the almighty riff!” said Caesar (probably Nero), and his Italian forebears have held true ever since. Unbirth especially takes this to heart, evident in their second album Fleshforged Columns of Deceit. Tasteful technicality, select slams, and all round brutality are what make this death machine tick, but not only is the rhythm section capable of seismic blasting, the songwriting is weapons-grade too. Opener “Tumults of Collective Anguishes” is aggressively memorable and sets a precedent the rest of the album matches. Each track builds to a crescendo only for the next song to begin the barrage anew. The organic production also eschews the density of most modern Italian death metal, cementing Fleshforged Columns of Deceit as one of the year’s premier extreme offerings. Not to be missed. Or survived. –Ferrous Beuller

The Crawling // Wolves and the Hideous White – The last thing I wanted right now was to pick up releases last minute—who has the time?—but dammit, The Crawling made me do it. Their early 2017 debut Anatomy of Loss stated the death/doom outfit’s lumbering intent quite clearly but lacked staying power. Follow-up Wolves and the Hideous White suffers none of the same problems and displays The Crawling‘s ability to shape sound in ways that suggest the band isn’t slated for permanent obscurity. The somber My Dying Bride influence marches on, but new (and necessary) Behemoth and Sulphur Aeon dissonance speed up and stretch out the record and ensure it is a bonafide step up for these Brits. The Crawling must find another gear for their riffs to be truly great, but everything else is coming along nicely. –Dr. Wvrm

Ripped to Shreds // 埋葬 – Old school death metal is alive and well in 2018, with an increasingly strong crop of modern artists injecting fresh blood into the rotting corpse of retro death. There was no shortage of quality old school death releases in 2018. One such gem was the grisly full-length debut from California’s Ripped to Shreds, crafted by one man wrecking ball Andrew Lee. Pretension-free, gnarled, endearingly raw and vital in execution, 埋葬 makes me feel all fuzzy inside, while simultaneously getting my blood pumping and adrenaline flowing with its savage guitar tone, rabid aggression, killer riffs, and spine-snapping grooves. Production is right on the money, balancing clarity and no-frills, rough-edged charm while boasting an impressively dynamic master from Horrendous mastermind Damian Herring (DR11 to boot). But in the end, it’s the quality songwriting that sets Ripped to Shreds apart from lesser acts. “撿骨 (Bone Ritual)” showcases Lee’s artful shredding amidst a bevy of swift tempo changes, gruesome vox, and hacksaw riffs. “Yellow River Incident, 1938” explodes and thrashes with reckless abandon, before settling into a pummeling death-doom climax for maximum impact. Influences range from the classic Swedish death and Floridian scenes of yesteryear to the bulldozing pummel of classic Bolt Thrower. Ripped to Shreds succeeded in crafting one of the finest old school death albums of the year. –L. Saunders

Display of Decay - Art in MutilationDisplay of Decay // Art in Mutilation – Display of Decay is prime death-metal-missing material. Nothing about this stands out on face value. Requisite Quasimodo-butchers-woman theme on the cover, Death Metal 101 name, and Art in Mutilation came right off the slam assembly line. The music fares much better, with a mix of less technical Cryptopsy and Fisher-era Cannibal Corpse without the bass heroics. This is beefy death metal comfort food, but it’s of high quality. It’s brutality done right, efficiently, and memorably. Christian Donaldson’s production makes this sound thick. Display of Decay knows when to slam with brutality and when to skewer with well-placed technicality. –Diabolus in Muzaka

Hyperdontia // Nexus of Teeth – If a combination of Incantation and Bolt Thrower doesn’t set your loins ablaze, then you and I just can’t be friends. Denmark’s Hyperdontia is comprised of current and ex-members of Phrenelith, Undergang, Decaying Purity and Burial Invocation, and the pedigree alone is worth the price of entry. Nexus of Teeth is unadulterated old school death metal. As a true nod to death gone by, the album progresses less as a collection of unique tracks and more as a suite of riffs. While this occasionally raises a question of individuality, the rhythm guitars are undeniable and snake through all manner of pacing, clawing at quicksand tempos before whipping into feral frenzies. Complaints of originality are entirely null and void as Hyperdontia care little for innovation. Instead, they dream only of teeth and scores of victims, all calcified in cruciform. –Ferrous Beuller

Anachronism // Orogeny  This Swiss tech-death act’s new album caught me by surprise, not because I was unfamiliar with the band—I’ve had them on my radar since the Reflecting the Inside EP—but because it sounded nothing like what I expected. Instead of the tight tech/brutal death of previous releases, Orogeny traffics in more abstract and deliberate material, sounding like a methodical mashup of Wormed and Artificial Brain. Lisa Voisard and Manu le Bé’s guitar interplay jumps from grating riffs to fusion-esque runs at the drop of a hat, and the former’s bilious growls ground the album in dense brutality. It’s a lot to process, but the album’s driving pace and meticulous writing make Orogeny a mountainous achievement. I’ll see myself out. –Kronos