Death/Doom, the bastard son of death metal and, well, doom metal first reared it’s head in the late 80’s/early 90’s when the likes of Dream Death, Winter and Autopsy first merged the traditional sound of doom metal’s lumbering riffs and mournful atmospherics with the bursts of speed, unparalleled aggression and growled vocals of the then burgeoning death metal scene.
A new sub-genre was born but, in time, even death/doom would morph into new shapes; birthing funeral doom in the shape of Thergothen and Skepticism (to name just two) and gothic metal as pioneered by Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride.
Regardless, this feature concentrates on 6 death/doom records that are ripe for rediscovery and worthy of higher praise.
6. Sempiternal Deathreign – The Spooky Gloom (1989)
An extremely obscure release, Sempiternal Deathreign‘s only album is a shockingly underrated yet vital death/doom release that demands to be rediscovered.
While leaning more towards the death than the doom, openers “Creep-O-Rama” and “Resurrection Cemetery” mimic much of the death/thrash that reared its ugly head in the late 80’s with breakneck speed and bowel-loosening growls misleadingly omitting practically all doom elements. Stick with it though and this ‘lost classic’ truly elevates itself to must-hear status with its subtle introduction of doom on the simply awe-inspiring “Devastating Empire Towards Humanity”. It’s acoustic intro instantly brings to mind the likes of Candlemass before a classic doom metal riff – the kind Tony Iommi would have been proud to have penned – tuns The Spooky Gloom on its head and its pioneering death/doom intentions become clear. Interspersed with death metal speed, this epic flits between the two genres with consummate ease.
Way, way ahead of their time, Sempiternal Deathreign may be a mere footnote in metal history but The Spooky Gloom is one album that epitomises death/doom more then most.
5. Indesinence – Noctambulism (2006)
Beginning with an unbearable black metal styled groan and an attack of abrasive white noise, Indesinence‘s death/doom credentials are writ large from the moment “Dusk Towering Forth” erupts with an almost funeral doom pace and eerie aura that grinds and growls on a seemingly endless journey into oblivion. Noctambulism sure ain’t pretty but it perfectly encapsulates death/doom’s thrilling combination of two fairly disparate styles.
A sulphurous and sombre descent into uncomfortable realms for the majority of its duration, the death metal elements when they truly arrive are gratefully received. The sheer weight and speed of the opening of “Flooding (In Red)” alleviates the gloom and doom that had transpired before amidst a Napalm Death-styled flurry of choppy riffs and bouncy groove before hitting grindcore levels of pace and power. Painful doom riffs do return but when they do, it’s an organic process that simply accentuates the tempo of before, never once feeling forced. At 18 minutes long this album highlight could be forgiven for becoming tiresome but the skill in which death and doom’s core ingredients are combined avoids any fatigue. In fact, you’ll be left hungry for more.
Noctambulism may be an uncomfortable experience but it’s one that should be embraced by any passing fan of death/doom – and doom metal in general – due to its harrowing bleakness, towering riffs, hellish vocals and all-encompassing atmosphere.
4. Paramaecium – Exhumed Of The Earth (1993)
With an album title that leads you to expect some sort of primitive Cannibal Corpse/Six Feet Under/Jungle Rot styled bludgeoning, Exhumed Of The Earth actually straddles a fine line between death metal and doom metal and proves to be a stunning concept album far removed from the neanderthal gurgling of Chris Barnes et all.
Released in 1993, Exhumed Of The Earth was the debut album by Australian pioneers Paramaecium and opens with the ludicrously long track, “The Unnatural Conception in Two Parts: The Birth and the Massacre of the Innocents’” which clocks in at a staggering 17 minutes. Completely enthralling from the minute it’s female operatic wail, rolling drums and repetitive riff kicks in, Paramaecium’s status as death/doom legends was instantly set in stone. Hypnotic in nature, this endlessly surprising epic channels the listener down a path untravelled, utterly captivating and genuinely unique in it’s approach to concept and execution. When the expected death metal vocals do kick in you’re hooked and the journey has begun.
Noted for being one of the few death/doom bands to focus on Christian themes, Exhumed Of The Earth conceptually begins at the birth of Christ as the album weaves its way through his life culminating – as expected – with his resurrection. At first glance, death/doom metal and religion may seem at odds but this album shines as result of the sheer substance of its subject matter and a shattering sense of purpose that elevates Exhumed Of The Earth album from mere genre entry to often under-appreciated genre classic.
Impossible to ignore.
3. Incantation – Diabolical Conquest (1998)
Renowned for their death metal classics Onward To Golgotha and Mortal Throne Of Nazarene, Incantation‘s seminal work is arguably Diabolical Conquest, an astonishing amalgamation of death metal’s fury and doom metal’s lumbering atmospherics.
“Desecration (Of The Heavenly Graceful)” manages to encompass death metal speed and doom metal’s thick distortion without sacrificing either genre’s staple substance. A tricky balancing act but one achieved with apparent ease as Incantation somehow achieve the almost impossible of sounding insanely fast and painfully slow all within the same passage. As ridiculously contradictive as that sounds, it perfectly sums up the key nature of this under-appreciated apogee of death/doom.
Regardless, the actual highlight of an album overflowing with notable moments is the 17-minute death/doom goliath “Unto Infinite Twilight/Majesty Of Infernal Damnation”. From sloth-like opening to death metal blasts of hyper-speed, this astonishing composition traverses the full spectrum death/doom has to offer and never fails to astonish.
Utterly abstract in construct, only Autopsy arguably bettered this combination of truly brutal death metal with doom’s overriding despair. Not that Incantation and Autopsy can be compared musically – the sloppy innards and freeform nature of Autopsy jars with the merciless onslaught of Incantation’s technical approach – but the two share an infinity for challenging death metal’s restrictions; practically defining death/doom in the process.
2. Ataraxie – Slow Transcending Agony (2005)
The purest death/doom, Ataraxie‘s Slow Transcnding Agony takes an often funeral doom approach to its subject matter but never loses itself in monotony.
Ataraxie’s bleak and back-to-basics approach fundamentally lurches its leaden weight from agonisingly slow and punishing funeral dirges to quick-fire bursts of death metal agility and authority; mesmerisingly building in intensity as the two styles collide.
Foregoing funeral doom’s penchant for insufferably drawn out and torturous compositions, album highlight “Funeral Hymn” may take an age to reach a death metal crescendo but the juxtaposition is evidently all the more effective for the slow-burn wait to reach such highs before descending into the belly of the beast once more.
Highly atmospheric and completely absorbing, Slow Transcending Agony is a modern death/doom album that continues to amaze.
1. Decomposed – Hope Finally Died… (1993)
Possibly the most overlooked album in death/doom history – and UK metal in general – Decomposed‘s Hope Finally Died… deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those seminal releases from the Peaceville three (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema) namely Gothic, Turn Loose The Swans and Serenades respectively.
Deceptively simple, the beauty of this staggering release lies not in its musicality, nor its vocal prowess or even its songwriting nous. At face value, all these facets seem relatively generic but the true reason this savagely under-appreciated cornerstone of death/doom deserves higher praise, is down to the almost unparalleled way in which Decomposed blend the mournful melancholy of doom with the caustic and cathartic blur of death metal aggression; each song unearthing a new spin on an already standard formula and expertly fusing sorrowful soliloquay’s with neck-breaking riffs.
Whether primitive old-school death metal savagery or shuffling excursions into doom metal’s swampy territory peels your onions, Decomposed’s one and only full length should be mandatory listening. Unearth its treasures and discover why Hope Finally Died… is not only a hidden gem but should also be held in the same regard as the majority of death/doom’s so-called classics!