Time waits for no man. It doesn’t wait for death metal either. Fortunately, these 10 outstanding examples of modern death metal may be turning 5 years old this year…..but in reality, they haven’t aged a day!
Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crépuscule
Blatantly taking their cues from the legendary likes of Incantation, Demigod and Demilich, the apocalyptic maelstrom conjured by Chthe’ilist on their outstanding debut Le Dernier Crépusculewas a joy for those who appreciated this reappropriation of classic underground death metal sounds!
Crawling from the Canadian underground to spread their grime far and wide, Chthe’ilist (no, we’re not sure how to pronounce it either) simply oozed with primordial power. Innovation is great but sometimes death metal fans need some old-fasioned filth to wallow in and Le Dernier Crépuscule vomited up gallons of the stuff. Sickeningly entertaining and technically brilliant, it was though Demilich and Gateways to Annihilation era Morbid Angel had bumped uglies and spawned something grotesquely unholy and utterly irresistable !
Imperium – Titanomachy
Bored of Nile and their death metal history lessons? Hopefully not, as the UK’s very own answer to the Egyptian obsessed blast-beaters were here to deliver their own death metal education, focusing on both Greek mythology and the time honoured tradition of pummelling you into submission with each and every round of bruising, brutal, technical death metal.
An eruption of ideas awaited the brave, Titanomachy revelling in its turbulent rhythms and palpable drama with Mike Alexander’s riffs running the gamut of death metal influences and the accomplished growls of Doug Anderson (Unfathomable Ruination’s sticks-man, more on them later) culminating in a coherent, seamless work of genius that the God’s themselves would bow down to.
Zealotry – The Last Witness
A forward thinking follow-up to their outstanding debut The Charnel Expanse, Zealotry’s The Last Witness provided more bewildering rhythms, bursts of Cynic-esque bass and experimental nous as the old met the new in a thrilling showcase of diverse talent.
In fact, the sheer nerve of closing track “Silence” was enough to rank The Last Witness as a 2016 highlight. A tour de force of classical influences – a burst of cello here, an opening flamenco flourish there – instantly captured the imagination while a death/doom approach added heft and menace to a song which practically defied categorisation.
Zealotry/Chthe’ilist/First Fragment guitarist Philippe Tougas was a busy man in 2016, playing a huge part in 3 exemplary death metal releases of the year. Good work fella, good work!
Defeated Sanity – Disposal of the Dead / Dharmata
Remember in the intro when we said “the gods of death metal were being honoured in ridiculously faithful ways”…..admit it, you thought we meant Gruesome, right? As good as Gruesome’s Dimensions Of Horror was (and lets face it, it was fuckin’ great) it was actually the Death worship found on Defeated Sanity’s Dharmata that proved most irresistible.
Harnessing the sounds of Death’s classic Individual Thought Patterns, Germany’s Defeated Sanity vomited forth an avant-garde homage to the founding fathers of progressive death metal.
But first came the brutal death metal.
That’s right, this beast was in fact a split EP featuring the same band. A genius move that allowed Disposal of the Dead room to showcase Defeated Sanity’s raw, unrelenting and ultra guttural style before unleashing the aforementioned and completely tenacious Dharmata.
A bold move that worked brilliantly….brutal and progressive on one outstanding semi-split release!
Altarage – Nihl
A droning dive into the charred heart of the Beast itself, Altarage’s blackened death metal debut was pure hell.
Bestial growls and shrieks engulfed the senses within Altarage’s suffocating sarcophagus of dense riffs and one listen probably meant your soul had already been sold to the horned one. Nihl was simply undefinable, incalculable evil in noise form….an experience endured rather than enjoyed but utterly captivating nonetheless!
Dark doesn’t cover it.
***Altarage’s latest album, Succumb, was released on April 23rd, 2021 and we reviewed it here***
Unfathomable Ruination – Finitude
Total death metal insanity.
Unfathomable Ruination’s Finitude seemed to dangerously hang on the precipice of complete carnage with it’s blitzkrieg of barely controlled chaos but there were quality tunes to be found here….and they were bloody good ones at that!
Like a thousand hands and feet at once moving in unison and yet separated by time and space, the sheer nerve of Unfathomable Ruination’s technical attack was exhausting and yet bewilderingly brilliant in its complex delivery. These brutal Brits sure can play and Finitude delivered a tour de force of reliably relentless insanity with each and every track.
A great year for tech-death, an even better year for Unfathomable Ruination.
***Unfathomable Ruination’s new EP Decennium Ruinae was released via Willowtip Records on 28th May 2021***
Blood Incantation – Starspawn
As otherworldly as your piss-weak earth mind can handle, Blood Incantation’s Starspawn took elements from death metal’s entire history and contorted it into new shapes. While defiantly old-school at its very core, Starspawn still sounded fresh, new and unique….an incredible achievement in itself!
Believe the hype, these guys are the real fuckin’ deal and with an atmosphere that conjured both Lucio Fulci-esque horror and Kubrickian sci-fi while delivering outstanding songs, Starspawn proved to be a true highlight of 2016.
If Voivod played death metal they’d want to sound like Blood Incantation.
Banisher – Oniric Delusions
Clocking in at just over thirty minutes and a scant seven tracks, Oniric Delusions was short, massively brutal and indebted to fellow countrymen, Decapitated. However, only a fool wrote these boys off as mere imitators!
An exercise in utmost speed and incredible tightness, marked by super-dextrous palm-muting and occasional acid bath dischord – all perfectly balanced and controlled, of course – Banisher proved to be an astonishing death metal force to be reckoned with.
With strong and memorable songwriting at its core, Oniric Delusions delivered an incredibly focussed pummelling that reverberated to your very core.
Gorguts – Pleiades Dust (EP)
Pleiades Dust was a tour de force – spoken in a virtually unrecognisable musical dialect known only to Gorguts mastermind Luc Lemay himself – and one that was unencumbered by tradition and completely transcendent in it’s chaotically dissonant complexity.
Toying with death metal’s building blocks, Pleiades Dust ultimately reshaped them amidst discordant guitar leads and harmonic wails while other, equally foreign, atonal noises pushed and shoved against changing tempos and whiplash-inducing time signatures.
As expected, there was no groove to get behind and no simple riff to get that head-banging. This technical madness was bound by no logical means of ‘normal’ musical expression and was bewilderingly brilliant because of it. In fact, the only reliable element on Pleiades Dust was Luc Lemay’s now trademarked anguished roar.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Complex, challenging and as daunting as traversing the labyrinthine tunnels of hell itself, Ulcerate’s Shrine Of Paralysis was a sublime moment from a band who’d been building to this level of sheer genius for years.
Shrine Of Paralysis was technical but not in a traditional sense, leaning instead towards complex chord structure as opposed to shred-fests of finger-melting speed. To put an annoyingly cloy name to this noise would be to describe it as post-death metal but that would also do those moments when Ulcerate perforate your eardrums with uncompromising brutality a considerable disservice. As introspective and challenging as this album was it was still a death metal album at heart, a suffocatingly dense death metal album fraught with human frailty, but a death metal album nonetheless.
Dense and uncompromising, Ulcerate ultimately unearthed raw emotion fed through a progressively-minded death metal filter. It was utterly human and as nihilistic as being human fundamentally is, resulting in a work of pure ‘art’ in a scene that generally favours pummelling violence over philosophical soliloquy.
Honourable mentions: Aborted – Retrogore / Vibrion – Bacterya / Scorched – Echoes Of Dismemberment / Wormed – Krighsu / Omnihility – Dominion of Misery.