Written by Kyle Messick February 15th
Here’s what I’ve been jamming over the last week, descriptions below!
Beheaded – Perpetual Mockery (1998). Few brutal death metal bands can compete with the incredible album streak Beheaded from Malta had from their formation through 2008, where they released three of the best LPs and one of the best EPs I’ve ever heard. This was the only of those four that I was missing, and I’m thrilled to finally have it. It’s organic, warm brutal death with a mix that lets everything breathe. As a bass player, I love that the bass comes through on this. The vocals rule, the drums have some great cymbalwork, the riffs feel classic, and the solos rule.
Unanimated – Victory in Blood (2021). Unanimated are one of the earliest melodic black/death bands out of Sweden, having formed in 1988, and after releasing two masterful LPs in 1993 and 1995 before breaking up, it’s of little surprise that their reunion and return has been much anticipated. This is their second LP since reuniting in 2007, and it’s a great album packed with hooks. There are some occasional clean vocals on this too that are used really well. Fans of Dissection, Naglfar, and Watain should find much to love in Unanimated’s fourth LP. Fun facts: the vocalist is the bassist in Dismember, the drummer is the drummer from Unleashed, and the album features guest appearances by Set Teitan from Dissection and Fredrik Folkare from Unleashed, so there’s a lineup of Swedish extreme metal royalty on this thing.
Brutality – In Mourning (1996). Florida’s Brutality really don’t get enough love. They’ve been around since the 80s and they’re one of the most consistent death metal bands out there. And by consistent, I don’t mean that they regurgitate the same album over and over; I mean that they continue to put out banger after banger. This was their third LP, which has punchy drums, sick leads, catchy enunciated vocals, and all the other staples you’d expect from death metal extraordinaires.
Blessed Sickness – Massacre the Holy (1994). This is a beast of a death metal debut out of Ohio. From the opening Tom Araya-esque opening howl, to the rubbery bass twang, to the sick guttural vocals, movie samples, and the thick, raw guitar tone, it’s all pretty sick. It’s awesome that Huangquan Records have finally brought this gem to compact disc. Cheers to Vince for signing it for me!
Oligarquia – Nechropolis (2000). This is the debut album by these Brazilian greats that are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary as a band this year. This is an ugly, mid-paced, groovy death metal gem. The riffs are pretty straight forward and so don’t expect anything flashy, but when they hit a sweet spot, those grooves really hit.
Imperator – The Time Before Time (1991). Imperator were a sick early death metal band out of Poland, that unquestionably still had plenty of roots in thrash. This is lofi, organic metal that coasts along on the laurels of some thick thrash riffing. Nothing fancy, just some solid tunes with a great live sound.
Cenotaph – Riding Our Black Oceans (1994). The debut by Mexico’s death metal powerhouse Cenotaph is unquestionably their most celebrated work, but this sophomore album released only two years later is also incredible. It’s more technical, more melodic, and more mature. It might be somewhat of a departure from their more old school debut, but it’s hard not to be won over by the stellar musicianship on this record. It’s still death metal, and they didn’t go full Gothenburg here, but rather, it’s just great death metal that fully explores that fretboard. One of the reasons the musicianship jumps up so dramatically here is probably the inclusion of guitarist Julio Viterbo, who is also well known for his work in Shub Niggurath and The Chasm. This album is incredible and deserves to be celebrated far more than it is. Just a beautiful record.
Shub Niggurath – Horror Creatures (1990-1993). This is a great compilation of early recordings from one of Mexico’s most renowned death metal bands. This includes their 1990 demo, EPs from 1991 and 1992, some live tracks, and some rehearsal covers of Morbid Angel and Terrorizer songs. The quality of the recordings varies, but it’s all sick stuff, and they have a different approach on each. The Blasphemies of Nether World might be my favorite stuff on this EP, just because it’s stripped down, raw, in-your-face old school death. It dropped the reverb from the earlier stuff, which is always a plus for me.
Divinefire – Hero (2005). I’m picky with my power metal, but this is an absolute banger. Musically, there are songs here and compositions that will remind of Rhapsody and Kamelot, complete with guitar shred, keyboard solos, and a virtuoso vocal performance. Perhaps the most surprising bit about this album and band is that their lyrical themes are strictly Christian, so this does add a cheesy element to it that naturally fits well into the innate cheesiness of symphonic power metal anyway. There are also some occasional guttural vocals here if you need a little bit of death metal in there. The lyrics are incredibly catchy too, so if you don’t mind a bit of gospel in the lyrical content, then this is absolutely a power metal gem.
The Chasm – Reaching the Veil of Death (2000). The Chasm, who were originally from Mexico, are well known for their adventurous take on death metal. This is the EP they released in 2000, which is a galloping, blackened death metal endeavor that has clear influences from thrash and traditional heavy metal. It might not get a lot of attention sandwiched between two of The Chasm’s best full length releases, but it’s still well worth a regular spin.
Morta Skuld – Suffer for Nothing (2020). Death metal titans Morta Skuld from Wisconsin have been another really consistent death metal act, and even more than thirty years into their career, they’re still dropping absolute bangers like Suffer for Nothing. The well enunciated and catchy vocals really carry this album forward, but there are great performances by each member, and the songwriting is engaging throughout. The lock between the drums and the great guitar playing makes it easy to sit back and enjoy.
Inhuman Condition – Rat God (2021). Following a split from Massacre, Massacre continued with a different lineup whereas members Terry Butler, Taylor Nordberg, and Jeramie Kling formed Inhuman Condition, named after the 1992 Massacre EP of the same name with a logo reminiscent of the Massacre logo. All of that should give you an idea of what this sounds like, and it delivers. It’s a solid, groovy, and fun old school death metal album with an album cover by Dan Golsworthy that reminds of Ed Repka’s classic thrash covers. I dig this a lot more than the latest Massacre release.
Suffering Hour – Dwell (2019). Full album songs are always an ambitious effort, but American black/death metal band Suffering Hour have stepped up to the task with their eighteen minute epic, ‘Dwell.’ The first comparison that comes to mind for me is Deathspell Omega’s brilliant 22-minute Chaining the Katechon, but that isn’t to say that the two tracks are at all similar. Both bands mix dissonance with elements of black and death metal brilliantly, but Suffering Hour have molded something especially dark, and their having a real drummer makes their music sound more organic to great effect. One of the key things with a massive song is the ability to build tension and it release it, and they do this well with drums that are allowed to vary in volume, guitar breaks, and subtle bass builds.
Knelt Rote – Alterity (2018). Knelt Rote were a cool blackened deathgrind band out of Oregon that would throw in electronic and noise elements. Here their sound is much more stripped down, and is focused on intense live instrumentation. This was their final album, which is pretty pissed off death metal with a lot of tremolo riffs that sound like a more aggressive Dark Funeral. As someone that enjoys both Dark Funeral and death metal, this fits me pretty well. It didn’t click with me when it was first released, but it’s grown on me since then. This is fast, blasting, relentless stuff for when you need an album to absolutely decimate you.
Massacre – The Second Coming (1990). These were songs that, according to the liner notes, were intended for the second Massacre album, but Earache wasn’t into them. These songs are some of the best that the band have written, with some good variety throughout. Kam’s vocals on this are more of a harsh thrash-style shout, but they get the job done. My main complaint with Massacre is a lot of their stuff blends together, with few tempo changes and with their sound not being very dynamic. That isn’t the case here. The tempos jump around a bit and the organic, raw sound of the demo really works well for these songs, which makes them a lot more dynamic. It’s a killer release, and yet another example of a ridiculous decision made by the people at Earache.