Written by Kyle Messick Feb 21th
My recommendations this week will highlight one of the most incredible newer record labels out of Brazil: Old Shadows Records. Many of these have beautiful slipcase sleeves, but I’ve removed them for the photo. The first nine albums below are from them, but I’ve included some other rippers for you to check out too!
Fleshcrawl – Into the Catacombs of Flesh (2019). Germany’s Fleshcrawl are have been putting out bangers since 1991, with this being their ninth full length album. This album has catchy lyrics, great leadwork that sounds sinister at times and emotive at others, and a multi-vocal attack. This is galloping, fun death metal in the old style with big Swedish vibes. Rest in peace Sven Gross, vocalist of Fleshcrawl and Burial Remains. He passed last year, but this is one of many brilliant albums in his legacy.
Vastum – Carnal Law (2011). Vastum are a sick mid-paced death metal band from California. For me, Vastum albums are better when they’re more raw, and their debut album, Carnal Law, gets that balance right. The tempos are mid-paced to slow, but without fully committing to doom territory. This album has a dual-vocal approach by members Leila and Daniel, who do higher and lower gutturals respectively, which adds some depth and variety to the sound. It has a dark, gloomy atmosphere, but one that always feels like uncompromising, old school death metal. Great leadwork and solos on this too!
Centinex – Subconscious Lobtomy (1992). The debut by Sweden’s Centinex has received several reissues, with just as many cover variants. This version has a great remixed sound and comes with a slipcase cover. The album has some heavy grooves, great tempo changes, and a little bit of experimentation. Mostly this is old school, nasty death metal, but then there’s little touches like clean vocals from a guest vocalist on ‘Orgy in Flesh.’ A classic!
Abramelin – Abramelin (1995). This self-titled debut is one of my favorite Australian death metal albums ever. It’s use of melody, crushing breakdowns, unearthly vocals, varied tempos, drum patterns, killer solos, and great songwriting are timeless. For me, songs like ‘Spiritual Justice’ and ‘Stargazer’ are death metal classics. I own a promo version of the original pressing, and I have a compilation that includes these tracks, but I’m thrilled that Old Shadows has reissued this masterpiece with its original cover. I can’t recommend this album enough to fans of death metal. This album should be essential for any death metal collection, so be sure to grab yourself a copy while you still can!
Ribspreader – Bolted to the Cross (2004). Ribspreader are a Swedish death metal band that have thus far put out eight full length albums, but it all started with this debut. It has some really killer grooves throughout with vocals reminiscent of Mikael Åkerfeldt. In general, if you dig the early Bloodbath stuff, you should find much to love in this album, which makes all the more sense since the masterful Dan Swanö handles drums and some of the guitars on this album (he also drummed on the early Bloodbath material). If that wasn’t enough, the lineup also features Rogga Johansson of Putrevore and pretty much every other band ever, and Andreas Carlsson of Paganizer.
Scaffold – Codex Gigas (2021). Scaffold are a death metal band Serbia that formed in 1992 and released their debut album in 1994. After a lengthy hiatus, they’ve finally released their sophomore album, Codex Gigas. The vocals have early Death vibes, there’s some fantastic solos throughout, and the songwriting is really solid. I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention, because it’s a great album and a great comeback. And I’m not kidding about the solos, they’re really amazing on this.
Guilty View – Death Raid (2020). This is the only release by North Carolina, USA death metallers Guilty View. It’s some solid, groovy death metal with some great riffs. I could do with less reverb on the vocals, but other than that, it’s quality stuff. There’s a good mix of chuggy grooves and tremolo picked riffs, but it all sounds old school death. I dig the drum mix on this too – nice, dynamic, and meaty without too much polish.
Master – The Witchhunt (2013). Of course Master should need no introduction. The death-thrash titans formed in 1983 and as such, mastermind Paul Speckmann is often heralded as one of the forefathers of death metal. I was fortunate enough to meet Speckmann and his legendary beard at Maryland Deathfest a number of years back. This is Master’s twelfth full length album, and it’s a ripper. Speckmann’s vocals on this feel somewhere between Cronos and Lemmy while sounding like he’s about to spew. The drums are killer on this, and although the riffing might not be anything unheard, it certainly gets the job done. This version of the CD also includes demo versions of several of the tracks.
Vermin – Plunge Into Oblivion (1994). I can’t get enough 90s death metal. I’m a sucker for that warm, analog mix. This is the debut album by Sweden’s Vermin, who formed in 1991 and seemed to split sometime in the early 2000’s. The guitars are at the forefront of the mix, which have the trademark HM-2 buzzsaw sound. There’s some fun to be had here, but it isn’t a perfect album. The drums get a little lost in the mix at times, and the mid-range gutturals aren’t my favorite (although many Swedish bands of the era had similar vocals), but it’s still awesome to hear another bit of Swedish death metal history.
Grond – Howling from the Deep (2013). Grond are a great death metal band out of Russia. There’s some major thrash vibes on this, and I dig the deep vocals by drummer Kist. The guitar tone is crushing, which makes all the killer OSDM riffs that much more impactful. There’s also some bonus tracks on this recorded with analog equipment which makes those songs have a big 90s sound that rules.
Loudblast – Sublime Dementia (1993). Loudblast from France are a band that have transitioned from death-thrash into an increasingly death metal sound. This was their third album, which had them pretty well settled in their death metal sound. For the time, this album had a number of technical flourishes that set it apart from some other bands, particularly out of France. It also sprinkles in some progressive moments, but all of these inclusions don’t distract from the very death metal skeleton of the album. It’s a cool album that still sounds very unique but without abandoning what death metal is known for.
Immolation – Acts of God (2022). Few death metal bands have been around as long and have been as consistent as New York’s Immolation. They formed in 1988, and since then have released 11 full length albums, and boy, does this one go to eleven. Everyone delivers a great performance here, with Ross Dolan still showing why he’s one of my favorite vocalists both in terms of performance and vocal patterns, Bob Vigna still plays his signature style of dark, death metal riffs with infectious energy, and Alex Bouks applies his veteran experience to flesh out the guitar sound, but the drums are what grab me the most. The drumming by member Steve Shalaty is absolutely phenomenal. All the tight, creative patterns cause me to find something new with every listen and I’m just blown away. This also might be the best mix on any Immolation album.
Qrixkuor – Incantations from the Abyss (2014-2015) / Three Devils Dance (2016). Qrixkuor from the United Kingdom tap into the darkest recesses of death metal – the areas where bands like Mitochondrion, Svartidauði, Teitanblood, Portal, Swallowed, and Grave Miasma thrive. This is death metal that will give you chills and make your hair stand on end. Each song is dripping with tremolo picked riffs that when combined with a lofi mix, make for a really oppressive atmosphere. Following these releases, they put out their similarly incredible debut through Dark Descent last year, so be sure to check out too. I haven’t snabbed that one yet just because of my dislike of digipacks, but the music is still well worth it.
Orphaned Land – 30 Years of Oriental Metal (1991-2021). Orphaned Land is a bit like if Andrew Lloyd Webber was into metal and was big on Middle Eastern scales. Orphaned Land are from Israel, a land that has been perpetually ravaged by the on-going Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and that backdrop is quickly evident in their music. Their discography spans a number of genres, but as with many bands, they have a message of rebellion. Rebellion in this case isn’t about fighting back against tyranny, or at least, not in the traditional way that metal and punk write about it. No, in Orphaned Land’s music, they push back against the conflict constantly surrounding them by bringing a message of unity and peace across peoples and religions. Musically they can have everything from clean to guttural vocals to weird time signatures, but when incorporated with historically regional scales and their unique message, they stand out as one of metal’s most novel and important acts. This compilation includes their first six full length albums and two additional CDs that include bonus materials. Also, cheers to the band for this signed copy!